This section presents research method used, as well as the methodology. The empirical context of the case company is also presented in this chapter. Furthermore, how data has been collected, handled, and analysed are described. Trustworthiness and ethics are also considered.
3.1. Research design
Qualitative research method will be used to be able to reach the aim of the study:
explaining how CE, through the 3R’s, can pursue SD by innovating business models. Qualitative methods are according to Gray (2017) preferable when there is a need for a deep and holistic understanding of a specific context.
However, social reality is often too complex to understand and can be seen as socially constructed within hermeneutics. Therefore, deep digging of information and data about the specific context are necessary for the researcher, to interpret reality in a good way. Furthermore, an inductive research approach was applied which means collected data choose direction and describe the reality to see if specific pattern emerges. Afterwards generalisability or even theories can be shaped, in the inductive process (Gray, 2017). In addition, important theoretical framework supported the data collection. The study builds upon a case study perspective which is preferable when answering “how-questions” in specific contexts according to Eisenhardt (1989). Though, the case perspective was in focus while analysing the entire market for increasing the possibility of generalisation.
3.2. Empirical context
This study was conducted on the SSMI as mentioned in the introduction chapter. It is an industry that extract stone material aimed to, for instance, act as bearing layer and for producing asphalt and concrete, to build and develop the infrastructure in society. There are several actors operating at the Swedish market and the companies that competes in all divisions concerning buildings, stone, and infrastructure are: NCC, Peab and Skanska (Marketline, 2021).
Furthermore, there are also other companies that operates within some of these fields, for instance companies that only build compete within the building sector.
Concentration was on generalisability within the Swedish stone material industry, however focus was also turn towards a case company to easier align conclusions into a specific organisational context. Business model changes is needed to transform into a CBM and recommendations for doing so it was
presented in the context of the case company, resulting from a conducted market analysis. The focal firm is called NCC and more specifically the division Industry, which extract and sells stone material as well as provide paving services. The division consists of the departments: stone material and asphalt production. NCC Industry’s role is to provide the internal divisions Building and Infrastructure with stone and asphalt, and also other actors that want the products and services. NCC (n.d. a) is leading actor in the Nordics and had in 2021 around 13 000 employees. Challenges that NCC is facing for being able to adopt to sustainable solutions is that the solutions need to be economic defensible, hence customers must be ready to pay for eventual new sustainable offerings. Today, NCC Industry offers aggregates, sand and gravel, soil, sand, anti-slip material and recycled materials (NCC, n.d. c), see more about NCC Industry’s business in figure 7.
Figure 7. NCC Industry’s approximate, current linear business model applied into: Business model generation: a handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers (p. 44), of A.
Osterwalder and Y. Pigneur, 2010, John Wiley & Sons. Copyright 2010 of John Wiley Sons.
Aggregates, demolition masses as well as excavate masses (non-homogenous excess masses from projects) were the main parts concerned. The geographical area of interest was the Swedish sone material industry. Since SSMI focuses on many different areas within stone material, demarcations are required to narrow
down and achieve results within the timeframe for the study. Excluded areas was asphalt, soil, sand and gravel, and recycled aggregates. Asphalt was excluded because the case company already recycles it according to NCC (n.d. d).
Recycled aggregates are for instance mountain blasted for building a tunnel. It was overseen since the material must be carried away to be able to build the tunnel, and the material is already often reused, within the same or in another project. NCC (n.d. b) means that sand and gravel arise naturally and should no longer be used according to Sweden’s environmental goals since gravel ridges helps in water supply. That is the reason for why it was not considered in this study. Though, awareness should be thrown towards the recently presented business model for NCC Industry. Asphalt production is there included but, in this study, no new recommendations for becoming circular within the asphalt section (and all other demarked areas) was concluded. In other words, NCC Industry’s whole business model is presented (not only the stone segment), however, changes were presented at the focus areas in the study.
3.3. Data collection
When conducting a case study, different methods for data collection is vital according to Gray (2017). Therefore, both interviews and secondary data was collected to achieve triangulation and get reliable data.
Gray (2017) describes that interviews often are used within qualitative research to grasp a picture of everyday life, in a specific context. The interviews were semi-structured since the technique create opportunities to understand the interviewees and elaborate on their answers (Gray, 2017). Further, all interviews were recorded and transcribed to facilitate the analysis work.
In total, 28 digital interviews with 31 respondents were conducted, where the first three interviews acted as pilot-tests. The goal with the first three interviews were to pivot the interview questions and themes, as well to understand if the intended research could be answered to. The interviews were done in Swedish, and quotations has been translated into English by the authors. Since this study was conducted as a market analysis from the focal firm NCC’s point of view, the sampling for the interviews aimed to reach competitors, independent actors, customers/ordering parties and internal employees. Therefore, sampling was purposefully chosen to reach these interviewees and achieve geographical and positional distribution. The distributions of interviewees can be seen in table 1.
The main interview topics and questions can be found in Appendix A. An interview guide was also used to perform all interviews similarly and for giving all respondents the same information, see Appendix B.
Table 1. Distribution of interviewees
According to the amount of 31 respondents and the distribution (table 1), several interviews within the different groups (customers, ordering parties etc.) has been done to achieve data saturation. Arksey and Knight (1999) mean that a proper way for this type of research is to understand all relevant perspectives, and to expand the number of participants until no new viewpoint can be seen.
