Interview: Anders Strålman, CEO, Axfood

You have been a part of the Haga Initiative since its beginning, but this spring you will step down from your role as CEO of Axfood. Why is it important for Axfood to work with the climate change issue?
- Climate change is one of the great challenges of humanity. Obviously companies have to contribute. Moreover, a focus on sustainability leads to several positive outcomes in terms of modernization and business development. It is also easier to recruit new employees to a company where there is such a commitment. On top of that I also have a personal commitment. I don’t want my children to live in  worse environment than me.

Does Axfood’s climate efforts contribute to new business opportunities?
-It does not contribute much to business opportunities that are entirely new. We simply buy and sell food. However, it impacts on how we do it. Sometimes it can contribute to new business opportunities, such as the storage in Jordbro where we are now a provider of district heat to Vattenfall, instead of being a large consumer of heat.

In what way has the cooperation within the Haga Initiative helped you as a company?
-It has led to an interesting exchange with other committed companies within other sectors. Axfood gets new ideas and knowledge. It has also made Axfood stronger in becoming a “positive force in society”, which is a focus area as decided by themanagement team Axfood wants to have a stronger voice in the public debate, and the Haga Initiative can contribute to that.

What is your advice to other CEO:s – how can a company start working with climate change?
-Involve your management team and make them feel that you sincerely appreciate their commitment. Moreover, it is important that you personally show interest in the issues related to climate change and make sure there are enough resources when needed.

Is your successor as committed as you are to climate change and environment issues?
-That is his question to answer, but the fact that Klas Balkow participated in a meeting for the CEO:s of the Haga Initiative already prior to starting at Axfood is a good sign.

How close are we to fulfil the vision of the Haga Initiative; a profitable business sector without climate impact?
-There is still a good way to go. Political decisions are needed as well. What is good for the climate should always be profitable.  

What is your best memory as a CEO in the Haga Initiative?
-The first time in Almedalen [One of the most important forums in Swedish politics] when I was part of a public conversation in the governor´s garden. I really got the feeling that companies were taking action in the climate change issue.