Session 5: Success stories - Perspectives from the ground

Blog posts   •   Sep 22, 2016 16:35 +08

Mr Tobias Glitterstam, Vice president Asia and Pacific, Business Sweden

“My Reflections of these two days reconfirms that this is a very attractive market, even if diverse.” We have a good starting point with over 500 companies in this region, and a lot of unlocked potential. There are opportunities everywhere.”

Mr Lars-Erik Forsbergh, President Volvo Trucks South East Asia

Volvo is a successful company in this region and a leading provider of heavy vehicles with strong core values within safety and quality.

As an innovative company – Volvo contributed early to CSR by focusing on traffic safety. We shared our invention of the three-point belt with the entire vehicle industry that saves millions of lives every day. In Singapore today, we run a traffic safety educational program, Stop. Wait. Wave, with local school children endorsed by Prime Minister Lee. In addition to the Stop Wait Wave program we also educate truck-drivers to gain awareness about traffic safety.

Mr Magnus Zederfeldt, Regional Director South Asia Pacific, Axis Communications

Axis is the global market leader in network cameras. Mr Magnus explains what their success factors are;

  • Local; We are a global company with a clear local presence.
  • Trust the value proposition; We have a zero tolerance for corruption, our products are PVC free and high quality is non-negotiable.
  • Recruit the right people; Recruit people with high self confidence who dares to make mistakes and be creative. My first recruiting question would be; What mistakes have you made in your life and what have you learned from them?

Mr. Zederfeldt shares what he has learned; rather than to discuss a cheaper product, we help customers with selling arguments as to why they should invest in quality instead.

Mr Patrik Falk, Head of Subscription Business, Asia Pacific, Spotify.

Spotify have grown rapidly after their launch in the region four years ago. Originally the market approach was a one size fits all service, that later had to be adapted to the different markets featuring mainly local music. This misfired as the markets became too saturated with local music and lacked variety, we had to adjust again and offer today a balanced mix of Western and local Asian music. We have learned that we need to meet directly with the customers;

meet real people and not only rely on market data. Today we have local music editors in every market. 

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Session 4: Sustainable business in Southeast Asia - Part 2

Blog posts   •   Sep 22, 2016 16:30 +08

The second part of session 4 continued with further discussions around sustainable businesses and corporate sustainable responsibility.

A panel led by Ms Angeline Martin, Corporate Engagement Centre, Save the Children in Singapore shared many valuable and interesting insights and challenges from different viewpoints; investors, sustainability specialist consultants and global corporate brands with well-known footprint as well as recognized sustainability approaches.

This summary, only a few points are covered out of an extensive array of interesting topics during the discussion.

As a global brand with deep Swedish roots and values, H&M have integrated CSR in the business from an early start. Ms Hanna Hallin, Sustainability Manager at H&M quoted her company’s CEO Karl Johan Persson who has officially stated that he cares more about what his business will be delivering in 40-50 years time, than the results over the next quarter.

This long-term view and commitment is necessary when trying to steer a business in the right sustainable direction, when acting within one of the dirtiest and most polluting industries in the world, known for using an abundance of scares resources like water, land and oil.

“When I retire the researchers say we will be more than 9 billion inhabitants globally. Will it be possible to grow crops for fashion when we instead might need the same land for growing crops for feeding the world?”, said Hanna.

With a wish and will to take the planetary boundaries and social inclusion into account when planning for the future business, H&M have been working hard to make the production more sustainable. There is even a clear goal to become 100% circular “but we just don´t know exactly how, yet”.

There are obvious challenges on this journey of course. Not only pure environmental aspects, nor worker’s right issues but also the slow consumer adaptation to buy sustainable clothes. As an example, Hanna mentions that H&M has spent a lot of effort in making a line of jeans made of only recycled textile fibres. Since launching the line two year ago, only 1,5 million pairs have been sold.

