Sustainable Innovation

Cultural Differences and Sustainable Development

If you ask people what sustainability is all about, you will probably get multiple answers. Between 2009 and 2011 I interviewed sustainability managers across Europe. I found out that sustainable development has different connotations. Interpretations are often linked to historical developments.

In France, sustainability (développement durable’) has a strong social connotation. The principles of the French revolution, ‘Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité’, are still visible in today’s society. People believe that rights of individuals, employees and families should be defended at all times. You can recognize this social connotation of sustainability in the approach of Orange and of La Poste.

The Swedes are known to be very close to nature. For many Swedes, sustainability is more connected to environmental aspects. You can read more about this in the case study about best practices of Ericsson.

Not only national connotations may differ. Differences in business culture impact the way how sustainable strategies can be implemented in a successfull way.

In France, the society is organised in a strongly hierarchical way. Important decisions are taken at top level. This allows a swift implementation of new strategies. Decisions are taken early in the process and handed top-down through the hierarchy, as is done for example at Danone.

In Northern European countries, important decisions are often being made after intensive consultation rounds. These consultatations are being used to gather ideas but notably to make sure that all participants agree on the specific decision. A disadvantage is that this process may be time consuming.

What can we learn from the above?

First: Never assume that your understanding of sustainability is being shared by everyone across Europe – let alone people in the Americas, in Asia or Africa. When you are developing a multinational sustainability strategy, make sure you understand the regional connotations and include them as much as possible.

Second: Be aware of differences in business culture. Your sustainability implementation plan will need to be challenged by local experts. You will probably need to adapt it to the local business culture and decision making process in order to be successfull.

Globalisation improves a mutual understanding between people in different countries. Also national business cultures may change. French organizations slowly get less hierarchical. Generation Y employees get in direct contact with company boards as the case study of the Veolia Environnement illustrates. Globalisation however needs time to develop. At date, the differences in connotations, historical legacy and business culture are still very important.

Develop global, but adapt to local conditions: Test your global strategy with regional experts, and complete your strategy with regional implementation tactics, for instance in cooperation with national governments and local NGO partners, as DSM, Philips and Nokia show.

More about Best Practices of European Sustainability Leaders in: ‘Your customers want your products to be green’.


Wishing you an inspiring 2011

Thank you for your reviews, comments and ideas in 2010. To stay tuned in 2011 on new articles, do not hesitate to subscribe on the left hand side.

Among the blog entries in 2010 were articles on Best Practices of Sustainability within leading private, public and non-gouvernemental organisations throughout Europe, following interviews with senior managers, among them at Philips, DSM, Redevco, SAP, Eneco, Nokia, Shell, Bouygues Telecom, Ericsson, association ADN, the Dutch municipality of The Hague and Rotterdam Floating Pavilion, as well articles on measuring social impact, new CSR reporting rules in France and new social impact product labels.

Sparkling little LEDlights on the Champs Elysées, December 2010, Paris.

I wish you an inspiring, healthy and  prosperious 2011. I look forward to continue our cooperation and exchange.

The Green Take. Implementing Sustainable Innovation.

Why Ericsson is one of the greenest ICT companies

The Swedish telecoms equipment provider Ericsson has developed ambitious sustainability objectives. Recently it has been nominated by Greenpeace as one of the greenest IT providers. This article will present some of Ericsson’s Sustainability Best Practices, based on my interview with Matilda Gennvi Gustafsson,  Ericssons Sustainability Director, and desk research. Among the practices that will be discussed are Ericsson’s eco-design practices, its new calculation concepts (TCO2) and innovative partnerships with other industry peers, universities and NGOs.    


Ericsson is a world-leading provider of telecommunications equipment and related services to mobile and fixed network operators globally based in Stockholm, Sweden  Ericssons mission statement is stated as follows on the corporate website :  Communication is changing the way we live and work. Ericsson plays a key role in this evolution, using innovation to empower people, business and society’ (1).

The Swedish provider is serving customers in 175 countries worldwide, employing 82,500 people, serving 750 million subscribers worldwide and generating an annual turnover of 24,6 billion SEK in 2009 (2) (2,36 billion euro, conversion rate Dec 2009)

Ericsson has five distinct business areas (2) : Firstly, Ericsson is the worlds principal supplier of mobile network components. About 50% of the worlds commercial mobile broadband networks have chosen Ericsson as their supplier. In addition, Ericsson provides Multimedia Services that make it easy for people to activate and use services, such as telecommunication, TV and collaboration services. Thirdly, Ericsson Global Services is providing consultancy services, including network roll-out, systems integration and managed services. The joint-venture, ST Ericsson provides wireless platforms and semiconductors, which enables more than half of all mobile phones in the world. The last business area is serviced by the Sony Ericsson joint-venture that provides mobile phones and accessories to the consumer market.


