Final conference summarized the project Sustainable Industrial Environments of the Future

For three years, we have had the privilege of collaborating on a wide range of sustainability issues with some of the large and small industries in Umeå within the framework of the Sustainable Industrial Environments of the Future project. The project has focused on developing an innovation process and within the framework of it working with different cases to reduce CO2 footprint in transport, energy, real estate, production, etc. In parallel, we have also worked on visualizing environmental and energy data and developed tools to create attractive workplaces based on equality and diversity. Two important sub-objectives have been the dissemination of skills and the creation of a platform for further collaboration.

Part of the dissemination of expertise is the reports and analyses produced, which are available We have also held two major conferences during 2022, with the final conference in November being a highlight with around 80 participants from large parts of Umeå municipality and Västerbotten's business community and industries. Several exciting speakers were present, including the acclaimed sustainability entrepreneur and author Rebecka Carlsson.

Although the Sustainable Industrial Environments of the Future project will end as an EU project at the end of the year, there is an ambition and a consensus on the continued need for collaboration between companies and organisations. The Viable Business Hub will continue to provide a platform to take forward lessons, processes and tools to contribute to the development of sustainable industrial environments of the future.

Final conference of the project Sustainable Industrial Environments of the Future

The Sustainable Industrial Environments of the Future project will summarise the results and insights generated during the project at a final conference. An inspiring day of lectures, panel discussions, presentations and networking in the spirit of sustainability for the Umeå region's small, medium and large industrial companies.

The conference will be held Wednesday 23rd Nov 12.00-16:30 at Great Hub City Kungsgatan 63, Umeå. Entrance from the pedestrian street.

We offer lunch 12.00 (please register for special diet)

Welcome with your registration to (limited number of places)

Strong interest in sustainable skills supply

On Thursday 19 May, the Västerbotten Chamber of Commerce organised a skills supply day with Sustainable Industrial Environments of the Future as the main partners. In total, the event attracted nearly 80 managers and employees working with skills supply, recruitment and training.

Common challenges and insights

The event was initiated by the needs expressed by several companies within the Future Industrial Environments in combination with the Västerbotten Chamber of Commerce's mission within competence supply for long-term growth in Västerbotten.

The programme included lecturers from Stockholm, Gothenburg, Lund and Umeå. Fredrik Stranne, employer branding expert at Coreworkers, began with an insight into how an organisation can be sustainably attractive to talent and employees. An exciting insight was that the trend is moving from attracting talent to retaining the talent that is already employed.

Content with many perspectives

The day also highlighted communication for sustainability, equality and gender equality in industry, recruitment of foreign-born workers and the industry's need for skills in practical occupations linked to young people's choice of studies. In addition to the exciting content, there was space to network and share thoughts and ideas in various workshops.

The day ended with a panel discussion with the Governor of Västerbotten and participants from Komatsu Forest, SB-Insight, Vkna and Region Västerbotten.

See you in 2023, right?

The aim is for the Skills Supply Day to become an annual event, starting in 2022. Finally, we would like to thank the Västerbotten Chamber of Commerce and Siv Forssèn, who was responsible for the planning and implementation.

Gender equality and diversity for attractive workplaces

What is the current situation regarding gender equality and diversity within Västerbotten's industrial companies and what is needed to create attractive workplaces? This was the question in the survey of the equality situation that has now been carried out within Västerbotten's industrial and forestry companies. The goal was to identify important efforts regarding gender equality and diversity in the industrial sector in Västerbotten going forward. The results were completed in autumn 2021 in the report "Attractive workplaces in Västerbotten – gender equality and diversity".

The survey was carried out in three parts:
1) Mapping the current situation and needs of industrial companies in Västerbotten
2) Inventory of studies, research situation, experience and good examples around Sweden
3) Proposals for activities that can be carried out with the industrial companies in Västerbotten going forward

The assignment is a collaboration between the Sustainable Industrial Environments of the Future and the Forest Technology Cluster's project Company-driven forest innovation and the mapping has been carried out by the company Vkna. A reference group with representatives from Region Västerbotten, Umeå Municipality, RISE, the County Administrative Board and IF Metall has also contributed to the work.

