A Framework for Implementing Social Responsibility in Mega-Projects in Saudi Arabia

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The size and scale of modern mega-projects in construction call for a systematic consideration of their economic, environmental and social impacts throughout their lifecycle in order to minimise any potential negative consequences that such schemes can impose on society. Such adverse impacts often pose significant challenges when it comes to social responsibility (SR) that developers of mega-projects in construction must address. The SR issue is of increasing importance in regions where mega-projects are becoming prevalent due to rapid urbanisation and modernisation, and particularly for countries wanting to take advantage of their natural resources by converting such natural capital into physical assets necessary to propel economic growth and development for the present and future generations. As the second largest industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the construction sector accounts for more than US$ 120 billion of total government annual expenditure, with a disproportionate level of this spend mostly directed at a limited number of mega-projects. However, for these projects, the successful implementation of SR up until now has proved difficult. Current research thinking suggests that the difficulty is owed to a lack of critical understanding of the strategic importance of SR. Consequently, the resources needed for the successful implementation of SR at both organisational and project levels are either unaccounted for or at best grossly underestimated. To account for the SR dimension of such projects, a common framework for addressing the different aspects making up need to be established. The research from which this thesis is founded was designed such an effective SR framework for mega-projects in construction, with specific emphasis on the context of the KSA. A comprehensive coverage of current SR implementation practices led to the identification, evaluation and ranking of barriers to, and drivers along with potential benefits of SR implementation. The research uses a mixed method design, in which both qualitative and quantitative data are collected in parallel. Quantitative data was collected through a questionnaire survey of 136 construction personnel involved in delivery and management of two construction mega-projects (Riyadh Metro and Haramain High speed Railway). Qualitative data was collected through semi-structured interviews with 12 key construction personnel to further explore the benefits and drivers of SR implementation. The two datasets combined produced the essential elements for developing a framework that established the SR factors to be addressed within each phase of mega-projects in construction. The main findings of this research include the following: (i) implementation of the concept of SR in KSA mega-projects is not adequately balanced, and more focused on economic impacts; (ii) additional cost together with lack of awareness and knowledge were the main barriers to SR implementation; (iii) regulations and client demand are the key drivers to SR implementation; (iv) operational efficiency and customer satisfaction are the prime benefits associated with SR. The development of the framework makes an important contribution to identifying SR factors-related activities that are crucial to mega-projects in construction, which can enable their prioritisation. Beneficiaries of this research include all stakeholders seeking transformation in the construction industry for beneficial impacts on society in general, and these include construction industry practitioners, governments, governmental and non-governmental organisations in KSA and beyond.