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«Limitations of Sustainability Implementation amongst Project Managers Case study in an Icelandic energy company Master of Science Thesis in the ...»

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According to Morsing & Oswald (2009) the company’s values can be used as cultural tool to implement sustainability. Landsvirkjun really emphasizes on their values and the employees seemed to know the values by heart. The true transformation towards sustainability is when values and norms are altered, leading to choices that are superior to previous decisions when it comes to environmental, social and economic outcomes (Beer & Nohria, 2000). But there is always the risk of simplifying the values into slogans which are only used for imaged boosting and public relations (Mirvis, Googins, & Kinnicutt, 2010).

"We shall show prudence..." R2.

CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 "Our code of conduct talks about prudence, reliability and progressiveness" R4.

Landsvirkjun could on the other hand do more to motivate their employees when it comes to personal sustainability because according to Schein (2006) the stronger the culture the more effective it is. Therefore it can be assumed that if the personal sustainability is stronger amongst the employees it will reflect stronger in the organisation. The project managers mentioned that Landsvirkjun encourages them to participate in a national workplace workout competitions called ‘Lífshlaupið’ and ‘Hjólað í vinnuna.’ All employees have an educational plan to set personal goals and goals related to the organisation, this is then evaluated yearly. It seems like the participants were quite satisfied with the actions Landsvirkjun is taking to promote personal sustainability but there is always further to reach.

"There are a lot of things going on here to deepen the sustainability thinking amongst employees and make them more aware of it" R1.

5.8 Summary of discussions Doppelt’s blunders are summarized in table 1 below, with one additional factor regarding the ambiguity of the sustainability concept. Quotes from the interviews were categorized as negative meaning that they matched the blunder or positive meaning that they did not show sign of the blunder. The progress of sustainability implementation was estimated for each blunder. It was evident that Landsvirkjun’s employees showed signs of all the factors despite the company’s advantages of having a very sustainable production or 99% renewable yields.

CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 Table 1 Sustainability blunders adapted from Doppelt (2003). Progress: ✓✓✓ = good, ✓✓ = acceptable, ✓ = not good

–  –  –

“Environmental manager knows what the “Decisions are not taken democratically, more demands are, we first and foremost just professionally where each person takes follow the procedures set by relevant person” decisions in their own power” R3.


–  –  –

"It's part of the company's strategy, you can "We need measurements to measure [CO2 probably google it or ask the human emission] and we are working on it" R4.

resources department about it [what actions Landsvirkjun is taking to equalling the gender percentage]" R3.

"Maybe you want to talk to somebody else about that" R5.

"I can't tell you what the company is doing only what my project is doing" R7.

–  –  –

“There is some discussion about sustainability in the company but I don’t “It's part of our strategy…” R8.

think we have specific goals or vision” R4.

–  –  –

"I don't think people get any formal training “The company is looking at stage-gate in it [sustainability]" R1. method” R4.

–  –  –

CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111

6 Conclusion

This section gives conclusions from the analyses and provides recommendations and suggestions for further research.

Sustainability is a widely accepted concept but the difficulties related to it are that it seems to be hard to grasp amongst individuals and organisations, which has resulted in many competing definitions. There are also some limitations to the implementation of it into projects and organisations. This qualitative case study investigated project managers’ perception of sustainability in a project based Icelandic energy company, Landsvirkjun. Data collection involved reviewing of official company documents as well as the conduction of interviews with eight project managers in Project Planning and Constructions division of the company. The results were analysed and match to current literature in order to get a deeper meaning and understanding.

The literature revealed that barriers to sustainability implementation in project based organisations have been identified and the results from this case study mirrored these barriers. Dopplet’s (2003) tool of seven sustainability blunders was used to categorize the limitations. Not all the sustainability blunders reflected strongly in the interviews.

Some of the blunders the company is not struggling with. Others such as the silo approach to environmental and socio-economic issues, no clear vision of sustainability, ambiguity of the sustainability concept and insufficient mechanisms for learning were all blunders that Landsvirkjun showed signs of.

Reflecting on the literature in relation to this case study the ambiguity of the sustainability concept was added to Dopplet’s tool of sustainability blunders. The researcher evaluated the need to differentiate between no clear vision of sustainability and ambiguity of the concept highly important. Therefore a clearer picture of the limitations organisations and projects face when implementing sustainability would be explored. Landsvirkjun has a clear sustainability strategy and their yields are 99% sustainable, making the company the second largest producer of electricity from renewable sources in Europe. The decoupling of the company’s sustainability strategy and realizations was very evident in the interviews and the project managers did not CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 recall that the company was working with the sustainability concept. Causes could be the high autonomy project managers in the project based organisation have and lack of clear definition of the sustainability concept within the company. The company’s great usage of slogans from the strategy indicates that the strategy is mostly used as a marketing boost rather than a real change affecting all departments, people and processes.

Further research in this area is needed and it would be very interesting to do similar case studies on other companies. It would be intriguing to do a comparison between Icelandic companies and companies in English speaking countries. In order to see if languages barriers play an important role when it comes to the ambiguity of the sustainability concept. The researcher might have emphasised too much on the concept of sustainability, maybe it would have been better to separate the concept from what is actually going on in the company. It seems like the company and its employees are working and thinking in a sustainable way but they are not recognising it as sustainability.

Recommendation for Landsvirkjun based on this case study is to define what sustainability means to the company. Communicate the definition and connect it the organisational projects. That way project managers would feel more responsible for the company’s sustainability strategy.

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