The Swedes have been generous with their contributions to the world – from the very serious Nobel Prize to fashion-lovers’ favorite Hennes & Mauritz, better known as H&M, comfort-lovers’ favorite the full body Swedish massage and the iconic furniture-lovers’ favorite and winner of PR Week’s Best PR Campaign 2009 award with ‘Man Lives In Ikea‘, Ikea.
For a nation of less than 10 million people, Sweden’s contribution to popular and consumer culture is impressive. In addition to the brands already mentioned, Sweden is also responsible for Saab, Volvo, Draken fighter planes, and living legend of modern tennis Bjorn Borg.
Did I mention Abba?
What most Americans may not know about Sweden is that this little European nation is a global leader on environmental issues. So seriously did the Swedish take recycling that one of their favorite things to do online was to share copyrighted material for free and apparently illegally! Their favorite site for downloading films, games and music (the aptly named Pirate Bay) was disrupted by the introduction of the IPRED law in April 2009. The law requires internet service providers to name (and shame) to the courts users sharing files with others via their Web sites; threat of legal exposure led to a dramatic drop of 40% in the volume of data activity online.
Until the legal killjoys stepped in, free file-sharing by Internet users in Sweden was consistent with the business culture of deregulation and allowing business to innovate and thrive. Sweden is a nation of creatives with a commitment to extensive investment in R&D in multiple sectors; according to Entrepreneur magazine:
Sweden’s success as an innovative nation stands on a number of pillars, including a stable political context and sound macroeconomic policies. In addition, since the 1990s, Sweden has engaged in a number of activities to improve the microeconomic climate. A more dynamic competitive environment has emerged through the deregulation of telecom, transportation, energy and media infrastructure, privatization schemes and the opening of financial and currency markets.
Businesses who want to be players in the Swedish market can look to Germany for tips. Germany is the number one importer to Sweden with each citizen spending an estimated 2000 EUR annually on German products. The relationship between the two nations is one that the Germans take pride in nurturing but they also credit their own economic and political significance in Europe as key to making the relationship attractive to Sweden.
American businesses can also seek guidance and information from the Swedish-American Chambers of Commerce (SACC) Web site. SACC provides useful and mutually beneficial information on doing business in America for the Swedish and vice versa. SACC also provides valuable insights on emerging industries and right now, green businesses look like a good bet in Sweden:
Sweden boasts some 3,500 clean tech companies that together book roughly $14 billion in revenues. Exports, which make up about a quarter of their overall sales, have grown 75% over the last four years. To further boost the industry, the government is earmarking $590 million for environmental projects over the next two years, including $180 million to commercialize green tech.
It’s worth noting that Swedish businesses make up three quarters of the green market so a foreign business would have to come in with something pretty special to get a bite. However with over 80% of Swedish people using the internet regularly and 54% shopping online, my guess is that the American company that can come up with an innovative green product or service that is made available online via a creative, engaging and easy to use site can win big in Sweden. FYI: Sweden has been described as
… the most Americanized country in the world, with the possible exception of the United States.
Update 6/26/09: Michael Jackson (1958-2009) Stockholm 1992
Read more about the Swedish love for America here then start innovating in green!