The communicative role of environmental professionals in construction: Nag or anchor?
Conference contribution, 2007
The overall purpose of this paper is to create an understanding on how environmental aspects are communicated in construction projects. Communication is set in relation to social practice and organisational structure in construction projects under the assumption that these are manifested and reflected in text and talk. Specifically, the role and positioning of the environmental professionals are explored. A profession that besides being rather new in construction also due to raised corporate environmental responsibility is increasingly important. The paper is based on observations made in several interview studies of environmental management in project-based organisations carried out between 1998 and 2007. The results show that due to different organisational aspects and social practices the expected communicative role of the environmental professional often is hindered. For example by not being part of communities of project practice, their fuzzy professional identity and status, their lack of influence and authority in the organisation, the different time-perspectives and the divergent communication cultures where the perception of environmental communication as bureaucratic nit-picking hinders the meaning creating process of why environmental issues shall be considered. The study discern four interrelated aspects that need to be considered; authority, professional identity, visibility and the facilitation of meaning creating processes in the project context and by the project members. It is argued that environmental management practices must be aligned with project practices. Coherence between these practices would not only facilitate environmental professional’s work, it would also raise the status of environmental issues. Increased status might contribute to more focus and resources being placed on improving the environmental performance of the product, e.g. greener buildings, roads and facilities.