The Norwegian Sea Rescue Society

Co-creating a Sustainability Strategy

The Norwegian Sea Rescue Society (RS), is a nationwide humanitarian association whose purpose is to save lives, salvage assets and protect the coastal environment of Norwegian waters. With a 128 year old history, they are experts as sea rescue, and have made a significant contribution to local communities all along the coast of Norway.

Now, The Norwegian Sea Rescue Society has choosen sustainability as one of six goals towards 2030. We helped them discover how being sustainable by 2030 might look like for an organisation like RS.

RS has decided to focus on sustainability as one of six key topics towards 2030. Their management is committed to take action but needed to map their current situation as well as define what a sustainable RS organisation looks like. Concrete goals for the first two years were also needed to get started.

Together with RS we created an ambitious sustainability strategy towards 2030, to significantly reduce their carbon footprint, contribute to a more inclusive sea community and support the sea community in making sustainable choices. We did an extensive ecosystem impact mapping and co-created ideas and actions together with representatives from all parts of the RS organisation.

Mapping of the ecosystem

To be able to set relevant ambitions for the future, you need a clear picture of the current state.

The Norwegian Sea Rescue Society´s purpose is to save lives, salvage assets and protect the coastal environment of Norwegian waters, which in it self is sustainable. Despite this, they felt a strong obligation to take a closer look at how they deliver their services, and see if there are ways to improve the sustainability of the operation itself.

We used our Planet Centric Design Framework to investigate the unintended consequences of their operation’s design. As part of the exercise we use the three lenses: people, society and planet, to observe their ecosystem. The framework explains impact from an inside-out and outside-in perspective: How is the organisation affecting people, society and planet, and what are the extenal drivers affecting the organisation. The main focus was getting a proper baseline for a inside-out impact perspective.

In a series of in-depth interviews with people from all levels of the organisation, we explored the different perspectives of what sustainability means, what a sustainable RS looks like, what the current barriers are and also the great ideas and possibilites shared by the employees and volunteers. As part of the interviewing process we visited the RS academy, a regional office and a rescue station, giving us a better contextual understanding of the operation. The result was a visual map of the ecosystem, with key points on positive and negative impact on people, society and planet.

The four focus areas we discovered RS are: day-to-day sustainability, a sustainable core purpose, diesel reduction and robustness.

Ambitions with the right creative tention

Ambitions are comparable to a rubber band: too slack and there’s no energy, too tight and it breaks. As a geographically widespread organisation containing various sub-cultures, the challenge for RS was to define an ambition that everyone could relate to. We organised the ambitions in two layers around their core operations, both linked to the organisation’s existing strategic goals, as well as selected UN sustainable development goals (SDG).

We made sure the selected SDGs connected well to the core operations of RS: Sea Rescue, but at the same time also represented all three components of Planet Centric Design: environmental, social and economical sustainability.

Ocean plastics and diesel consumption is a too narrow focus. The sustainability work must be raised to include the entire organisation and its people.
Employee in The Norwegian Sea Rescue Society

Co-creation in times of COVID-19

Co-creation is an important principle in Idean´s methodology. We strongly believe that the people working in an organisation are the field experts, and we are there to support them reach their creative potental by setting up arenas to discuss, share and co-create with others cross their organisation. From the very first meeting, involving employees and volunteers had top priority. In the eco-system mapping, we made sure to interview a wide range of people from top management to young volunteers. This gave us a real, unpolished, understanding of the organisation.

Our plan was to gather the same diverse group in plenary face-to-face workshops, discussing and ideating across departments and hierarchy. Because of the Covid-19 social distancing we had to reimagine the workshops to be performed remotely. This created quite a few challenges, but also opened up possibilities for an even wider geographical representation.

We ran two days of remote workshops with around 12 participants building ideas and actions to answer the ambitions set earlier. People were enthusiastic and being sports, learning new digital tools on the go while sharing ideas and reflections. The results were ambitious, creative ways of RS to become sustainable on short and long term.

We are really impressed with the amount of work put in to this project, and how you handled it under unforseen circumstances.
Hasse Lindmo — Director of Communications and Sustainability in The Norwegian Sea Rescue Society

The final delivery

We created an extensive strategy document containing the current state analysis and concrete ambitions and actions, connected to the chosen SDGs. In addition, we made two posters for use in the different regions, to further engage the employees on the topic. One describes the chosen SDGs, and the organisations ambitions connected to them. The other shows the current state impact in the ecosystem. Having the current internal and external situation mapped allows RS to be proactive about measures they want to take, and they are set up for a real start rolling out plans for the entire organisation.

This amazing work gives us a proper starting point to be able to reach our 2030 goals.
Elisabeth Sverdrup— Project manager of Sustainability in The Norwegian Sea Rescue Society