To accomplish distribution, the respondents’ positions varied. The interviewees roles were for instance: project manager, sustainability manager and business developer. Customer is here defined as companies that purchase stone material from NCC Industry, whereas ordering party is an actor that orders a whole project from NCC Industry’s customers. Further, independent actors are referred to as authorities, consult firms and member organisations.
3.3.2. Secondary data
The secondary data collected in this study was reports and website information from the SSMI. The aim with secondary data collection was to get deeper and broader understanding about the SSMI, and to expand the sources further from
Company Sector Respondent Date Time Company Sector Respondent Date Time
interviews to achieve validation. This data could also confirm or neglect data from interviews which Gray2017) means create triangulation.
Different types of secondary data were collected, and its types can be seen in table 2. All data are publicly available, therefore no anonymisation was needed.
The collected data were two reports from Svenska Byggbranschens Utvecklingsfond (SBUF), one in collaboration with NCC and one with RISE.
These reports highlight what has been done and what is needed in the industry to become circular and discusses the quality of recycled material. Also, a report about Naturvårdsverkets government assignment has been collected to strengthen current initiatives and performances in the industry. Lastly, web page information about different services and definitions of rules was gathered.
Several more examples of initiatives in the industry have probably been done in recent years, but in this study, the data analysis will refer to the documents in table 2.
Table 2. Secondary data collected
3.4. Data analysis
The collected data must be analysed to see connections or patterns to obtain the meaning of the data (Gray, 2017). Interviews and the secondary data have been coded to find themes that have arose, by adapting thematic analysis.
First of all, the 28 interviews were transcribed, read and sent out to respondents for agreement. The transcriptions were read through several times to become familiar with the data, which is proposed by Gray (2017). In total, the transcript documents amounted to 176 198 words. Thematic analysis has been used for analysing the data from interviews since it is a common way to analyse patterns
Title Document type Source Release date Document number Cirkulär hantering av
massor i bygg- och
anläggningsprojekt Report SBUF & NCC 2020 1
Kvalitet hos byggnadsmaterial i cirkulära
flöden Report SBUF & RISE 2017 2
Avfall som resurs Report – government
assignment Naturvårdsverket 2021 3
Pinpointer.se Webpage Pinpointer n.d. 4
NCC lägger ner Loop
Rocks News webpage Byggindustrin 2019-05-14 5
När avfall upphör att vara
avfall Webpage Naturvårdsverket n.d. 6
Avfall eller biprodukt Webpage Naturvårdsverket n.d. 7
within qualitative research (Braun & Clarke, 2006). To be seen as a theme, the data must be important in terms of relating to the research question. Inductive thematic analysis has been used since the analysis was driven by data and not the theory per se (Braun & Clarke, 2006). The process used for thematic analysis in this study is as Braun and Clarke (2006) presents it: get familiar with the data, generate initial codes, search for themes, review the themes, define and name the themes and produce the report. Coding was conducted in the NVivo software from QSR International, which assist in storing, analysing, and organising data. From the thematic analysis, the emerged themes and its sub-themes are presented in table 3.
3.4.2. Secondary data
In general, qualitative data is analysed through breaking it down into smaller units (Gray, 2017). The secondary data was analysed through coding in the NVivo software and afterwards summarised into themes, using thematic analysis. In other words, the secondary data was analysed in the same way as the interviews. The resulting themes are presented in table 3.
Primary and secondary data was coded separately but during the thematic analysis, equal themes emerged. These are as mentioned, presented below. The whole coding process was done in three sessions to be able to create concluded themes from all collected data, see Appendix C. The coding schedule in Appendix C shows the codes for the primary data where the only codes for secondary data were economy, material, geography, and performance. These were therefore merged into the primary data’s codes with same name.
Table 3. Themes from thematic analysis on transcribed interviews
In qualitative research, aspects of validity and reliability can be addressed through transferability, dependability, credibility, and confirmability (Skrtic, 1985, cited in Gray, 2017). First, dependability was achieved by a detailed context and method description which could lay ground for replicating the study. Secondly, all transcripts were sent out to respondents for member checks to ensure credibility. Third, the conduction of a market analysis help generalising conclusions and by sampling and context description, the transferability was strengthened. Lastly, by using a conventional coding method and through coding directly from transcripts, the conformability increased. Triangulation has been achieved by conducting both interviews and collection of secondary data, which in addition ensure credibility and conformability (Skrtic, 1985, cited in Gray, 2017). The translations from Swedish interviews to English quotations have been done by best possible ability to obtain the meaning of the sentences.
3.6. Ethical perspective
Ethical aspects are important in research since it considers how subjects and humans can be affected. Ethics means that the most suitable methodology cannot always be used, rather responsible research must come first. In sum, it can be said that four ethical principles must be considered. It is about avoid harming people participating in the research, to inform participant about what is intended to research, be careful and respect privacy and to not use deception (Gray, 2017).
These four principles have been respected through informing participants about the study, before participation. Participants have had the opportunity to choose whether to be a part of the study or not. Further, permission to record the interviews was asked to the involved persons and written “yes” was collected.
The transcripts were sent out to the respective respondent to have the chance to agree or disagree on their sayings. Recordings were only available for the two that conducted this study and was deleted after this study’s end. All information from respondents were anonymised, to secure participants from spoiling them or the company that they represent.