In 2021, Axel Johnson International launched an ambitious new sustainability strategy. Malin Ripa, Head of Sustainability, explains how the new strategy will help differentiate the group from its competitors and drive change in the industry.
Why was it time for a new sustainability strategy?
“We have worked systematically with sustainability for many years, but we saw an opportunity to make some adjustments in the existing strategy and at the same time increase our ambitions. This is highly driven by our customers’ demands, as they want sustainable products and services. With our new strategy, we can build on the work that we have done for many years, differentiate us from our competitors and ensure that we have can offer our customers sustainable products and services. The strategy is built around our vision that we drive the sustainability transformation in our industry. We want to take the lead. Through the strategy, we will not only create business opportunities but also make sure that we stay relevant, today and in the future.”
What are the main building blocks of the strategy?
“In order to deliver on the strategy, we have set three focus areas: sustainable supply chain, sustainable operations and sustainable customer offers. We have also set targets related to the most material sustainability themes we have identified: people, climate, and circularity.
How will the strategy be implemented?
“The strategy is flexible in the way that all our companies will interpret and apply these targets to their own business and adapt it to their business context and ambitions. This means that all companies within the group will contribute to the overall strategy based on their ambition. When onboarding a newly acquired company, they will also be able to adopt this strategy and adapt it to their business.”
How will you deliver on the strategy?
“When developing the new strategy, the sustainable customer offering became our guiding star, because it enabled us to identify the activities that we needed to act on. Delivering sustainable customer offers requires actions along the entire value chain, from putting requirements on our suppliers to empowering our employees to make a positive change. Our companies know their customers and their operations best. Therefore, we have been working with facilitating knowledge sharing and providing tools for our companies to identify the relevant activities and take actions to improve their sustainability performance.
“Measuring our progress will help us evolve strategically and ensure that we meet our goals. Twice a year all companies report sustainability data to measure progress and take action. We also conduct supplier audits on prioritised suppliers in high-risk countries, to name a few measures.”
What measures have you taken to involve the group companies
in the sustainability work?
“We carried out energy mapping to identify opportunities to save energy and cut CO₂ emissions. All companies in the group received a benchmark report so they could identify and understand if there was any low-hanging fruit, like buying more renewable energy. It has been an in-depth study of our own operations, covering heating, cooling, electricity, and internal transport.
“We followed up the mapping with online knowledge-sharing forums. These focused on practical steps that participants could take to go about cutting energy consumption, including simple methods to cut electricity use. The timing has been particularly good, because global energy prices have surged since we started the energy efficiency project.
“I have been delighted to see that most of our companies have been empowered to identify activities to reduce energy consumption and cut emissions. We as sustainability managers work to support our colleagues in taking their own decisions based on their own context. This is one example on how we work within the group to share knowledge and take advantage of being a large group of companies. ”
What are your plans for the coming year?
“Launching the strategy is only the beginning of the journey. Focus will be on supporting our companies as they develop strategies that will underpin our sustainable customer offering. For example, if we are selling certain products, we can differentiate and create customer value by integrate sustainability throughout the value chain.
“A significant amount of the environmental impact from our products occurs during the use phase. We have great opportunities to utilise our technical and industry knowledge to help customers choose the products for the right application and use them in an optimal way to for example reduce energy consumption. It’s a fascinating topic, and we have lots of activities in the pipeline.”