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 history, they are experts as sea rescue, and have made a significant contribution to local communities all along the coast of Norway.

Now they have chosen sustainability as one of six major goals to work towards by 2030. We helped them discover how being sustainable by 2030 might look.

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 to define what a sustainable RS would look 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 organization.

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‚Äôs 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 organization affecting people, society and planet?” and “What are the external drivers affecting the organization?” The main focus was getting a proper baseline for an inside-out impact perspective.

In a series of in-depth interviews with people from all levels of the organization, 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 possibilities 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 tension

Ambitions are comparable to a rubber band: too slack and there’s no energy, too tight and it breaks. As a geographically widespread organization containing various sub-cultures, the challenge for RS was to define an ambition that everyone could relate to. We organized the ambitions in two layers around their core operations, both linked to the organization’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 organization and its people."
Employee, The Norwegian Sea Rescue Society

Co-creation in times of COVID-19

Co-creation is an important principle in our methodology. We strongly believe that the people working in an organization are the field experts, and we are there to support them reach their creative potential by setting up arenas to discuss, share and co-create with others across their organization. From the very first meeting, involving employees and volunteers was 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 organization.

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 for RS to become sustainable in the 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, 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 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 organization.

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