Welcome to webinar about The Attractive Workplaces of the Future 13/1 at 13.00-15.00

To spread the knowledge from the work and invite to dialogue, the project Future Sustainable Industrial Environments now invites you to a digital webinar /workshop together with Vkna. The webinar is completely free of charge. The focus of the meeting is learning and inspiration through discussion and knowledge exchange, based on the report "Attractive workplaces in Västerbotten".


-Vkna presents results from the work with mapping and report.

- Calls in small groups. Through discussions and conversations, we connect relevant issues, based on the content of the report, with the current situation at the participants' workplaces. The goal is to provide new or in-depth insights, knowledge and inspiration through reflections and discussions about how we can continue to drive the work to create more attractive workplaces in Västerbotten.

You are welcome to register for the webinar here:

Needs analysis points to paradigm shift for sustainability even in smaller companies

The sustainability issue is extremely topical for most companies. From being partly outside the boardroom and looking at business plans and governance, sustainability today is an important sub-area in connection with profitability, quality, efficiency and work environment.

In a recent report published in November 2021, the project Future Sustainable Industrial Environments together with North Sweden Cleantech has interviewed 20 companies about today's sustainability work and needs going forward.

The strategic and operational sustainability work is mentioned as easy to implement and implement in the business, which ensures a good focus in sustainability on several levels. Here's how one of the companies interviewed describes their views on sustainability:

"Sustainability is not a single issue but integrated based on competitiveness, efficiency, attractive employer. Has not focused on sustainability for sustainability but that business development is sustainability. I've got the insight along the way."

The conclusion is that several of the sustainability challenges are shared by the companies interviewed and many see collaboration as a way forward as it is difficult to be an expert in all areas. The value is both environmental but also businesslike and in the long term to be competitive in the market.

Examples of areas that are current:

  • Energy consumption
  • Carbon footprint
  • Gender balance
  • Work environment & well-being

Challenges raised are:

  • Find enthusiasts to drive the questions
  • Resources: time, money and staff
  • Old norms and mindsets
  • Being the first to make changes
  • Stay focused and motivate change, as well as opportunities to visualize changes
  • Creating circular business models
  • Location and transport
  • Willingness and demand for customer conversion

Needs & Opportunities:

  • Increase the possibility of collaborations in order to be able to choose sustainable transport
  • Move towards more sustainable/renewable energy sources such as solar panels, wind/hydropower as alternatives and circular solutions such as energy recovery
  • Skills supply and Diversity

Do you want to know more about the results of the survey or read the report in full?

Contact Christian Skanderby, Project Manager Future Sustainable Industrial Environments, Umeå Energy

New innovation process for sustainable development in collaboration

How can industrial companies of all sizes work together for increased sustainability and find concrete and innovative solutions in a smooth and effective way? This is one of the main issues for which the project Future Sustainable Industrial Environments and the viable business hub initiative have now developed a process.

All companies, organizations and public actors involved in this collaborative initiative believe in developing common solutions for the sustainability challenges that characterize the industry today – regardless of which industry you operate in. But it might be easier said than done.

"Collaboration for joint development does not happen on its own in practice – a common method or model is needed that contributes to the impact and concrete results. Otherwise, it is easy to get stuck in the phase where you hold cooperation talks and dialogue about different possible solutions, without getting enough progress – or without really knowing if these are the right questions that you ask yourself, says Jenny Eklund, process manager and coordinator of viable business hub 2020-2021, who has led the work on developing working models and working methods for the initiative.

Will boost the flow of concepts for sustainable solutions

The innovation process that is now being introduced is based on many years of experience about what is needed to get concrete results from collaboration, and what pitfalls it is easy to fall into. This model will now be tested in sharp position in the current cases and subprojects produced by the venture, and then further refined during the project.

"Structure and framework in the form of an innovation process are needed to move from idea to result. It is also particularly valuable in this type of collaboration initiative, where it is often a challenge to get results and flow. We want to be able to create value through a number of important sustainability cases and become a bit of a "concept factory", thus contributing to increased sustainability in the region," says Lars Mikaelsson, Innovation Manager at Umeå Energi, who has participated in the process team.

