In recent years, the concept of sustainability has grown in popularity and has become a critical strategic component for businesses (Garza, 2013). Corporate organizations, as the industry's productive drivers, play a crucial role in attaining sustainable development. Thus, the problems have shifted from "WHY" to "HOW" to integrate sustainability into management decisions at all organizational levels (Epstein & Buhovac, 2014). Corporate entities, such as EPC contractors, tend to realize their strategic goals and produce value for their shareholders through projects. However, for sustainability to be evident in all organizational practices, these methods must be well adapted at the operational level. Organizations are increasingly struggling to translate their strategic goals into project-specific activities (Marcelino-Sádaba et al., 2015; Engert & Baumgartner, 2015). In practice, there is a significant gap between strategy formulation and project implementation (Økland, 2015). The problem addressed by this study is the gap between the formulation of strategic level objectives and its implementation at the operational level. According to researchers, integrated ways to putting sustainability into action are inadequate, and there is no systematic approach to effectively incorporating sustainability into projects (Silvius et al., 2012; Sabini et al., 2019; Epstein & Buhovac, 2014). As a result, sustainability goals often remain confined at the strategic level.
The purpose of this research is to provide solutions to the EPC contractor to overcome the barriers to enhance the integration of sustainability in projects and bridge the implementation gap. The results will provide a structured approach in connecting high-level sustainability objectives to more concrete and tangible solutions for the project. This research is an attempt to respond to the lack of empirical studies on the implementation of organizational sustainability strategies and helps reveals how organizations can move towards translating strategy into action and overcome the barriers to sustainability implementation.
To achieve this objective, the research is divided into three main phases. In phase one, literature review and document review was conducted. Through literature review five elements essential for implementing sustainability strategies were identified i.e., organizational decision-making, lifecycle thinking, balancing the triple bottom line, stakeholder engagement, and proactive approach. Through document review the gap between strategic and operational level was highlighted. In the second phase, semi-structured interviews were conducted with people in the top management and project managers to identify the barriers to sustainability implementation resulting in the gap between strategic and operational level. In total 20 barriers were identified. The interviews also included understanding the application of elements identified from literature review in practice. The third and the final phase, synthesised all the findings from phase one and two, and proposed solution to the EPC company to integrate sustainability in projects. This was done by providing mitigating actions to overcome the identified barriers and proposing a framework to translate strategy into action, thus bridging the implementation gap. Using the suggested framework to make the strategy explicit has the following benefits: it encourages communication and strategy execution, allows for strategy discussion within the organization, and tracks progress toward long-term goals to determine whether the strategy is clear or needs improvement.