Stockholm Part I

For our blog, we will be focusing on Scandinavian cultural aspects and how they influence business, innovation, and growth in Sweden and Denmark.

At Dagens Samhalle, a news publication focusing on the public sector, we were given a crash course on Swedish life and systems. From a distance, it may seem that Swedish and American culture are quite similar, but on this visit we learned they are more different than we think. Swedish people are very individualistic with no close family or religious ties. For most issues in their life, it is more likely they will look to government assistance before family. Although Swedes may think other cultures are similar to theirs, there are truly so many elements unique to Sweden such as the political structure, their generous child care program, and having little hierarchy with the same rules applying to everyone. You can see these cultural aspects in this video here.

We also learned these other factors about Swedish life. Swedes are early adopters of Internet usage. Up to 67% of 2 year olds use the internet and virtually everyone here is connected. Though this drives internet growth in the country, there are some drawbacks such as reliance of news from social media which often may not be real, a challenge we face in America. The political climate in Sweden is drastically different from the US with 80-90% turnouts for elections and a system made up of Parliament, ministries, government authorities, boards, city councils, and municipalities. There is common belief that the Swedish tax system is “expensive” however it is only 30% of income on average and covers universal healthcare, education including university-level, elderly and disabled care, family care, social welfare, and refugee care.

Due to the success of the social welfare programs here, Sweden needs more people to keep the system running. This is why immigration and refugee policies are much more flexible than we see elsewhere. Additionally, they continue to innovate to improve existing programs for citizens. This includes KRY which is an app for virtual doctor visits and AI psychologists available on call for urgent needs. It will be interesting to see what new innovations Cole along as there is a greater demand from the public sector.

One of the biggest cultural differences that sets Sweden apart in business is their focus on sustainability. We visited three Swedish businesses that each had a different focus on sustainability. At Dagens Samhalle, a news publication that focuses on the public sector, the CEO discusses the sustainability of their current social welfare system. Currently, everything is running smoothly and people are receiving what they need. However, there are more jobs in the public sector than there are people who can fill the positions. The CEO projects that if these roles are not filled, or solutions such as AI are put in place, the welfare system will not continue to be sustainable. They are already implementing such solutions, such as apps that allow you to meet with a doctor without having to physically go there, which demonstrates that this issue of sustainability is on the forefront of society’s mind.

Our next two stops were to Northvolt and H&M, which are two companies who prioritize environmental sustainability. Northvolt is a new company who intends to build a factory that will create the greenest battery in the world. They have projected that the demand for battery power in the world is on a major rise, and currently, our world does not have the capability to keep up with that demand. Not only are they focusing on creating these batteries, but also a sustainable way to recycle them other than burning. H&M has such a strong focus on sustainability that they added that idea to their mission statement. Their original statement was “Fashion and quality at the best price,” but has now added the caveat of “in a sustainable way.” They have begun allowing customers to recycle their clothes at their stores, so that H&M can take the items and make them into something new. They’re also pushing their suppliers to innovate, as they want their items to be 100% water use free by 2030, which is a ambitious goal. All of these visits beg the question, why is sustainability not more of a focus in the United States?