Fifteen prominent companies have agreed to join a partnership launched last week that will focus on developing an entirely new business model centering on sustainability. The project, dubbed the Nordic Partnership, was initiated by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature in the four Nordic countries and House of Mandag Morten, a Copenhagen-based news and research provider. Well-known corporate participants include the Danish enzymes and pharmaceuticals group Novo A/S, Volvo Car Corporation, Swedish lumber and paper company AssiDomän, and the Swedish postal service, Posten AB.

“Our customers show a growing interest for sustainability issues. An active effort within sustainable development is an important competitive tool,” said Lennart Grabe, CEO of Posten AB. “That is why it is only natural for Posten to participate in the Nordic Partnership.”

The objective of the partnership is to develop a business model, based on Nordic values and attitudes, that integrates sustainability into the way businesses are managed, organized and developed. This objective will be met by exposing the dilemmas, barriers and opportunities that companies encounter when addressing sustainability. The Partnership also aims to offer a specific proposal for how businesses can contribute to global sustainable development.

The coming months will be dedicated to developing the new business model. This will take place in close cooperation between the network of companies and the project secretariat, which operated jointly by World Wildlife Fund for Nature in Denmark and House of Mandag Morgen. It is expected that as work progresses, the number of participating companies will increase to 20 to 25.

The new business model will be presented at an international conference in Copenhagen in the spring of 2002, and later at the United Nation’s Johannesburg Summit 2002, a global conference on sustainable development. The conference, which will be held Johannesburg, South Africa in September, also goes by the title Rio+10: The World Summit on Sustainable Development, in reference to the historic United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

The Rio conference recognized the causal link between current lifestyles and consumption patterns, especially in industrialized countries, and major environmental problems. The most significant issues were identified in the energy, agriculture, forest and fishery sectors.

Stakeholders that have been disappointed with the lack of progress in global sustainability since the Rio conference are hoping that Rio+10 will kickstart new efforts. Nordic Partnership companies seem to hold the same view, and are looking forward to making their contribution.

Expectations are running high that the conference in Johannesburg, just like the Rio summit in 1992, will represent a milestone in sustainable development, said Lars Rebien Sorensen, CEO of Novo Nordisk A/S. The Nordic Partnership is an exciting initiative, which we hope can contribute to the big picture at the UN summit in Johannesburg.