10 in­spira­tio­nal Nordic women in CSR

Sustainability is not only a competitive parameter. It also attracts and strengthens the relationship between businesses and customers.

As the customer’s demand for sustainable products increases, so does the demand for companies to communicate their initiatives in this field.

In fact, an increasing number of customers are looking at a company’s initiatives on sustainability before looking at the products themselves. This provides fertile ground for strengthening the relationship between company and customer.

The increasing demand therefore means that the value of the CSR strategy hasreached the top of the market. Fortunately, there are many extremely talented and inspirational Nordic women who work hard to create a better carbon footprint and social responsibility for the companies they represent. Nordic Business has selected 10 Nordic women in different industries who work dedicatedly to create better conditions for both people and the environment.

1. Annemarie Meisling, Senior Director, Corporate Affairs, CHR. Hansen

Annemarie Meisling has more than 15 years of experience within areas such as sustainability, communication, public affairs and branding from working at leading international companies and institutions, including Chr. Hansen, Novo Nordisk, COWI, IFC, World Bank, the Confederation of Danish Industries, the US Congress and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

She is also the vice-chairman for the organization, One\Third which is a research organization that focuses on the prevention of food wastage. She has previously been recognized for her ability to link sustainability to business, and in May 2019 was promoted to Senior Director, Corporate Affairs at Chr. Hansen.

After Annemarie Meisling had worked for more than 3 years as Director of Sustainability at Chr. Hansen, the company was named the World’s Most Sustainable Company by Corporate Knights in 2019.

She has said that there is a lot of support for sustainability from Chr. Hansen’s CEO, Maurico Graber which has created a good grounding throughout the organization and one of her focus areas is to involve the employees and teach them how they themselves can contribute to a sustainable development in companies both large and small. Annemarie Meisling graduated from Copenhagen University and holds a master’s in Sociology of Law.

Annemarie Meisling:

”Not one sustainability director can change the sustainability of a company, nor can one company change the world alone. It’s about finding partners to drive a systemic approach to solving the world’s challenges.”

2. Louise Koch, Corporate Sustainability Director, DELL Technologies - International Region

Louise Koch is the Corporate Sustainability Director for Dell Technologies in the International Region, covering more than 170 countries.

Her work is driven by a passion to build a better world through business. Louise believes that business holds an unlimited potential to develop sustainable solutions by activating the power of innovation, business thinking, and global relations.

Louise is leading Dell Technologies’ corporate sustainability sales enablement and customer engagement programs, working closely with colleagues, customers and partners to share and develop Dell’s corporate sustainability program, and identify new opportunities for business development through sustainability.

Louise is an appointed member of the Danish Government’s Council for Sustainable Business & the UN Global Goals and member of the Sustainability Council in the IT Industry Association in Denmark. In February 2016 and again in 2019 Louise was listed as the Global 100 Most Impactful CSR Leaders by the organisation World CSR Day.

She is also a recognized international expert on CSR and sustainable business development. Louise is a Member of Faculty at University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability in Leadership, and a well-known speaker in media and at international conferences about CSR and sustainability business across Europe. Louise holds a master degree in Anthropology and Innovation from the University of Copenhagen.

Louise Koch:

”The strongest driver of sustainability is a cocktail of business case on the value for customers and business, passion of employees, and commitment from management.”

3. Ingrid Reumert, VP for Global Communication, Sustainability and Public Affairs, VELUX

Ingrid Reumert is a dedicated professional who is the driving force behind a new concept for corporate climate and nature action called Lifetime Carbon Neutral where companies take responsibility for both past and future CO2 emissions.

She is also striving to increase awareness about the need to make buildings sustainable and forging debate about regulatory requirements on CO2 for new buildings. This includes an inventory of how much CO2 a building emits, right from the initial design phase, throughout the life of a building and until all, or parts of it, are demolished. She has previously held the title of Director of Global Public Affairs for the Danish defence company, Terma and has worked as a political adviser to the Conservative Party in the Danish Parliament and in the European Parliament, Brussels. Ingrid Reumert is also Vice-president of the interest group SYNERGI and Vice-president of the Climate Partnership for construction, which the Danish government set up in Autumn 2019 to make recommendations for Denmark’s future climate action plan.

Ingrid Reumert holds a Cand.scient.pol (Political Science) from Aarhus University and has also studied at Sciences Po, Paris, France.

Ingrid Reumert:

“At a time when the planet is facing dual climate and nature crises, I hope our commitment will raise the bar for corporate action. We will capture our historical carbon emissions – all the CO2 we have emitted since our foundation in 1941 - by investing in forest and biodiversity projects developed and managed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). It will make us Lifetime Carbon Neutral by our 100-year anniversary in 2041."

4. Signe Didde Frese, CSR Director, Coop

Signe has been at the forefront of Coop’s CSR strategy for almost 8 years, which now includes so many sustainable initiatives and new initiatives that they are assembled on a brand-new inspiring site (www.tidtilathandle.coop.dk). One of the overall 12 focus goals is to reduce Coop’s use of conventional plastic by 25%. In this context, Signe has been behind the initiative for Coop to re-use part of the plastic sheeting in which the goods are wrapped during transport, for the production of sustainable recycled plastic bags.

Another focus has been to minimize food waste, which has led to local collaboration with several organizations handling the distribution of surplus food to local citizens.

Coop was ranked as the top sustainable B2C company in Denmark by SSI (Sustainable Brand Index™) in both 2018, 2019 and 2020. Signe has previously worked as Head of CSR at Irma, Senior Advisor within Climate & Environment at FDB and as Project Manager at WWF.

