Sustainability - a Scandinavian Business Value that Drives the Success of Major Global Businesses
Philadelphia, February 25, 2013 - If your company thought sustainability was a temporary hype that would soon disappear – think again. Panelists from four prominent global corporations that achieved success by embracing sustainability spoke at the event Sustainability – from Buzzword to Real Business Value on February 13 this year. The well-attended event, organized by the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce—Philadelphia, was launched to show why sustainability, a top-ranked business value in Sweden, is today a must to stay in the game.
The panel discussion took place in SCA Americas’ LEED-CI gold certified offices1 in Cira Centre Philadelphia, and featured Amy Bellcourt, VP and Communications from SCA Americas, Poul Jeppesen, CEO and President of SKF USA, Lisa Davis, Social & Environmental Affairs Manager from IKEA USA and Brian Berson, VP Leasing & Development from Liberty Property Trust. All companies except the latter are Swedish based with their U.S. head offices located in the Philadelphia Region. Minna Mars-Logemann from the Finnish-based company EarthRate led the discussion.
The panelists were all convinced that sustainability is a must to remain competitive and to keep an edge in the marketplace. Amy Bellcourt from SCA Americas said “If you have not started working with sustainability yet, you have missed a major opportunity. Customers are getting more aware every day and they demand sustainable business partners and products.”
The speakers from the three Swedish companies said that their work in this field had a lot to do with their Scandinavian heritage. Poul Jeppesen, born in Denmark, told that when he came to the US some 20 years ago, he was the only one in his building who turned the lights off when leaving: “From the outside you could only see one dark office space – mine. In Scandinavian countries that is how we grew up, I remember my mother always telling me to turn off the lights when leaving a room,” Poul Jeppesen said.
Lisa Davis from IKEA quickly agreed: “When working for IKEA you are closely tied with the Scandinavian values of cost consciousness, hard work and and making more from less.” She continued by describing how IKEA has given bicycles to its employees, put solar panels on more than 90% of their stores in the US, and has eliminated incandescent light bulbs from sale of product. IKEA’s goal is to be a leader in selling LED light bulbs. In addition, IKEA is working toward having our stores and buildings being 100% supported by as much renewable energy as we consume.” And SCA, a company describing itself as “born in the Swedish forest,” seeks to plant three new trees for each one they take down.
Brian Berson revealed that Liberty Property Trust uses sustainability and green buildings, or high-performance buildings, as a differentiator in the hardening competition of the commercial real estate market: “Liberty Property Trust is one of the leading developers of high-performance green office and industrial buildings. We believe that high-performance green buildings are not just good for the planet, but create economic value for our tenants, shareholders and employees,” Brian Berson said.
All panelists emphasized how sustainability is a part of everything they do, and how it is not only covering environmental issues but also the social and financial aspects. Poul Jeppesen said: “At SKF we have named sustainability SKF Care and our program includes four pillars, Business-, Environment-, Community- and Employee Care. As an organization and as individuals, we have embraced the full program simply because each pillar doesn’t go by themselves - it is integrated everywhere.”
The moderator, Minna Mars-Logemann from EarthRate, asked what their response is to people seeing sustainability as nothing else than a cost. Amy Bellcourt from SCA wrapped it up: “It is definitely giving us value back. If sustainability would be a cost we would never be able to keep it up in the long-run.”Amy Bellcourt also said that sustainability work is a way for SCA to attract the best employees: “Young people today want to work for a company with a good agenda. They go to our website to see what sort of company we are. So for us, it is clearly also about attracting the best talent out there.” The other panelists agreed.
David Engstrom, President of the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce—Philadelphia was very pleased with the event: "Each of the companies participating in this program gave very insightful examples of how sustainability plays a significant role in their success with not only customers, but also other important stakeholders - shareholders, employees, and the communities where they do business."He continued: "The Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce – Philadelphia, is proud to promote sustainability, which is generally viewed as a strength associated with the Swedish brand. A major takeaway from this program is that sustainability is a hot-commodity which gives companies an edge in today's global marketplace with differentiating their products and services from the competition."
In Sweden and Scandinavia, sustainability is an important business value and Swedish companies have long been among the leaders with several companies on Corporate Knights’ Global 100 list. Sweden also became the first country to have a coordinated government function for corporate responsibility when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched its Global Responsibility unit in 2002.2
The event was powered and organized by:Swedish American Chamber of Commerce Philadelphia, (www.sacc-philadelphia.org). Host sponsor:SCA Americas (www.sca.com/en/us/home/), Co-sponsors: SKF (www.skf.com/us/index.html), EarthRate (www.earthrate.fi), IKEA (www.ikea.com/us/en/)Liberty Property Trust (www.libertyproperty.com/default.asp). In partnership with: Honorary Consulate of Sweden, Philadelphia.
About SACC-PhiladelphiaSACC-Philadelphia is a non-profit chamber of commerce organization that encourages and promotes an exchange of trade and culture between Sweden and the Greater Philadelphia area. SACC-Philadelphia is one of 18 different regional chapters of the umbrella organization, Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce-USA, based in the United States. The goal of SACC-Philadelphia is to offer a comprehensive package of business related services to members (and non-members) and to provide attractive network opportunities. Currently, SACC-Philadelphia is working on developing their work and skills within sustainability, partly since it is a very important business value in Scandinavia and Sweden. This upcoming event is one of SACC Philadelphia’s first steps.
1. An award given out by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system.