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Working Together towards a More Sustainable Future

2017-07-15China WTO Tribuneadmin0010

Interviewee: Ann Linde, Minister of European Affairs and Trade of Sweden
Since China and Sweden signed the MoU on CSR cooperation in June 2007, the journey of cooperation has gone through ten years. In the past decade, the cooperation has been deepened in content and broadened in scale with new formats.
At the 10 year anniversary of the cooperation, Ann Linde, Minister for EU Affairs and Trade of Sweden, visited China on 26-27 June. She met with Mr. Zhong Shan, Minister of Commerce of China and participated in the sub forum of Circular Economy and Sustainable Consumption during the Sweden China Innovation Forum. China WTO Tribune interviewed Minister Ann Linde on Swedish Government's comments and expectation on the CSR cooperation between the two countries.
"It is a win-win situation"
China WTO Tribune: This year is the tenth year of Sino-Sweden CSR cooperation. What's your comment on the results the cooperation achieved?
Ann Linde: We are generally very pleased with Sweden's and China's cooperation in the area of CSR. One concrete result is the joint training of more than 1000 officials and company representatives in CSR. The renewed MoU that was signed in 2015 has also been important for the development of our collaboration. Compared to ten years ago we notice an increased interest and knowledge of CSR at both companies and within the public sector in both countries, which is very positive.
The 4th Sino-Swedish Corporate Social Responsibility Workshop held in Chongqing in 2009
China WTO Tribune: What is the reason behind that makes this cooperation last for ten years?
Ann Linde: One of the main reasons probably is that both parties see an interest in sharing experience and knowledge in this area - a "win win situation". Both at policy level, but also as an instrument to promote our trade and business relations. In addition, both parties have been committed to the cooperation and ready to allocate sufficient resources, which is also important.
On September 9, 2015, the new memorandum of understanding for continued cooperation on CSR between Sweden and China.
China WTO Tribune: According to your observation, what impact does the two countries' cooperation in the CSR field have on advancing their cooperation in the trade field?
Ann Linde: It's difficult to measure the impact, but I believe that a better understanding of CSR increases the understanding of our business cultures, which contributes to strengthening our trade relations. China is an important trade partner for Sweden, and there are more than 600 Swedish companies doing business in China. Our CSR cooperation creates a platform for them to better understand practices of sustainable business in China.
CSR can raise competitiveness overseas
China WTO Tribune: The Swedish Government pays high attention to CSR and has an ambitious policy. What are the main characteristics of the policy and how do you see on role of Swedish Embassies?
Ann Linde: CSR addresses different areas of the Government's policies such as trade, export promotion, environment etc. According to our policy we expect Swedish companies to respect human rights in all their operations; apply decent working conditions; show concern for the environment and fight corruption. The role of our Embassies is to encourage and support Swedish companies in their sustainability work, especially when doing business on complex markets abroad. The Government has also introduced new legislation on sustainability reporting and public procurement, to encourage a more sustainable business practice.
China WTO Tribune: What is the role of the Governments CSR policy and guidance on Swedish corporations' oversea competitiveness?
Ann Linde: We believe that shifting to a sustainable business model creates a competitive advantage for companies. Decent working conditions and social dialogue is for instance "good business". We are also convinced that the most successful companies in the future will be those that make sustainability part of their core business, that's why CSR is so important to us.
Sustainability can bring new business opportunities
China WTO Tribune: Both Sweden and Chinese Government has a strong focus on Agenda 2030. What is you view on SDGs in international trade and companies roles in fulfilling the SDGs?
Ann Linde: We believe that companies have an important role to play if we are to reach the global goals in Agenda 2030. The business sector is an important partner to deliver practical solutions to global challenges ranging from climate and water to food safety and poverty. That's why we encourage Swedish companies to identify those goals that are most relevant for their operations, and contribute to fulfilling them. By doing that, companies will also be able to identify new business models and opportunities.
China WTO Tribune: In recent years, both Chinese Government and corporations are paying higher attention to CSR. The implementation of the 'Belt and Road' initiative has put forward a higher-leveled requirement for oversea corporations to fulfil their corporate social responsibility. Based on the Swedish Governments experience of overseas investment, what is your view on CSR/sustainability's role in global investments?
Ann Linde: CSR means acting responsibly in relation to internal and external stakeholders in areas such as working conditions, environment, anti-corruption and human rights. A strong policy on CSR or responsible business conduct is important to avoid or limit business risks caused by differences in legislation, business culture etc. Engagement with stakeholders such as trade unions, NGO's and local communities is key to successful overseas investments. Unsustainable high risk project might work in the short run, but not if you want to stay in business over the years.

The Swedish company, Volvo Group, said on its official website that, as a supporter of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it will take into account the global trends and challenges, the international standards of responsible business practices and stakeholder expectations when doing business.
China WTO Tribune: In the past ten years, with the deepening of Sino-Sweden CSR cooperation, the commercial exchange between China and Sweden are becoming closer. What's the Swedish governments expectations on future of Sino-Swedish cooperation in trade and CSR?
Ann Linde: China is a trading partner of increasing importance to Sweden, and we hope our trade relations and CSR cooperation will be strengthened and the two countries could work together towards a more sustainable future.

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