What Sustainable Businesses Can Learn From Scandinavia

Scandinavian countries are well known for their quality of life, incredible landscapes, and sustainable practices. Explore what sustainable businesses can learn from this region.
December 5, 2022
4 minutes

From fjords and snow-capped mountains to the Northern Lights, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, and Norway are certainly breathtaking. But aside from the volcanic landscapes and picturesque Nordic cliffs that stretch more miles, Scandinavia is not only dominating the happiness rankings but is also as beautiful as it is sustainable. 

More precisely, Nordic countries are prime examples of how sustainable and more self-sufficient living is not only doable but also easier than we may think. As we look up to these environmentally superior countries, how can we better our own sustainability pledge?

Norway is once again spotted on the  RobercoSAM list, the international investment company with a specific focus on sustainability investments. All thanks to their leadership in governance, innovation, human capital, and environmental indicators. What’s more, even though they are the world’s third-largest exporter of oil and gas, the Norwegian parliament approved a proposal to achieve climate neutrality by 2030 –while the European Union aims to be climate neutral by 2050

“Nordic businesses are uniquely positioned to lead the world in combating climate change, potentially creating a Nordic Silicon Valley of sustainability”

Ground thermal heating

As International Hydropower Association explains, hydropower energy accounts for approximately 95% of the country's energy production in every Nordic country. Even with average day temperatures of about -10°C (15°F) in January, and temperature records of about -50°C (-60°F), thanks to the pipes buried under the ground, the heat is transferred to the internal heating system. Ultimately, Underfloor heating is more eco-friendly than using radiators and uses less energy, meaning they cost much less in the long run!


Recycling and waste management

Scandinavia follows an impressive no-waste model. In fact, less than 1% of Swedish household waste was sent to landfill last year or any year since 2011. In addition to living a low-waste lifestyle, they’ve also found a stellar way to turn waste into energy. 4,600,000 tonnes of household waste was managed in 2020 alone. So much so that the amount of energy generated from waste alone provides heating to one million homes and electricity to 250,000 –for reference Sweden’s population is close to 10.42 million.

 Finland is a leader in recycling too, with success in deposit schemes and paper recycling thanks to the country’s strong eco policies. 

Renewable energy

Norway's hydropower energy accounts for approximately 95% of the country's energy production and the county is currently in the process of banning the sale of fossil-fuel-powered cars altogether. It’s been announced that by 2025, all vehicles in circulation must be powered by green energy –which is no surprise given that Norway has the most electric cars per capita.


A circular economy

Nordic countries have limited resources. That’s exactly why Finland has become the world's first country to establish a roadmap to the efficient and sustainable use of resources. Sitra, is an active fund for the future that studies, researches and brings together partners from different sectors in open-minded trials and reforms. Their annual budget of 30 million euros is dedicated to the support of the country's most innovative, sustainable, and efficient circular economy projects in the name of an even greener future.


Green transport

All public transport methods in Sweden –including buses, trains, and the metro– operate with 100% renewable energy. Additionally, The Norwegian government has pledged to enforce a zero-tolerance policy for fossil fuel emissions from ships between 2026-2030.


Sustainability in Scandinavia

“Nordic businesses are uniquely positioned to lead the world in combating climate change, potentially creating a Nordic Silicon Valley of sustainability,” – McKinsey explains, and due to the region’s natural resources and environment-based sectors such as forestry, agriculture, fisheries, and mining, this scenario may be closer than we think. There are so many things we can learn from Nordic businesses and the way they embrace sustainability in their strategies.