Propulsion, responsibility and roles

The model addresses different aspects of collaboration and innovation. The basis is the innovation process itself, which describes how an idea or an identified need should be handled, analyzed, tested, further developed and finally implemented. Along the way, there are a number of decision-making opportunities at different levels that will determine whether the innovation or the conditions for realising it are sufficiently promising, or whether work on the issue should be discontinued.

The working model also solves other important issues that are important to be clear about when many parties are involved; as the roles involved in the joint development work, which participating parties (companies or organisations) are responsible for the progress of the process and/or financing in each event and which deliveries are expected. The process images include an accompanying "manual" that describes in more detail the events step by step.

"The goal is to create a smooth and efficient workflow that aims to find concrete, value-creating and innovative solutions to crucial sustainability challenges – which can be beneficial for the entire region. Increased sustainability should go hand in hand with increased business benefits, which will benefit both industrial companies, society and residents," says Jenny Eklund.

More voices about the model

"When it comes to innovation, you need a process that allows both iterative and joint exploration of a problem, while providing both control towards results and with clear delivery interfaces. It has been a leader in developing the model," says Johan Granström, business developer ABB.

"We face major challenges in achieving the global sustainability goals and a crucial success factor is that we manage to work together to find new technical solutions and business models. The innovation model that we have now co-created gives us the conditions to succeed in this," adds Magnus Stenvall, project owner for the initiative.

"We need to get even more focus on concrete results in collaborative projects, and we hope that this way of working will lead to just that," says Niklas Åström, CEO of Ålö in Umeå.

ABB makes a difference with new sustainability strategy

Environmental degradation and overuse of earth's resources endanger the health and prospects of many people around the world. In its new sustainability strategy, ABB wants to make its stand to create a more sustainable society.

"As a major player, we have the opportunity to make a difference," says Johan Granström, business developer at ABB.

ABB's sustainability strategy, which ran until 2020, contributed to many progress. The company managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 58 percent, water use by 39 percent and emissions of volatile organic compounds by 29 percent. In addition, the number of women in management increased by 13.5 per cent.

"We have come a long way, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I am really looking forward to the next decade with a new and updated sustainability strategy," says Johan Granström.

Johan Granström ABB, Photo: Jonas Bilberg
Together with others, change is created

One of the major goals is to contribute to a low-carbon society.

"But it is not only our own operations that will become carbon neutral, but we will also help our customers reduce their emissions by at least 100 megatonnes per year. We are taking a greater grip on the entire value chain, quite simply," says Johan Granström.

Long-term competitiveness

ABB also continues to work hard with goals related to the safety and health of employees, as well as diversity and inclusion throughout the company.

"All of these goals I want to mean are directly crucial for our competitiveness in the long term," says Johan Granström.

In all its business, ABB uses a code of conduct, a code of conduct, which will ensure that all business partners work actively to improve the environment, health and social conditions.

"The Code of Conduct provides practical guidance to our staff, suppliers and business partners. It should be a clear reminder that we should always take responsibility and act with integrity," says Johan Granström.

Sustainability as a natural part of everyday life

He believes that sustainability is an area that must be decentralized in order to have an impact, which means that the strategy also affects work locally in Umeå.

"The goals are integrated into our operations and should be driven by each business area, while the individual has the opportunity to make decisions that help us achieve our goals.

At ABB, all sustainability goals may take the same place as purely economic goals. They are also followed up all the way from the local operations to group management.

"It is incredibly important that sustainability work is embedded in the store and followed up in this way, rather than being something that lies in its own silo on the side. This creates the right conditions and drivers for lasting change," says Johan Granström.

New system helps Ålö keep a close eye on the work environment

Ålös free system work environment work has made it easier to report incidents, analyze and follow up.

Tina Björkman

"The system supports us in the systematic work environment work, helps us keep track of what to do," says Tina Björkman, HR Manager at Ålö.

Ålö works systematically to achieve a good organizational, social and physical work environment. The company performs regular and thorough risk assessments to prevent accidents and work-related illness, and continuously encourages all employees to report all accidents and incidents.