When people hear this, they usually find that a remarkable low quantity, which is true. If a startup had had the same numbers sold, it would have been considered a success story! Nevertheless, the consumer demand is not there yet.

“We have been working hard to make fashion sustainable. Now we have to work to make sustainable clothes fashionable.”

Mr Lars Svensson, Sustainability & Communication Director IKEA, which is run by Ikano Retail in Southeast Asia, shared that a brand like IKEA, that is not publicly traded, has the advantage of not being quarterly driven, and therefore can take a long term view on all the aspects of the business.

Already when IKEA was founded 70 years ago the aim was to attract people with slim wallets to buy furniture. That fundamental business model meant that the business had to use as little resources as possible, to make products cheap.

At that point it was not a conscious decision to be “green” but the business model was actually built on the wish of using resources efficiently – and today this means in a sustainable way. Going forward, we want to be “planet and people positive” in our way of doing business, Lars said.

One of many aspects to consider is also that the customers don’t come to IKEA because that they are a sustainable company. They still choose the brand for other reasons and it is usually the value proposition the cost efficient furniture.

How can IKEA convey the message of sustainability so that customers still buy the goods and also understand, accept and maybe even agrees with the sustainable approach?

As an investor with a sustainability mindset, Mr Sasja Beslik, Director ESG Analysis, Nordea and Chairman of UNEP FI Water Work Group add another angle on the CSR topic. The fact that investors evaluate and invest in businesses based on what return they can deliver to their shareholders. Often financial return is expected already the next quarter. There are hurdles for companies to invest in CSR and can sometimes be seen as a “competitive disadvantage” instead. Having said that, Mr Beslik states that the costs for violating the basic global compact policies are extremely high. Examples like BP and Volkswagen are very concrete and scary proof of how high those costs can become.

Mr Beslik also stressed that the usual supply chain perspective should be shifted to the product and commercial side.

As a global professional services firm specialized in business driven sustainability Ian Spaulding, CEO at Elevate brings up the challenge for countries, and businesses, to overcome the short-term negative impact of implementing stricter CSR policies.

He brings up an example from Bangladesh where there are today about 4000 to 5000 factories and a fair amount of them are deemed not safe enough for manufacturing. Efforts are under way to ensure the safety, which also means closing down several of them. The result is then that people actually lose their jobs. A shorter very negative consequence for the individuals and communities, with a long-term positive aim.

Another example is the Malaysian electronics industry that is dependent on foreign labour in their factories recruited by brokers. These brokers sometimes ask for unreasonable fees from the workers. Up to 15 months salary and other conditions like confiscated passports. New CSR regulations don’t allow fees anymore, with a result is that factories are no longer able to recruit enough workers.

Bottom line is that these kind of short term challenges have to be addressed when implementing new CSR legislations and where possible also ensure that the cost of change are absorbed.

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Session 4: Sustainable business in Southeast Asia. Challenging perceptions and contribute to change – what Swedish companies can bring to the table

Blog posts   •   Sep 22, 2016 13:59 +08

Session 3: Success stories - Perspectives from the ground

Blog posts   •   Sep 22, 2016 10:13 +08

Session 2: Southeast Asia in 2020 – key factors for business to consider - Human capital and start up innovation focus

Blog posts   •   Sep 22, 2016 07:50 +08

Session 2: Looking Ahead, Southeast Asia in 2020 - Key Factors for Business to Consider - Human capital and leadership focus

Blog posts   •   Sep 21, 2016 17:38 +08

Session 1: Economic and Political Outlook on Southeast Asia

Blog posts   •   Sep 21, 2016 16:33 +08

Introduction and welcome

Blog posts   •   Sep 21, 2016 16:17 +08

Welcome and introduction

Finally, we are up and running with the Sweden-Southeast Asia Business Summit 2016!

