In today’s corporate world, you can’t separate strategic business priorities and sustainability. Although Electrolux has been at the forefront of the agenda over the last two decades, there’s still so much more we need to accomplish. For us, 2015 was about making sustainability a core part of how we run our business.
Sustainability will have a central role in my tenure as CEO. Over the years, its importance has grown to become a core part of the company strategy. Our engagement has been an inevitable outcome of living our values and is proven to be a profitable direction for Electrolux.
We’re proud to be recognized as leaders within our industry. At the same time, more and more companies are seeing the benefits of saving costs, reducing risk and adding value to their brands by mainstreaming sustainability. To maintain our leadership position, we must raise our commitment to the next level, integrating all relevant aspects – from human rights to product performance - into the business to build trust with consumers, customers and employees.
The leadership team at Electrolux has a clear understanding of the role that sustainability plays in the Group’s strategic direction. Group Management has ownership of our sustainability agenda, and the Board reviews our plans regularly. We continue to endorse the principles of the UN Global Compact, and they are reflected in the way we lead and manage Electrolux.
My own experience is that everyone in top management – from the Board and each member of Group Management to senior managers in all business sectors – is engaged, and understands clearly what it means for their day-to-day work. That’s thanks to the determination of Keith McLoughlin, my predecessor as CEO, who championed sustainability throughout the business, in particular the Electrolux Purpose and Climate Target.
In the past year, we’ve moved from aligning sustainability with our business strategy to making it a core part of how we run our business. Our sustainability approach, ‘For the Better’, focuses on striving for Better Solutions, Better Operations and a Better Society. I will be asking the organization to report progress on each of our nine promises, to make sure we’re moving at a good pace.
In Europe, one of our most important markets, consumer interest in how products are made, how long they last, and how they are disposed of is at an all-time high. As part of the leadership team for the last eight years, I have personally seen the impact that consumer concern and forward-thinking legislation has had on product efficiency and the role Electrolux has had in encouraging the uptake of more efficient products.
Now, we’re stepping up our dialogue with consumers. We need a more holistic conversation, widening the traditional message – that product efficiency saves money – to include consumer-relevant messages on food freshness, fabric longevity and product durability. Speaking with people through the channels they use every day will allow us to build trusted relationships with our consumers. ‘For the Better’ will serve us well on this journey.
We’ve made great strides in terms of product environmental performance. For example, our most efficient refrigerator consumes as little electricity as a 7-watt LED light bulb – unimaginable just a few years ago. But there’s still so much more we need to accomplish.
The emerging middle class – both inside and outside our traditional markets – will be an increasingly important target group for energy- and water- efficient products. This is an exciting area for Electrolux, where opportunity and sustainability leadership come together.
We’re taking bold action to reduce the impact of our own operations. In 2016, 13 Electrolux manufacturing sites in Europe will only procure electricity from renewable sources, which will reduce our total emissions in Europe by 60%.
We work in partnership with our suppliers to make our products more sustainable, and will do so more closely in the future. Electrolux responsible sourcing specialists are spread across the globe to make sustainability relevant to our suppliers on the ground.
The Group strategy to cultivate deeper relationships with fewer suppliers will also enable us to define shared sustainability goals with these long-term partners.
We also need to manage material resources in a smarter way. Electrolux is engaging in conversations with legislators at the EU level on this topic and, as a buyer of materials, we can and do influence the market for recycled plastic.
I am proud to lead a company of people with a true affinity for sustainability – the enthusiasm for these issues is clear whenever I speak to employees. It’s this commitment from every corner of the company that will drive Electrolux forward to 2020, when we will be able to demonstrate significant progress on our sustainability promises – and beyond.
Stockholm, February 2016
President and Chief Executive Officer