Sitting between two chairs: Introducing social sustainability in three large Swedish contractor companies
Paper in proceeding, 2015

Recently the largest Swedish contractors have advertised social sustainability as a new competence in their social housing portfolios. They have created organisational functions related to the concept and integrated it in their strategies. Their presentation includes terms such as: attractive, safe and fair areas; social responsibility; consultation and involvement of the residents; as well as new forms of partnership and financing. In doing so, these companies have stepped aside of their traditional contractors roles as providers of technical and environmental friendly new build and renovation. This development of the contractors' business towards societal issues brings new challenges. Based on one in-depth case study juxtaposed with two other cases we analyse how the in-depth case company has tried to introduce social sustainability in its organisation and why it has failed to do so. We show that the two others are far thinner in their claim of social sustainability. The case studies include interviews, workshops, grey publication and advertising material. We draw on the theoretical concepts of hybrid organisation, project based organisation, marketing and sustainable leadership approaches, in particular the concept of "ambivalent supplication" defined by Parkin as the moment when a company is willing to engage in a sustainable process but at the same time not quite ready to leave business as usual. The results underline the following issues: the competing strategic priorities, the complexity of implementing strategy across various business functions, the lack of recognition from the financial markets and the differing definitions of sustainability across cultures.

Sustainable development




Social responsibilities


Social sustainability

Project-based organisations

Sustainable process

Project management


Management science

Contractor companies

Business functions


Christian Koch

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Construction Management

Martine Buser

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Construction Management

Proceedings of the 31st Annual Association of Researchers in Construction Management Conference, ARCOM 2015, Lincoln, United Kingdom, 7-9 September 2015

978-095523909-0 (ISBN)

Subject Categories

Communication Studies



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