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Social responsibility and innovation – a challenge for Nordic companies

  • Published 09/09/2011
  • Last updated 13/09/2011
How and to what extent do large Nordic companies implement corporate social responsibility (CSR) into their innovation strategies?

This is the main question in an ongoing project started up by Marit Hoel at the Center for Corporate Diversity, and supported by Nordic Innovation. The initiative is connected to the lighthouse project of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Nordic Strategy for CSR, which is aiming at improving the economic growth and the competitiveness of the Nordic region.


The Nordic countries are strong economies, and Nordic companies are expanding on a global level. Because of the globalization the number of challenges is not only increasing, but these are also becoming more complex.


- When companies expand to global markets, they have to adapt to local standards. For example, the understanding of environmental issues is very different in countries around the world. As the companies affect the markets they are operating in, they constantly need to be aware of their responsibilities, says Marit Hoel.


With the project called Nordic Experiences: Corporate Social Responsibility and Innovation Strategies in Nordic Companies, Center for Corporate Diversity hopes to contribute to clarifying future guidelines for the perception and implementation of CSR in the Nordic countries.


- The Nordic region is considered a frontrunner in implementing ethical standards. There is a need for identifying which companies are the pioneers, and how they are solving these challenges, both globally and at home.


Not only is the focus on CSR growing on an international level, but this is also going through a significant change.


- Instead of being an external project, social responsibility is to a larger extent becoming a natural part of the development of a company. It is also more often the actual product in itself. An example of this is the Norwegian company Stormberg, a producer of outdoor clothing, who developed a system where customers receive a small payment when recycling their used clothes, says Marit Hoel.


Hoel has earlier profiled the diversity and the ethical guidelines of the 500 largest companies in the Nordic region, and she considers now being the right time for the next step.


- There is a need for concrete studies that describe the progress of CSR related innovation in large Nordic companies and how they define the platform for developing CSR in their strategies for growth and innovation. The way of looking at CSR is changing, and it is highly significant that this process is being identified.


Center for Corporate Diversity has listed the 500 largest Nordic companies that will take part in the project, and the next step is to analyze their reporting based on international standards.


- In this way we register which companies are most committed to include social responsibility guidelines and how they put them out to practice. In turn, these companies can serve as role models for others, to encourage and inspire.


The final result of the project will be presented on a conference in Norway at the end of next year, where the result of the project will be presented. Large international companies, whose social responsibility standards are affecting the development on a global scale, will be invited to participate.


- These companies have a huge influence on the CSR area, and it is highly relevant to learn about their experiences and at the same time being able to compare their strategies with the ones of the Nordic companies.


Marit Hoel also highlights the differences between the Nordic countries.


- Even though the Nordic countries are very similar to each other, they all have their own area where they stand out comparing to the others. There are also some differences in how they perceive the concept of CSR, and here they can learn from each other.  Thus, the project also constitute a learning platform for Nordic companies to increase their knowledge on CSR and strategic innovation.


As a result of the project, Center for Corporate Diversity hopes to contribute to setting the standards for the development of CSR, which can serve as a future guideline for major Nordic companies.


- The actual change in itself will take place when the companies start to discuss and exchange thoughts and ideas with each other. The project and the conference can serve as a catalyst for this development, she says.