Sustainability strategy and innovation – experiential learning, direct from Sweden!

Lara is a Senior Manager within London Business School’s Experiential Learning Team. Lara specialises in global experiential learning, having led Global Business Experiences to South Africa, India, Peru and Myanmar in a pre-Covid world. Since the pandemic, Lara has designed and facilitated several virtual global experiences and has also led the Digital for Impact pilot course from idea to implementation. Lara is passionate about LBS continuing to have a responsible, sustainable, social global impact. Lara previously worked as a management consultant for Deloitte, specialising in organisational transformation. She is also a fully qualified translator and TEFL teacher.

This week has seen the launch of London Business School’s inaugural virtual Global Business Experience (GBE) in Stockholm, Sweden. Led by Professor Ioannis Ioannou, 73 of our current students, from across various degree programmes (MBA, MAM, MiM, MFA) have gathered together online for a week-long journey through the vibrancy of the sustainability ecosystem in Stockholm, and in Sweden more broadly. We are mid-way through the experience and wanted to share what we have been up to, why its so important and what we will be doing next! 

Why Stockholm?  

Stockholm has long been praised for its commitment to sustainability: it was the first ever city to be named by the EU Commission as the ‘European Green Capital’ all the way back in 2010  and what is more, according to some rankings, Sweden has ranked as the most sustainable country in the world. It seems like there is a lot of knowledge to be shared! We have been looking at the culture, opportunities, resources and attitudes in Stockholm that make it so unique and will be asking the question: What can we replicate in our own countries? 

Why sustainability?  

We kicked off our programme with our guest speaker Mattias Frumerie, Swedish Head of Delegation to the UNFCCC, to give us not just a Swedish perspective, but an insight into the multi-national negotiation and collaboration. From the very first day of our programme we were also exposed to the science behind climate change – hearing from researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Centre (the people behind the latest Netflix documentary with David Attenborough). We have come to understand our “Planetary Boundaries” and the importance of a whole systems approach to tackling the climate crisis.  

The scientific evidence makes it clear what the challenge is and why it’s so important – so we moved on to hear from several organisations, to learn about how they are responding to this. Students have been critically evaluating and deeply engaging with this multiplicity of organisations and executives who are diligently working towards integrating greener and more socially responsible practices into their business models and overall strategy. We heard from larger companies such as Volvo and H&M about their strategies, and also from organisations such as Norrsken who support and invest in entrepreneurs and small companies with impact too.  

What have we done so far this week? 

Over the past few days we have also engaged with guest speakers and panel sessions comprising VC Funds investing in innovative startups who will change the way we live, consultancies advising decision makers for the policies of tomorrow, to global giants who are rethinking the way they operate with environmental and social impacts in mind. We also heard from the private equity perspective and we spoke to asset managers that seek to redefine the role of finance on the path towards a sustainable future. All of this has highlighted what an important issue sustainability is in the current business world, exposed where the business community can do better and gave us food for thought as we think about future business models and strategies.  

Students have been exposed to the challenges businesses face when they try to integrate environmental and social issues into their core strategy and in doing so, have come to understand how companies try to meet the diverse demands and expectations of not only their local but also their global, diverse and complex set of stakeholders. Prof Ioannis has encouraged everyone to critically evaluate how businesses translate sustainability into profitability while at the same time, synergistically, how they contribute towards the resolution of the world’s most urgent social and environmental challenges.   

What next? 

It has been a whirlwind of information so far – exposing the true complexity of the sustainability ecosystem and encouraging us to look at the whole system as well as its component parts. Over the next couple of days we will be hearing from the all important NGO and Governmental perspectives, including the thoughts of Gustaf Landahl from the City of Stockholm who will speak to us about the city initiatives in this space. We will examine the roles these institutions play in legitimising and accelerating corporate efforts towards sustainability innovation and broader integration. We will also be exploring climate activism and the role it plays as well as looking at the role of cross-sector collaboration – working together and looking at how our opinions have formed over the course of the week and the actions we can take ourselves on a personal and professional level!  

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