In the arena of global risk leadership—that is, responding constructively to risks with widespread impacts (climate change, for example) —Scandinavian governments and businesses are currently setting the standard. Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland are home to many of the world’s top global risk experts.
In order to gain a better understanding of how corporations and other entities in these countries are responding to the challenges of major global risks, I traveled with 20 MBA students to Denmark and Sweden this spring. The focus of the trip was to learn more about collaborations in risk leadership across the public, private and NGO worlds.
The experience presented students with an economical way to have the broadest exposure to many leaders in the field. As a cultural note, the Scandinavian countries share historic affiliations with Minnesota and each of the countries is approximately the size of Minnesota. Thus, many of the important innovations in engaging global risks became more vivid because of these shared characteristics.
Highlights of the 12-day residency included a visit to UN City in Copenhagen where students were given insight into the difficulties faced by various UN agencies in coordinating responses to global risks—especially in the developing world. Further public and NGO perspectives were gathered from national and local authorities in Denmark and Sweden, with a memorable visit to Växjö, Sweden (recently recognized as Europe’s greenest city) and to the Swedish Space Corporation. The private and quasi-public sector was further represented through visits to Copenhagen Airports, Ericsson, Pandora and Skanska, among others.
What we learned is that Scandinavian governments and businesses are demonstrating real leadership in many areas of global risk management. Some of the active steps they are taking in the field include:
- Focusing attention and energy on corporate and national resilience
- Responding in a coordinated fashion to climate change challenges
- Actively engaging with the political and economic dynamics of globalization
- Consciously seeking to address the specific challenges of global interconnectivity
- Seeking direct involvement in addressing global security issues
- Revealing express commitments to both societal and business sustainability
Students gained many valuable insights that would have been impossible to have from inside their classroom in Minnesota. Here are a few of their impressions post-trip:
There is a collective enthusiasm and belief in Scandinavia that sustainability is not only possible and viable but that ‘even the best must do better.’ Improvement will require cooperation, communication and advocacy from all, including both the public and private sector.
The issues identified during our visit to UN City are essential to the success of businesses and the development of the world. As leaders, we are responsible for ensuring that these sustainability goals defined by the UN are weaved in as we are developing strategies in our jobs.
American companies have ignored the financial benefits that stem a sustainability focus within their organization due to their negative connotation associated with the green movement. To convince them, the message needs to change from, ‘How can we save the environment?’ to ‘How can we minimize waste and cost, thus becoming sustainable?’
One of my biggest impact moments was when we were in Växjö and met with the city hall representatives to discuss the community impact of sustainable practices. This was when I realized how collaborative communities in Sweden are when it comes to working together to reach a common goal. I’m so impressed with society views on creating a societal impact on global sustainability.