CSR – an integral part of a successful business strategy

Representing the largest investors in Sweden, Viktor Andersson has met with a large number of companies on sustainability matters and has seen their CSR work develop over the years.

"Our focus on sustainability was initially mainly customer-driven. They approached us at an early stage and asked us to broaden our investment perspectives. We embraced it since we could see the added value.

Our standpoint is that CSR should be integrated in any successful business strategy. It is all about resource efficiency and well-managed companies. Mitigating risks and capitalizing on business opportunities will make you a future winner.

"Studies show a clear connection between a strong CSR engagement and profitability. However, well-managed companies are normally profitable, so sometimes it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation.

Influencing the companies

Being one of the largest investors in the Nordic region gives us a certain opportunity to exert influence. Companies do listen to us. There are of course limits to what we ask companies to do. It is not about completely changing the business strategy but rather advising on the priorities, and including certain aspects that might have been left out.

Most companies find this support valuable, especially since we can apply best practice from one industry to another.

We also meet regularly with companies to discuss how to improve the business from a sustainability perspective.

Through a collaborative approach, we hope to improve the way the company is managed.

Communication is key to success

Not all our clients are interested, but there is a positive momentum for CSR. While in many institutions, sustainability is becoming increasingly important, there are great differences among retail customers. For companies, there is still in some cases a certain resistance towards CSR work, mostly where the added value is not communicated internally. We also see that interest varies between industries.

In general, companies are getting much better at CSR, but many still have shortcomings in communicating why they do certain things and the added value of them. This is very important, not the least when communicating with investors.

Looking forward

In the future, sustainability will gain even more interest from investors.

CSR matters have gained more acknowledgement over time. In the crisis of the early 2000s, some companies completely dismantled their CSR functions. During the 2008 downturn, this was not the case. The credit crisis seems to have opened people’s eyes to the fact that the traditional financial focus approach is no longer sufficient.

We foresee that the future CSR focus will be on establishing sustainable value creation rather than avoiding ‘bad’ activities and industries, which has been much of the focus until now."

Viktor Andersson, Co-Head ESG Analysis, SEB Wealth Management