How to create a culture of sustainability

Can the board of directors alone solve the issue of corporate sustainability? No, says Lena Bjurner, Head of HR and Sustainability director at Scandic Hotels Group. On the contrary, the best ideas are often found when you involve the entire organisation and focus on solving real-world problems.


Apart from her work with Scandic Hotels Group, for which Universum has named her Nordic HR Director of the year, Lena Bjurner is also on the board of the Swedish UNHCR organisation. We caught up with her during the Alumni event ‘The role and responsibility of the board regarding sustainability’, to discuss sustainable actions for organisations.

”In the organisations that I work with, sustainability is discussed very frequently,” said Bjurner. ”It comes naturally with our line of work. Frankly, I’m surprised by the fact that many boards rarely discuss this issue.”

Indeed, as shown in the latest Alumni / Harvey Nash Board Report, a majority of the respondents have spent zero hours discussing environmental impact in the boardroom in the past year. We’ve covered this problem, and what to do about it, in a previously published article.

Involving the entire organisation

”However,” Bjurner argued, ”the sustainability issue cannot be solved by the board alone. It is out there, in the so-called real world, that you will find substantial ideas that can really make a difference.”

Recently, Scandic held a hackathon involving 18,000 team members that spawned more than 400 sustainability initiatives. Two winning ideas have now been chosen, one within Environmental sustainability and one in Social sustainability.

”This is an excellent way of involving the entire organisation in sustainability matters,” Bjurner explained.

Winning idea in Environmental Sustainability: Turn off the Tap
Scandic can save over 200 million liters of water per year if the guests turn off the taps while they brush their teeth. That equals 1.2 million bathtubs filled with water. Scandic will encourage guests to be more conscious of their water consumption when they stay and there is also a good chance they’ll bring the positive behavior home with them.

Winner idea in Social Sustainability: Holiday for All
The idea is for Scandic to open its hotels to families that miss out on social experiences because of financial constraints. Scandic is now identifying potential partners in each country and will launch a pilot project for this idea at selected hotels during the year.

Involving employees in the company’s sustainability work isn’t new to Scandic. ”In fact, Scandic did the same thing as early as 25 years ago. The only difference is, back then we didn’t call it a hackathon”, Lena Bjurner told us. “From that event came the initiative ‘hang up your towel’, instead of leaving it on the floor if you don’t want it washed. This idea is now industry standard in hotels all over the world.”

At Alumni we really appreciate working longterm with clients who have a strong sustainable value foundation we can share, and we are particularly proud of the cooperation with Scandic board and executive management, who can attract really diverse and sustainable leaders.

Are you interested to know more about how to involve your organisation in solving sustainability issues? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Alumni for a consultation.

Katarina Ausenius