More than half of the worlds mobile phones are enabled by ST EricssonSony Ericsson offers, accessories, content and applications (3).

Matilda Gennvi Gustafsson is Ericssons Sustainability Director since 2009. Mrs Gustafsson holds a degree in Industrial Management and Economics and has covered several roles within the Ericsson organisation, among them in R&D and as the Sustainability responsible at one of the Business Unit. In her role as Sustainability Director she reports to Vice President Sustainability & CR, Elaine Weidman. Elaine Weidman and her team are responsible for Ericssons Sustainability & CR strategy and the annual Sustainable & CR report  The Sustainability team is part of the Technology, Portfolio management and Research Group headed by Ericssons Chief Technology Officer, Håkan Eriksson, who reports to Ericssons CEO, Hans Vestberg.


 Matilda Gennvi Gustafsson Sustainability Director at Ericsson.

1. What are the key Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility areas of Ericsson ?

Ericsson has defined different key areas for Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility (4):

1   Enabling Communication for all : Ericsson wants to make telecommunication services more accessible and affordable for everyone, in line with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Among the initiatives that supports these goals is ‘Weather Info for all’. This project revolutionises weather monitoring in Africa. The project is on the fruit of a partnership with the World Meteorological Organization, the World Bank, mobile operator Zain, Orange and MTN and the Earth Institute. It aims roll out up to 5000 automatic weather observation stations throughout Africa, using Ericsson mobile networks (5).

2   Reducing Environmental Impact : Ericsson is using Life Cycle Analyses and Design for Environmental methodologies to study and reduce its environmental impact. The methodologies allow to analyse the complete life cycle, including activities at the telecom operator premises and the end-user context. Ericsson calculates its life-cycle GreenHouseGas emissions every year. In 2009 the company has managed to achieve the 10% incremental reduction it had aimed for and it on track with the CO2 emissions reduction goal of 40% by 2013 (baseline 2008) across the product life cycle.  

Ericsson closely tracks it Total Life Cycle CO2 Footprint. In all domains Ericsson has realised a substantial decrease of CO2 emissions (6).

3 Enabling a low-carbon economy : Ericsson believes that the ICT sector can play an important role to reduce other sectors emissions by offering solutions that can facilitate other sector developments with carbon-low alternatives. One industry study, SMART 2020 (7) estimates that ICT has the potential to reduce overall CO2e emissions by around 15 per cent by 2020. It can do this across many areas of society through solutions such as virtual meetings, smart buildings, e- and m-health, smart grids, smart metering, e-and m-learning, smart consumption and de­materialization

Ericsson wants to support these developments with factual analyses and CO2 measurements, such as its recent study ‘Measuring Emissions Right – Accessing the Climate positive Effects of ICTs. The whitepaper describes a methodology, key findings and case studies of calculating carbon emissions of ICT services. Ericsson estimates that smart use of broadband-enabled services can reduce CO2 emissions by a factor of 10kg to 100kg; in other words : The use of a telecom service that emits 1kg of CO2 may enable a 10kg to 100kg reduction in CO2 emissions.


Elements to consider when assessing the CO2 emissions of an ICT service (Ericsson whitepaper ‘Measuring Emissions’ (8)).

4  Conducting Business Responsibility : The Ericsson Group Management System (EGMS) includes policies, directives and guidelines for business processes and risk management applied globally. 

Caring for the community: Ericsson targets projects that are aligned with its business goals for affordable, accessible communication for all and environmentally sustainable technologies. The Ericsson Group sets the underlying criteria for sponsorship activities, the innovation and decision-making take place at the local level as greatest impact can be achieved where local needs are understood. Ericsson Response is the global initiative that deploys employees and technologies to support the UN and other humanitarian organizations when a disaster occurs. Among the actions are the rapid deployment of communications solutions encompassing Ericsson technologies and skills to support and respond to the communication challenges of each disaster (9).

2. Are Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility (CR) drivers for Innovation for Ericsson ?

Sustainability and CR indeed drives innovation at Ericsson, says Matilda Gennvi Gustafsson. The fact that the Sustainability & CR department is part of the GF Technology & Portfolio Management shows that Sustainability is a central part of Ericsson research and innovation roadmap.