Systems for a safer and more efficient workplace

Since 2019, the system TIA – Technology Information System about Work Environment has been used. The system is free of charge for companies that have occupational injury insurance with AFA and are highly appreciated among Ålös employees.

"We use it mostly to report incidents and accidents and to support in safety rounds. Once you have entered the system, it is very user-friendly. If I have entered an accident report, it is only a push of a button away to report it to the AFA and the Swedish Work Environment Authority. There is no risk of missing any steps in the process," says Tina Björkman.

Systematized way of working creates order

At Ålö, both targeted and general safety rounds are carried out. The rounds are many and sometimes it can be difficult for managers to keep track of which round was made last and which one it is time for next.

"We have put our own templates for rounds in the system, which helps us to keep track of what is done and what should be done. This really makes it easier for managers and safety representatives," says Tina Björkman.

All incidents and accidents are recorded in TIA and all actions are addressed to the managers concerned.

"The manager immediately receives a pling in the emails if an employee has reported an incident. Thanks to TIA, we don't miss anything and nothing falls between the chairs.

Analysis of incidents

When Tina Björkman enters TIA, she immediately gets an updated picture of the number of incidents and more. She can also choose which period she wants to be informed about. From the data, it is easy to pick out reports that can then be analyzed.

"What incidents have we had, are there any connections, do we see patterns that we can work on? After that, we can draw up an action plan," says Tina Björkman.

At the end of 2020, she introduced that Ålö should each year pick out the three most prevalent areas where incidents or accidents have occurred.

"In this way, we can see patterns that we might not have discovered as early.

Health and safety comes first

Tina Björkman thinks it is important to encourage a culture where it is okay to report incidents and accidents.

"No employee should be questioned for reporting an incident. It is also important to be clear about why it is so important to report – it is about the safety and health of our employees. We constantly remind the entire organization to report everything that has happened.

Umeå Energi wants to change the legislation – no one should be able to dump waste

Umeå Energi is part of a collaboration with other district heating companies that want to work for responsible waste management. The aim is, among other things, to change the legislation so that rogue operators do not have the opportunity to dump waste instead of taking care of it.

"This is a very important issue, which will grow year on year. Especially in southern Sweden, there are major problems with dumped waste, but it creeps north," says Mårten Henriksson, Area Manager Infrastructure at Umeå Energi.

In the world, we are becoming more and more people consuming more and more. It creates large amounts of waste, which are not always taken care of properly. In Sweden, we have been a world-leading nation for decades, knowing how to create energy from waste – climate-smart and resource efficient. But here, too, there are major problems with rogue operators who, at a low price, receive waste and then dump it in a field.

"According to the legislation, you are allowed to temporarily store waste on surfaces for three years. The amount you are allowed to store amounts to 10,000 tons. There is a lot of waste and these rogue actors can get paid well for it – and then they do not take responsibility but leave it lying," says Mårten Henriksson and continues:

"Swedish legislation is a bit tricky, so it is easy for cases to fall between the chairs between different authorities. We are several district heating companies that have joined forces to show that there are sensible actors who take responsibility – and to change the legislation.

Harnessing energy

The collaboration is called 2 MEND-IX and consists of Umeå Energi, Söderenergi, Mälarenergi and Tekniska verken. Work began three years ago.

"Ideally, you want all waste to be reused, everything should really be able to get a new life. But with much of the waste today, there is nothing to do in the end but burn it. And we do district heating companies in a good way. We take advantage of the energy that is in the waste in our controlled plants," says Mårten Henriksson.

The waste is sent into ovens at 700 degrees, providing thermal and complete combustion. In the smoke ducts that transport away the smoke, there is advanced purification that removes chemicals and heavy metals, for example.

"We clean the entire system and that's what our customers pay us for. In Umeå alone, almost 50,000 tonnes of waste are produced every year. We have to deal with that waste – and I don't think umeå residents want it to end up in a field or in the sea," says Mårten Henriksson.

Waste will increase by 70 percent

He is convinced that the waste issue will grow in the coming years and not only in Sweden but globally. More and more countries in the world are getting a better economy, which means that the need for goods increases – which in turn creates more waste.

