Overcoming the policy-practice decoupling of sustainability with the support of the Quality, Health & Safety, Environment management system

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A growing number of organizations try to integrate sustainability within their organization. However, multiple organizations lack behind in the implementation of their policies. This leads to the symbolic adoption of sustainability policies. Little is known about what an organization can actively do to overcome the symbolic adoption of sustainability policies, also known as policy-practice decoupling. This study examines how a Quality, Health & Safety, Environmental management system can support the integration of sustainability in projects to overcome the policy-practice decoupling by means of qualitative research. A case study is conducted by analyzing nine documents and conducting twelve interviews. The findings of this study show that the policy-practice decoupling of the integration of sustainability into projects was caused by six occurrences. The QHSE management system may play a role in overcoming policy-practice decoupling of sustainability by directing employees to the right documents, templates, and processes. However, the organization should make several changes to let the QHSE management system play a role in overcoming the policy-practice decoupling of sustainability. An organization should make detailed targets, policies, and KPI’s, include sustainability in all its documents, involve the clients in the integration of sustainability in projects, standardize the process steps of sustainability, and make integrating sustainability in projects part of the culture. This study demonstrates what sustainability managers and policymakers can do against the policy-practice decoupling of sustainability helping their organization to integrate sustainability into projects. Additionally, the findings of this study contribute to the policy-practice decoupling literature.
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