Partnerships. Ericsson is partnering with a variety of NGO’s and scientific partners. Ericsson is supporting the UN Global Compact, founding member of the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, as well as member of ‘Solving The e-Waste Problem initiave (STEP) and the UN Global Alliance for ICT and Development. In addition, Ericsson has also been one of the telecom vendors providing input to the GSMA report Mobile Green Manifesto that has set out its plan how mobile manufacturers want to reduce their greenhouse emissions (10) .

GSMA report Mobile Green Manifesto presents the mobile telecom industry plans to maintain CO2 emissions by 2020 mitigating the expected 70% increase of mobile (10).

Products that reduce carbon emissions. Ericsson continues to develop and sell to the network telecom operators a variety of services that could reduce green house emissions. The end user services developed by operators may replace individual travel and/or reduce energy consumption and therefore contribute to a reduction of carbon emissions. Examples are e-health distance services, virtual meeting services like web conferencing, distance learning and smart grid logistic and equipment and even includes managed services to network operators : Ericsson operates the network on behalf of its customer (11).

Calculation methods. Ericsson has developed a new TCO2 concept to calculate both the Total Cost of Ownership as well as carbon emissions of solutions. With this concept, network operators are better informed about the greenhouse gas emissions of their existing or new networks, which they need to report and manage. They are informed how to reduce power consumption on a node level and put more traffic through their network (12).

Scheme of the Ericsson TCO2 concept that combines financial and carbon footprint calculations (12).

[Note : Ericsson is combining financial and ecological in an inspiring way. If you are interested in other examples of combining TCO and ecological impact calculations, I invite you to read the examples of in waste treatment at the French Veolia Environnement as well as the Dutch Chemical Company Akzo Nobel who combines financial and ecological impact figures for large investments].

The 50/50% Joint Venture Sony Ericsson, operating independently of the Ericssons company, has been recently awarded in the Greenpece ‘Guide to Greener Electronics’ as one of the most Green ICT providers. Greenpeace comments (12) : ‘Sony Ericsson It is the best performer on the toxic chemicals criteria [….], first to score full marks on all chemicals criteria. It also does well on energy. All Sony Ericsson products are already free from PVC vinyl plastic and brominated flame retardants (BFRs), with the exception of [..] components [..] being phased out. Sony Ericsson has already met the challenge of the new criterion on chemicals by banning antimony, beryllium and phthalates from new models launched since January 2008. Moreover, Sony Ericsson is one of only two companies [….] that is proactively lobbying in the EU for the revision of the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances in electronics) Directive to adopt a 3 to 5 year timeline for further restrictions on organo-chlorine and bromine substances’.



Sony Ericsson has been awarded as one of the most Green ICT providers by Greenpeace ‘Guide to Greener Electronics’ (13).

3. How does the economical crisis effect the Sustainability Objectives of Ericsson ?

Matilda Gustafsson explains that the Sustainability objectives remain unchanged. However with the increasing focus on cost control, energy efficiency has become even more important since that drives operational cost. 

 4.  What are outlooks for Ericsson ?

Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility will continue to play a key role within the company, according to Mrs Gennvi Gustafsson. Being part of the central innovation department of Ericsson, the GF Technology & Portfolio Management, Mrs Gennvi Gustafsson and her colleagues are cooperating with all departments on sustainability & CR challenges and improving processes and products that respond to these challenges.

The fact that Ericsson is rooted in Swedish culture and is supplying customers on a worldwide scale since more than 130 years, helps Ericsson to be one of the greenest ICT companies, states Matilda Gennvi Gustafsson. Sweden is one of the countries in the world where the citizens, city officials, executives and media are the most aware about the planets sustainability challenges.

An illustration of Swedish front leading Sustainability role is the city of Stockholm, where Ericsson resides: Stockholm has been recently nominated as the first European Green City 2010 (14).

  • Stockholm has an extensive integrated City administrative system that guarantees that environmental aspects being considered in budgets, operational planning, reporting and monitoring.
  • Taxis are driving on biogas, waste is recycled or used for district heating, sea and waste water are used to heat or cool buildings, transport on bike is encouraged, all buses run on biogas, to name just a few initiatives.
  • The City has cut carbon dioxide emissions by 25 per cent per inhabitant since 1990
  • Lastly it wants to be fossil fuel free by 2050.


Stockholm, European Green City 2010.


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