The Ambassador of Sweden in Singapore, Mr Håkan Jevrell opening speech: Welcoming all guests, he is very happy to see so many with South East Asia (SEA) – Sweden (SE) perspective! Hope, development and a prosperous future in the region gives Sweden and Singapore a common goal: working together in a smart and innovative way

Mrs Ylva Berg, CEO Business Sweden opening words; happy to see so many attending - Summits are a great way to learn new things in new region. Smart cities – there is a need for collaborations that both SE and SEA can use. SE can expand in SEA, Singapore (SG) can invest and expand in SE. SEA is the fastest growing region in the world. There are many possibilities and solutions in the areas of automation and digitalization. Development in SEA is incredible rapid, SG is the 4th highest ranked country in the world in regards of connectivity; data, communication and cross boarder connections. Half of the population under 30 years of age in Indonesia and the need for infrastructure and home capital development is huge. There is a seamless market of goods, services and people. Business Sweden can help open up markets - we believe in this region! So take this opportunity to tie business relations!

Mr Jan Djerf, President of the Swedish Business Association of Singapore. Established since 1992 SBAS in SG helps Swedish Companies in this region. There are 250 SE companies in SG. 630 million people live in ASEAN. As the 7th largest economy and the 3rd largest labour force, EU has been actively working for a free trade between ASEAN and EU. SG stands out with regards to i.e. infrastructure and business orientation.

Mr. Mikael Damberg, Minister for Enterprise and Innovation (Sweden).

“Singapore is the easiest place to do business in!”

SE and SG share similarities: they are small countries, export oriented, focused on research and innovation, high tech solutions. Both with the view; key to success is productivity.

SE is a top exporter of music and one of the top three countries of innovation globally. SE has the Nobel prize, and is the most sustainable country in the world. We can see here that Innovations can change growth dimensions. This is why there is a perfect match between SE - SG! Sweden has a long tradition of innovation due to industrialization, innovation, technology and start-ups. The start-up scene in Sweden still growing! Skype, Spotify, Klarna – has similar conditions to Silicon Valley; there is long tradition in engineering, free higher education and infrastructure is greatly developed as well as the trading systems. “What you really need is a black belt in effective change”.

The Swedish Government believe in change. Ours is a feminist Government - equality is important for SE, “Companies with gender equality have a higher innovation growth than their competitors”.

Trade is important for SE, while EU is the biggest trading partner the world is changing. We need to be more present in the Asian market, which is becoming stronger as a critical partner to China and India.

Mr Damberg mentions that the opportunities for Swedish companies in this region are plentiful - a population of 650 million and a rapidly growing middle class. The Swedish Government has a new export strategy to promote Swedish export and internationalization in this region. This business summit will be the beginning of a huge business exchange. A new beginning of a new successful collaboration between our countries.

Mr. Lim Hng Kiang, Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade), Singapore.

Welcome to Damberg and his delegation – “This marks a 50-year diplomatic relationship between Sweden and Singapore”.

Sweden has about 300 companies present in SG and it is the largest concentration of Swedish businesses in Asia. SEA economic growth is higher than the rest of the world, 6% compared to 4%. GDP can rise more than fivefold in the coming years, we see huge opportunities for consumer goods. ASEAN formed last year has created a more compelling market.

Swedish companies have a long tradition of using SG as a business platform for expanding in the region.

As in SE, SG acknowledges innovation as an important component to stay competitive, SG as a Smart Nation wants to harness new technologies.

SG 2020 plan is to invest 90 million dollars in R&D to remain a global destination for investors. SG welcomes more Swedish business to be based here.

Mr Marcus Wallenberg, Chairman of the Board, SEB

Seeing is believing; SE has a series of years as an export nation. To a global stage SE has been successful in establishing in Asia. ASEAN has about 600 million people, this market will develop substantially. “We have not made enough!” It appears to me that Swedish companies are not reaching their full potential.

We have to be aggressive, ready to invest into this region with latest technology. We have to be present, not only with marketing but with technology and production. We have to be established with a long term commitment to be able to build business. This summit is an excellent start!

