Note: Country pages are under development and all stakeholders are invited to propose changes.

The local context

All terms are used in the daily debate in Sweden and the National Standardisation Body, e.g. organizational responsibility, social responsibility, sustainable business, corporate social responsibility, sustainable development and sustainability. There is a national national policy for ‘Sustainable Business’ supported by many initiatives (in Swedish) including a national action plan for business and human rights. There is a The Swedish Corporate Governance Code that includes sustainability issues.

Approximately 250 Swedish companies and organisations are signatories to the UN Global Compact. Sweden often tries to be early adopters: already before the official launch of UN Global Compact Sweden had initiated the Nordic Network for Global Compact in 1999. In 2018 the Swedish Network for Global Compact will take off.

There are many initiatives to support transformation for social responsibility and sustainability, for example CSR Sweden, the Swedish Trade Federation (in Swedish), the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (in Swedish), the Swedish Anti-Corruption Institute, the Swedish Forum for Sustainable Investments, the Finansinspektionen (Financial inspection), Business Sweden, The Finance Coalition against Sexual Exploitation of Children, the Swedish Association of Environmental and Sustainability Auditors, the Swedish chapter of ICC (in Swedish), follow-up mechanism such as Swedwatch and Fairfinanceguide. One media example is Aktuell Hållbarhet.

Agenda 2030 and the SDGs are very much in focus and the national Agenda 2030 delegation catalyzes action. Sweden has a CSR-ambassador (as do Canada and The Netherlands) and companies/organizations that particpate in national delegations abroad must sign CSR-related commitments. There are MoUs related to CSR with both China and Chile. Eight areas in focus for the Swedish CSR strategy (UN GC:) Human Rights, Labour, Environment, Anti-corruption but also Equality, Ethics, Diversity, Taxes.

Sustainability reporting

The government introduced GRI-based guidelines for sustainability reporting from all (more than 40) state-owned enterprises already in 2007. Today, there are more than 200 Swedish companies registered at the GRI database.

The larger companies have developed sustainability strategies and the new EU directive of non-financial (sustainability) reporting will affect at least 2000 companies as the government chose to embrace more than the required size of companies (more than 250 employees instead of 500). All of the 48 state-owned companies publish sustainability reports. There is a slowly growing number of NGOs and public agencies that apply tools and standards to structure their contributions to sustainable development.

ISO standards

Sweden is a small country that depends on import and export. As such Sweden has used ISO standards to gain access to markets for many years and today, as an example, more than 6000 companies and organisations are certified to ISO 9001 and more than 5000 to ISO 14001. Many companies and organization are starting to use ISO 50001 for energy management, ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety, ISO 27001 Information Security Management, etcetera. Although Sweden is a small country it manages several important technical secretariats in areas within ISO standardization, e.g. social responsibility, occupational health and safety, security and resilience.

Public procurement in Sweden, inspired by new EU Directives, is moving from “lowest bid” towards “best economic value taking into account the environment, social responsibility and labour rights”. This is catalyzed by the rather new National Agency for Public Procurement which participated in the national mirror committee to ISO 20400.

ISO 26000

ISO 26000 was developed thanks to strong support from Swedish stakeholders, especially the financial support from the Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The national mirror committee Teknisk Kommitte 478 at the National Standards Body Swedish Standards Institute (SIS) developed Swedish positions and comments to the many ISO 26000 drafts. TK478 was at the time well stakeholder balanced and peaked at some 60 participants. Chairs over the years were Staffan Söderberg (Skanska) , Elenore Kanter (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Anna Linusson (Stockholm City Council), Reino Fridh (Sensus).

Several of the Swedish companies such as ICA, H&M, Skanska, Sandvik, AB Volvo, Atlas Copco, ABB, Vattenfall, Vakin, HSB, Svedab have used ISO 26000 to screen their sustainability work and integrate relevant recommendations. Some NGOs such as WWF and ECPAT have also used the standard to inspire internal procedures.

The SME association Företagarna has developed an open sustainability platform that is based on ISO 26000 and open to all. Another initiative is Worldfavor, a commercial platform for managing sustainability including ISO 26000, through which a number of companies and organizations have used ISO 26000. The Nordic Council of Ministers has supported ISO 26000 through a survey on social responsibility. More examples from Sweden are available in the countries section of this website.

Written by Staffan Söderberg