Today, many Swedish companies are at the forefront of integrating a sustainable business approach into their strategy and daily management. These are extensive environmental protection, positive measures to respect human rights, improve the working environment, and fight corruption.foto: Alesia Kazantceva
Today, many Swedish companies are at the forefront of integrating a sustainable business approach into their strategy and daily management. These are extensive environmental protection, positive measures to respect human rights, improve the working environment, and fight corruption.
The term sustainable business is used to describe the work that companies do that positively impact society, the environment, or the economy. For example, efforts to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, promote equal career opportunities, and engage local communities are examples of sustainable business initiatives.
In fact, Swedish companies have a long history in this field and are considered by many to be pioneers. In the RobecoSAM National Sustainability Rankings (2019), Sweden is ranked first out of 65 countries based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) indicators.
The World Bank has identified corruption as one of the biggest threats to growth. Sweden ranks 4 out of 180 countries on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index 2019. As of 1 July 2012, Swedish law classifies giving or accepting bribes as a severe crime.
The environmental aspects of sustainable business are very broad, covering paper recycling, sustainable use of resources, reduction of environmental footprint and reduction of water consumption, etc.
A typical example is Cleantech - a term used to describe products or services that improve operational performance, productivity or efficiency while reducing costs, inputs, energy consumption, waste, or pollution. In other words, Cleantech is an essential part of a sustainable business. Internationally, Sweden continues to rank well in the energy and environmental technology sector, ranking third in the Global Cleantech Innovation Index 2017, behind Denmark and Finland.
Apart from that, strict environmental legislation combined with a high level of environmental awareness has helped Swedish companies stay environmentally innovative and operate efficiently. Sweden also plays a prominent role in clean technology areas such as non-fossil fuels and water quality, with several companies leading the way in their fields. For example, SEKAB is a major European supplier of ethanol and ethanol derivatives used for fuels and low-impact chemicals. At the same time, water technology company Xylem has operations in more than 150 countries.
Gender equality is an important aspect of how companies work with sustainable business practices. For example, companies can promote equality by enabling parents to combine work and family, encouraging shared participation in childcare. It also gives women and men equal opportunities to rise to leadership positions.
The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report assesses and compares national gender gaps based on economic, political, educational and health criteria. In the 2020 report, Sweden was ranked 4th out of 153 countries assessed, just behind Nordic countries such as Iceland, Norway, and Finland.
The Swedish Government expects all Swedish companies, private or public, to respect human rights in all their activities. For instance, the Government has a unit within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that focuses on trade and sustainable business issues and has an Ambassador for Sustainable Business.
The Swedish Government owns 46 companies of various sizes, two of which are listed companies. In 2007, Sweden became the first country to require SOEs to report on sustainability. These reports set out a number of sustainability goals, focusing on diversity, environmental issues, human rights, working conditions, anti-corruption measures, business ethics and gender equality. Objectives must be measurable, specific, and relevant to the company's operations.
2 Swedish companies set an example of sustainable business.
Atlas Copco is a leading supplier of industrial equipment such as compressors and assemblies. Since it has operations and production facilities in countries with a high risk of human rights violations, Atlas Copco follows a human rights strategy. Accordingly, they conduct regular company reviews and help business partners and customers improve human rights.
Furniture retailer IKEA plans to use only renewable and recycled materials in its products by 2030. IKEA's far-reaching sustainability strategy is widely available on its company's website.