"It is said that the amount of waste will increase by 70% by 2050 in the world, and it will be taken care of. We must be able to do so in a circular way. Only now during the pandemic have we seen an increase in the amount of waste, which is due to an increase in online shopping. The proportion of packaging and shipping parts has grown enormously," says Mårten Henriksson.

He mentions that Umeå Energi often finds heavy metals and chemical substances in its ashes from district heating plants, which should not be allowed in Europe.

"Many people order goods from Asia today, for example from China, and substances that Europe banned a long time ago are still allowed there. For example, they are still allowed to have heavy metals in plastics. If the waste is dumped in nature instead of being burned and purified, most people will understand that the hazardous substances leak into the forest and soil," says Mårten Henriksson.

Working out a verifiable

2 MEND-IX has great ambitions and hopes to show organizations as well as government agencies and legislators how important the issue is. Among other things, a verification is currently being developed, which will show the customer that the actor is serious.

"The verifiable document should inspire confidence and create transparency and traceability. The customer should be able to track back what we have done with the waste. This is one of the things that we have accomplished together in 2 MEND-IX," says Mårten Henriksson.

On Friday 5 March, a debate article, authored by the representatives of all actors within 2 MEND-IX, was published on DN Debatt. Read the debate article here.

"We have the resources to change"

"We have the resources to influence the future in a positive direction – and we must take that opportunity! This is the view of Johanna Hallin, sustainability and communication expert, who lectured on overall sustainability and system perspectives in practice.

Johanna Hallin is currently CEO of Pondus Kommunikation and has for 20 years worked with sustainability and business development. Her areas of expertise are human rights, sustainability and global development, but in recent years she has increasingly focused on how companies can be engines of positive change.

"Working with business is a fantastic way to get quick feedback from stakeholders. It takes a high level of responsiveness as a company to invest in overall sustainability and i think it is important that you think about the customer's perspective," says Johanna Hallin.

Outgoing and persistent

Recently she held a seminar on behalf of Viable Business Hub, which attracted participants from all over Sweden. There, she highlighted both opportunities and challenges facing business leaders in terms of sustainability. Johanna Hallin believes that by thinking outwardly, sustainably and communicatively, we can create opportunities for the most effective learning together with the company's customers and other stakeholders

"We must strive to take in the entire ecosystem within which the company operates. It's important, even though it will challenge us," she says.

Work from different perspectives

Sustainability work in everyday life requires activity from two sides, according to Hallin. On the one hand, it is about iterative changes in the business, that is, constant improvements based on what we know today. And partly about strategic work with insights into what is to come – reflection and exploration about the big trends that will affect the company, even if today we do not know exactly how.

"The best opportunity for us to navigate ahead is to anchor the system perspective in the company. It's about understanding and taking into account how our decisions affect the outside world and vice versa," says Johanna Hallin.

Crises affecting

Over the past year, several global crises have highlighted the urgency of humanity to act. Climate crisis and major challenges for democracy, together with the ongoing pandemic and the major public health crisis that it has brought, have had a real impact on both individuals and companies around the world.

"Does it take a crisis for us to change our minds? one of the participants in the lecture wondered.

Yes and no. It is clear that we humans are not really willing to make major changes even though we know we should. The climate crisis is a clear example of this. But I think what is needed is a strengthened capacity for transformation, says Johanna Hallin and continues:

"Transformation can feel like a crisis for us as individuals. We need to train, as individuals and as groups to live with the discomfort that change can bring – and still continue to strive. In the bargain, we might get better at dealing with crises as well.

The holistic approach is needed

Balancing high ambition forward with great humility in the face of what we have with us in our luggage is a task for leaders, Hallin says. During the seminar this is also reflected in an final comment from Linda Nyström, CEO of the Forest Technical Cluster, which is also a parnter in Viable Business Hub.

"We see a duality among our member companies, a tug-of-war between refining and preserving what is in forestry today and embracing innovation and new technology. The perspective of overall sustainability is inspiring for a way forward where we take the power of both," she says.