Mr. Piyush Gupta, Chief Executive Officer and Director of DBS Group.

Mr Gupta refers back to Mr Wallenberg; our banks are similar - SEB and DBS.

China is slowing down more than people think, but it is contradictory as service is growing by 9-10% but manufacturing only by 3-4%.

Firstly; structural reforms in China are on going for a more consumption driven economy. Although it will take time.

Secondly; we are seeing a supply set reform to clean up manufactory sectors, where we have an over-capacity in certain areas. The let go of jobs is not happening fast enough, but the intent is there.

Thirdly; China is moving towards a market oriented economy. Market has to be led by prices. This is proceeding faster than thought; capital inflow etc. - opened up to fast! Smothering it with policy measures, anti-corruption, one child policy.

So, China’s economy is being stabilized, the impact of the reforms will soon be visible.

India is growing at 7-8%, although private is investment slow, Prime Minister Modi is doing well with his reforms.

SEA has been the factory to the world the last 30 years, but is quickly becoming a market place with a rapidly growing middle class who is prepared to consume and spend money. This presents a great possibility for western brands.

Urbanisation and infrastructure, SEA has capacity now. The fiscal position today after 15 years of surpluses is much better and stronger. SEA are able to do more and this is a great opportunity for Foreign Direct Investment.

The ASEAN region is very diverse which could create challenges, therefore it is important for SE companies who would like to enter SEA to have an appropriate strategy for each market!

Read more »

Swedish companies - world leading in innovation, seek to invest in Southeast Asia, the new global growth engine

Press Releases   •   Sep 21, 2016 09:00 +08

Singapore 2016-09-21. Today the “Sweden–Southeast Asia Business Summit” starts. Around 600 Swedish companies across business sectors ranging from service to manufacturing and retail are present in Southeast Asia and inventing tomorrow’s world.

The K-A Bonnier International Fellows Program (KAB-IFP)

Blog posts   •   Sep 20, 2016 09:13 +08

Contacts 1 contact

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  • Head of Media Relations
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About Sweden-Southeast Asian Business Summit

The Summit

Team Sweden in Southeast Asia is proud to present the inaugural “Sweden–Southeast Asia Business Summit” that will take place in Singapore on the 21–22 of September 2016.

Around 600 Swedish companies across business sectors ranging from service to manufacturing and retail are present in Southeast Asia. The Sweden–Southeast Asia Business Summit aims to attract business leaders and decision makers from Sweden and the region by providing a platform for sharing of best practices on how to do business in this dynamic part of the world.

Southeast Asia is home to more than 650 million people with a rapidly growing middle class. Despite slowing economic growth in China, the Southeast Asian region is estimated to grow at an average of 5 –6 percent annually in the coming decade, making it the growth engine of the world. The newly established ASEAN Economic Community is likely to enhance growth further.

To be competitive in this evolving global market, it is crucial for any CEO or board member to have a clear understanding of the developments in the region. The Sweden–Southeast Asia Business Summit provides an excellent opportunity to get insights from industry peers and policy experts and to meet with potential partners.

The summit will feature key political and business representatives from Sweden, including Mr Mikael Damberg, Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, Mrs. Ylva Berg, CEO, Business Sweden – the Swedish Trade and Invest Council, Mr Marcus Wallenberg, Chairman of the Board, SEB, SAAB Group & Foundation Asset Management, Mr. Magnus Böcker, Executive Chairman of Blibros and former CEO of Singapore Exchange and many more. The summit is a joint effort by “Team Sweden” in Southeast Asia, i.e., the Swedish Embassies, Business Sweden and the business associations and chambers in the respective countries. We welcome all Swedish businesses in Sweden and the Southeast Asia region to attend this summit.


  • Sweden-Southeast Asian Business Summit
  • Hotel PARKROYAL on Pickering, 3 Upper Pickering Street
  • 058289 Singapore
  • Singapore