How Do Enterprises in Northern Norway Work Towards Sustainability and Green Transition?

To make green transition happen, we need products and services that have significantly fewer negative consequences on the climate and environment than today. As a part of GRUDE SINTEF Nord has conducted in-depth interviews to gain insight on how public and private enterprises in Northern Norway are working toward more sustainable solutions and production.

Interviews with 10 people working in both public and private sector in Northern Norway, provided data for the study. This includes actors located in different parts of the region, belonging to different industries such as transportation, furniture, consulting and revision, and food production, as well as municipalities and county municipalities.

The interviews focused on green and sustainable work, and the barriers and opportunities it holds, as well as cooperation and arenas for cooperation both on regional, national, and transnational level.

One of the questions we asked the informants, was if the organizational culture influences how proposals for green solutions are received – something they all confirmed. It is important for organizations to understand the reality of green transition: “Culture beats anything, so it is crucial to have a mostly good organizational culture both in a positive and negative sense”(Informant 7).

Several of the informants said that sustainability work must be rooted in the top management and then distributed downwards in the business. One of the informants emphasized that the management must not only focus on the aspect of environment, but also consider the economic and social aspect of sustainability – like jobs, equality, and well-being at workplace.

One way of implementing greener measures is to pinpoint some of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the core business. This is, as informant 3 mentioned, a complex task. That is why one should focus on a few goals or targets to begin with, instead of trying to solve them all. The goals or targets should also be measurable so that one can easily see what remains to be achieved.

A dominating subject when talking to the public sector – and especially municipalities – where public procurement. Public procurements are a measure for municipalities to ask for greener solutions. When planning a purchase, the municipality provides a clear description of the needs they want to address. It is therefore important, to have in-depth knowledge of the topic so that the purchase is realistic and feasible.

One municipality we interviewed had challenges asking for greener solutions in procurements. The informant said that they tried to set requirements for emission-free construction sites, but only received one offer and it was very expensive. Further, a lot of actors are excluded by setting such requirements.

At the same time, entrepreneurs and other actors must adapt to the transition that is now happening. The balance between the economic, social, and environmental considerations is not always as easy to maintain.

Most of the informants belonging to private sector feel that they are very dependent on having a network within the policy instruments and the research environment to gain access to the right resources. In a busy enterprise it is important that information is easily accessible. All the informants, both in private and public sector, experienced great advantages being part of larger networks or clusters.

A transdisciplinary approach is important as sectors have different opinions or understandings about green transition and sustainable solutions. Working together or having a platform to exchange experiences, is useful. A small business or municipality benefits from other perspectives.

It is important to consult people who have been doing sustainability work, instead of finding out everything yourself. As informant 2 points out: “Acquiring knowledge about green growth and sustainability is a continuous process where new information and knowledge is constantly emerging”.

Lastly, we have a commitment to the world and nature around us. As several of the informants highlighted; we have a social responsibility. It is also a matter of reputation, especially in the local communities. One of the informants explained that if they did not act sustainably, they would receive harsh criticism from the inhabitants in the region.

There has undoubtedly been a change of attitude in recent years. With the government’s ambitions for green growth, as well as increasing demands from society for more sustainable solutions, most companies are now working towards a green, sustainable society.

Blogtext by,
Grethe Lilleng, SINTEF Nord