Kommunal bæredygtighed - forankring af forandringer: Et komparativt casestudie af to danske kommuners arbejde med at sætte bæredygtighed på den interne dagsorden

Micha Meedom Bast

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

This thesis investigates how to embed changes supporting sustainability within large organizations and focuses on the themes of change processes and internal communications. The subject of this thesis is a comparative case study of the Danish municipalities Kolding and Ballerup. The amount of literature on the topic of organizational change speaks loudly about the complex and difficult nature of successfully embedding changes in complex organizations. Past research on the matter confirms this: up to 70 percent of all change processes initiated by top management fail (Senge (1999), s. 13). In this thesis I apply theories of organizational change and sustainability primarily by Senge (1999; 2008) and Bragdon (2006), which express a new paradigm. A paradigm that implies a systemic, biocentric view of the organization in relation to its stakeholders, replacing the ego-centric view, in which organizations often solely exist to create profit. These new theories place people and nature as the most valuable assets in an organization and change the purpose of the organization from one focused on profit, to working towards improving quality of life in a sustainable community. Hypothesis I assume that embedding sustainability requires a systemic approach; improving learning capacities within the organization, involvement of employees and ideas moving from the bottom-up in organizations. Furthermore, I assume that the essence of the sustainability mission activates the biophilia-instict as described by Wilson (1984) and makes it easier to overcome resistance towards change processes. Problem statement Why do municipalities work on sustainability-related changes and how do they succeed in embedding sustainability? How do they communicate in order to support the change process and seek to operationalize the concept of sustainability? Can sustainability mobilize energy and motivation among employees in implementing the changes and is there a correlation between the understanding of value and meaning of the concept among managers and employees? Method Qualitative interviews with 10 interviewees have been used as the main method in collecting empirical data. Furthermore, I have conducted a survey using both quantitative and qualitative elements to gain a wider perspective on the situation outside the group of interviewees, who are all but one working with sustainability issues on a daily basis. For the analysis of this data I used Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis and an antenarrative analysis which secured insight into the discursive practice about the municipalities’ approach to sustainability and the changes in it, while the use of the previously mentioned theories allowed me to review the social practice influencing the discourses. Conclusion In my analysis of the municipalities’ approach to embedding sustainability, I have found that the municipalities’ different strategic approaches to sustainability reflect on the discourses as well as the social practice. Even though one municipality's strategic approach seeks to increase a systemic way of working with sustainability, in reality the transformation process in both organizations is mainly focused on the environmental aspect. In both municipalities the lack of time to reflect upon the transformation and create profound changes for sustainability as well as declining funding and the resulting layoffs are the main threats to embedding sustainability. At the same time, my empirical research supports the hypothesis regarding sustainability as a concept that motivates employees. I also found that both organizations have sustainability-related values deeply rooted in their core, as both municipalities addressed sustainability issues even before it became a requirement stated by law, and I argue, that municipalities in their position as stewards of various common resources are in an advantageous position to work as a biocentric entity.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageDanish
Publication date2012
Number of pages91