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Krechowicz, M. Sustainable Project Management and Interorganizational Projects. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 02 March 2024).
Krechowicz M. Sustainable Project Management and Interorganizational Projects. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed March 02, 2024.
Krechowicz, Maria. "Sustainable Project Management and Interorganizational Projects" Encyclopedia, (accessed March 02, 2024).
Krechowicz, M. (2022, April 05). Sustainable Project Management and Interorganizational Projects. In Encyclopedia.
Krechowicz, Maria. "Sustainable Project Management and Interorganizational Projects." Encyclopedia. Web. 05 April, 2022.
Sustainable Project Management and Interorganizational Projects

Interorganizational cooperation in engineering projects is associated with many opportunities and risks that continue to be a challenge for today’s world. It is important to identify and assess relationship-specific risks and risk determinants threatening to achieve the intended benefit of interorganizational cooperation and to develop assumptions for the risk management model in such projects. It will support sustainable project management in interorganizational engineering projects and increase their sustainability. 

risk assessment sustainable project management interorganizational relationships

1. Specificity of Interorganizational Building Construction and Environmental Engineering Projects

Nowadays, there is an increase in the number of investments in the field of housing, road, rail, and water construction worldwide. More and more investments are also carried out in the field of environmental engineering. This is due to the expansion of cities and the need to provide new housing estates with proper infrastructure and strive for sustainable development. The typical participants in construction or environmental engineering projects include clients, designers, contractors, and material manufacturers or suppliers. Their levels of involvement in the project vary at different stages in the process. This reflects the segmented nature of the construction and environmental engineering industry, which results from various specialties of cooperating companies towards project completion in distinct separate stages, as it is stated in a traditional procurement system [1]. The companies engaged in the project often have different perceptions of priorities which can result in misunderstandings, friction, and issues during project execution [2].

2. Specificity of Interorganizational Corporate Responsibility Projects Taken by Engineering Companies

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a complex and interdisciplinary term [3] that has become a topic of growing interest in recent decades [4][5][6]. This term covers the active, voluntary dedication of enterprise resources to implement activities aiming to improve the quality of life in society [7], upgrade the quality of the environment, solve social problems [8] and contribute to sustainable economic development. In recent years, along with the growing interest in CSR from companies and increased social awareness of sustainable development, more and more companies have decided to carry out CSR projects [9]. The number of CSR projects has grown because they are not only a business opportunity, but also a picture of stakeholders’ expectations, and therefore show a significant connection between business success, competitiveness, and sustainability [10].
Civil engineering companies and construction companies have a significant impact on the natural environment and citizens due to their massive consumption of natural resources, large production of waste and emitting pollutants [11] causing danger and accidents at the construction site [12][13]. That is why the topic of CSR is of particular relevance for civil engineering companies and building construction companies, who aim to compensate for their negative impact on the environment and try to meet the expectations of environmental and socially conscious clients [14][15][16]. Duman, Giritliand McDermott [17] found that construction companies are aware of the growing importance of CSR. Nevertheless, the scale of company’s activity and the country’s specificity characteristics greatly influence CSR preferences. In [16], the motives, barriers, and effects of taking CSR principles by enterprises of the Polish construction sector were studied. Kowalczyk [18] found out that stakeholder pressure is the most important factor influencing CSR-culture and CSR-practice of construction companies in Europe.
A certain part of CSR projects is interorganizational projects, requiring the cooperation of several entities. There are many reasons that motivate the entity to establish cooperation to undertake socially responsible initiatives—one of them is the willingness to respond to specific social problems. These issues include social exclusion, security, malnutrition, food waste, increased waste, use of water, and other resources. Solving such problems is a multistage process that requires extensive competences and resources, which are often not concentrated in one institution or enterprise, but can extend to various sectors: private, social (especially non-governmental organizations) and public. The willingness to undertake social responsibility activities and to meet the needs reported by stakeholders mobilize all sectors and undertake various types of activities, both independently and in interorganizational cooperation [19]. Some enterprises are more willing to engage in socially responsible initiatives in cooperation with the third sector to gain experience in this matter [20] and increase the chances of receiving social acceptance for their activities.

