Kaj Embren

The coming months promise a proactive agenda from sustainability stakeholders across the public, private and voluntary sectors as we build up to the meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – IPCC – http://www.ipcc.ch – in Stockholm in September.

My own writing will reflect this and will be mainly related to strategies and governance within the political and business arenas. This was the thinking behind my most recent blog – Irrational people, behaviours and decisions –http://bit.ly/1d9hXmh – which was based on the philosophy behind the decision-making process. I hope you enjoy it!

I will also build upon some of the ideas to have emerged over the last yearfrom the sectors we work. A particular highlight in this respect was Almedalen Week in July, the biggest political event for Swedish businesses, NGOs and other stakeholder organisations. The series of talks were impressive and provided us with plenty of food for thought. With over 2000 seminars throughout the week it is difficult to summerize all of the discussions but an impressive number of them centered on sustainable development, green technology, climate change solutions, migration and the Nordic welfare system over the next two decades.

This latter topic is of concern to many of us. While welfare models should always be reviewed as circumstances change, we have fallen short in employing a notion that we have no direct equivalent for in Nordic languages – ‘accountability’. The words we have for this concept do not have the same powerful meaning behind ‘accountability’ and without this type of force the Nordic model is at risk.

Take the growing ideology of privatisation in the Swedish school system for example. The recent bankruptcy of the private school gymnasium company John Bauer (JB) left the taxpayer with a debt of 1 billion SEK (650 million USD). Yet, earlier in the year the JB shareholders took home 350 million SEK (23 million USD) in profits as 1000 young students have no gymnasium or upper secondary school to attend.

This lack of accountability was never a value or vision of our welfare state. But, since the 1970s the Nordic public sector lost track of its own model.

Public, private and co-operative, state owned enterprises all have their own mission and values. They have different purposes, even when they co-exist and collaborate. But they all must be accountable to their owners, citizens or consumers. Politicians too, need to be more responsible for their policies and actions. Only with better understanding and improved practises based on trust may we find a way to renew the welfare state model built on people’s engagement, trust, diversity and entrepreneurship.

Kaj Embren

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