3. Problems with Interorganizational Projects Taken by Engineering Companies

Challenges of interorganizational projects, such as: fluid team boundaries, temporary membership, and cross-functionalities, may cause difficulties in project execution, unless properly addressed [21][22][23]. It also happens that the cooperation can be threatened by the entanglement of practices in the interorganizational environment, and uncertainty due to missing shared context between the cooperating parties. The problem can be compounded by a lack of cooperation history between the organizations and the interpersonal differences resulting from it [24]. One party feeling that they have a key role in the project can create tension between the parties involved, leading to unfavourable interorganizational relationships. To prevent such situations, relational contracting methods were introduced in investment projects to cure the negative effects that may result from the interaction of various parties involved in the project [1]. Both in interorganizational investment projects and in interorganizational socially responsible initiatives, there occur unfavourable opportunistic relations and behaviours, therefore, there is now a move towards a relationship-based approach to procurement and a working environment based on mutual trust [25][26]. Furthermore, tensions in interorganizational projects can be prevented using informal mechanisms for governance (governmentalities) [27]. Moreover, historically, there can be observed a movement towards good quality relationships and collaboration development aiming to develop stronger and more constructive bonds for better troubleshooting and problem solving. Ultimately, this is to improve project performance and outcomes in a more business-oriented environment with a clear, long-term goal [28]. Inter-organizational relations are a vital element of today’s economic and social reality. This issue is the subject of intensive research in the literature because it is an important management tool in contemporary organizations [29]. Thanks to properly formed relationships, enterprises can strengthen their position on the market, better use their potential, and achieve better results from implemented projects.
In [30], four groups of barriers in introducing collaborative interorganizational relationships in the construction industry were presented. Cultural barriers included: concentration on tasks while overlooking interactions between people [31], absence of social bonding [32], unwanted prioritization of relationships [33], inflexible adjustment to changes [34], and uncertainty [31]. Organizational barriers covered: different objectives [35], various inconsistent interpretations of the problem [31], absence of customer participation [31], and disproportion between contribution and dependency [36]. Industry-related barriers included: high technical complexity [37], unified contracts [38], bureaucracy [39], and interdependencies [40]. Barriers connected with resources covered: financial security [39], resources’ availability [39], partnering process’ risk liability [41], and high time and resource consumption of the partnering process [35]. In [42], a risk analysis method for inter-organizational business models was presented, in which risk is considered as the probability of the value transfer not succeeding, multiplied by the missing value.
The traditional method of project delivery is design−bid–build (DBB). According to this method, the owner contracts with separate entities for the project’s design and construction [43]. It is a sequential process and may lead to unfavourable relations between the ordering party (owner), the designer, and the contractor. Often, the reason for the occurrence of unfavourable relations is the lack of communication and integration of the participants of the investment process. That is why the Alternative Project Delivery Methods (APDM) concept was introduced to improve the integration of the parties involved in the investment process, increase the economic efficiency of the investment, and reduce the risk. Currently, during the realization of investment projects in many countries, it can be observed that more and more emphasis is put on the use of interorganizational relationship management. APDMS, such as the construction manager at risk (CMAR) and the design and build (DB) system are becoming more and more popular [44]. Another procurement method is partnering, which is intended to encourage parties to work together towards shared objectives in an environment of trust and openness [45] and therefore contributes to the elimination of adverse relationships between owners and contractors [46][47]. Partnering aims to develop close relationships among the entities in a project [48]. The higher the level of commitment to shared goals, the more successful the partnering [49].
Although the traditional procurement methods are gradually being abandoned, and project implementation systems based on the development of favourable relations between the participants of the investment process are increasingly used [50], practice shows that many problems are still reported during project execution caused by unfavourable interorganizational relationships. Increasing complexity of the projects and a large number of new technologies used in building construction, and environmental engineering industries require the effective cooperation of many entities and prompts a deep analysis of the relationship between the entities engaged in the project.
Relationship management enables the provision of appropriate cooperation environments and defines the framework for all participants in the investment process to adapt their behaviour to the objectives of the project and appropriate involvement in the work. Research conducted by I.R. MacNeil) [51] shows that the approach aimed at developing beneficial relations between participants of the investment process, such as cooperation, ensures a positive contribution to sustainable social, environmental and economic development and helps to satisfy the interests of all parties involved in the implementation of the investment project. X. Meng, M. Sun, and M. Jones [52] proposed a hierarchical division of relations between the participants of the investment process into four levels of maturity (focus on price, focus on quality, focus on partnership relations and focus on strategic partnership). In [28], several relational attributes were given, including teamwork, commitment, trust, and performance satisfaction; seven strategies for achieving these attributes were also presented.
In [53][54][55], it was proved that effective technical risk management in engineering projects concerning buildings with renewable energy sources, low-energy buildings with innovative renewable energy sources and sustainable trenchless pipelaying supports achieving the project’s goal with higher probability. However, relationship-based risks have not been considered so far in the risk management model in such projects.
Nevertheless, in the literature, no studies related to the risks and mechanisms determining the occurrence of unfavourable interorganizational relations threatening to achieve the goal of investment projects in the construction and environmental engineering industries have been found.
CSR initiatives should be associated not only with benefits, but also with risks. Risks connected with taking CSR initiatives are presented in [56]. However, those risks do not include relation-specific risks. Moreover, CSR projects undertaken in cooperation with other entities are prone to the emergence of unfavourable interorganizational relations, which can jeopardize the achievement of the project objectives. If entities cooperating with each other are not aware of the need to manage risk and do not take any actions to monitor risk occurrence, it is difficult to achieve maximum efficiency. In the literature, no studies related to the risks and mechanisms determining the occurrence of unfavourable interorganizational relations threatening to achieve the goal of interorganizational socially responsible initiatives have been found.


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