She is board member in the organizations ”Forum for Food, Meal and Health”, Dakofa and Danish Ethical Trading Institution. Signe Didde Frese has a Cand.Tech. Soc. Degree in Environmental Planning from Roskilde University, where she graduated in 2006.

Signe Didde Frese:

”At Coop, we don’t just have an ambition to cut down on the plastic in our goods, we are also working on all options for recycling the plastic.”

5. Anna Ryott, Boardmember and Sustainable Usiness Activist

Anna Ryott is globally known as a business activist with a goal to change the world to a better place through business, capital and creativity. She has worked as deputy CEO at Norrsken Foundation supporting the ecosystem of and investing in impact tech entrepreneurs. Before that she was CEO of Swedfund – the Swedish development finance institution and has also worked in managing positions at Unicef, SOS Children Village, McKinsey and Storåkers McCann.

Today she is a board member of several boards, including Axel Johnson, Norrsken, Dagens Industri, LGT Lightstone, Cake Electric Motorcycles and she is also senior advisor of Summa Equity - the private equity company that invests to solve global challenges. In 2019 she co-founded Heart17 – a global initiative with the vision of creating a better tomorrow for everyone by accelerating the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals through partnerships, creativity and imagination.

In 2018, Anna Ryott was named Sweden’s most powerful female change maker by Veckans Affärer and 2014 she was awarded the “HM Konungens Medal” for “Significant contributions to Swedish society and industry”.

In 2019 she was named Sweden’s most powerful social changer and in 2020 she was chosen as one of the 125 most powerful businesswomen in Sweden by Dagens Industri.

Anna Ryott:

“If we can unleash this unquantifiable, irrepressible human force all at once, we can fundamentally change the world. Alone, a ripple. Together, we can be a tidal wave of change.”

6. Pia Heidemark Cook, Chief Sustainable Officer, Ingka Group (IKEA)

Pia Heidenmark Cook is Chief Sustainability Officer at Ingka Group, the largest IKEA Franchisee with 377 stores in 30 markets, and known as a customer-centric leader in enabling the IKEA vision of creating a better everyday life for the many people.

She is leading the sustainability agenda, together with a team of sustainability professionals, setting bold goals for the company, securing required prerequisites and creating movement among the 160 000+ co-workers to achieve them.

Pia is also spending time meeting with other companies, governmental bodies and NGOs to engage and collaborate on the big topics of our time, that we need to come together to solve.

Before joining IKEA in 2008, Pia was VP of Corporate Social Responsibility at the Rezidor Hotel Group and chaired during this period the tourism branch of Prince of Wales Business Leader’s Forum, a membership organization for major international hotel brands. Pia has a strong passion and drive for sustainability and has since 1996 worked, with, lectured and studied sustainability topics across academia, consultancy and business. She often gives speeches, participates in panels and collaborations, for instance at Corporation Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership, Climate Week, WBCSD, WEF events and Sustainable Brands. Pia holds a Technical Licentiate degree, a M.Sc. in Environmental Management, from the University of Lund, and a M.Sc. in International Business Administration and Economics from Uppsala University, Sweden.

Pia Heidemann Cook:

”Consumers increasingly want to stand up for what they believe in and seek out brands that share their values. We’re on a journey towards becoming climate positive and circular by 2030. Most things remain to be done, but the action we take today defines the future. No time to waste, together we can change the way forward.”

7. Emelie Persson Lindqvist, Head of Sustainability at Industry and Energy division at Sweco

Emelie is often referred to as ”the creative one” and makes sustainability both fun and understandable. She often posts short videos at e.g. LinkedIn where she talks about Sweco’s Urban Insights in a truly fun and inspirational direct way. She started her career in Sweco in 2015 as a sustainability consultant and is also a known public speaker within CSR.

Prior to her employment at Sweco, she established her own sustainability consultancy company in 2011. She is board member of Mistra (organization for climate-strategic research) and board member in Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board at Berghs School of Communication.

Emelie has also established a recognized blog called Miljömamman (The mother of environmental awareness) which aimed to raise awareness regarding sustainability and the (lack of) protection of our common environment. The blog got nominated in the prestigious Mama Blog Award 2011.

She holds a degree from the University of Stockholm within Climate and Energy.

Emelie Persson Lindqvist

“My responsibilities include making sure we live as we learn within our own company and that we develop our business in the changing market due to the Paris agreement and the SDG´s”.

8. Ellen Thorsrud Behrens, Director Sustainability, Orkla ASA Norway

Ellen is overall responsible for developing and driving the implementation of Orkla’s sustainability strategy across Orkla’s companies. Prior to her employment at Orkla in 2009, she held the position as Communication Manager at Nidar, where she represented Nidar for 12 years and worked at strengthening Nidar’s reputation and organizational capabilities. Ellen was also a member of Nidar’s Innovation Board.

Ellen has furthermore been a member of the Board at Ethical Trade Norway for 6 years where she has been the Chair of the Board since 2017. She holds an MBA from Arizona State University and has studied Economics and Business Administration at Norwegian School of Management. When Nordic Business announced the nomination of Ellen as one of the 10 Inspirational Nordic Women in CSR, she immediately said: ”My role also gives me the opportunity to contribute to positive development together with other companies, organizations and individuals, for example through the board of Ethical Trade Norway or the Forum for Circular Plastics Packaging. Therefore, I regard the nomination as a recognition not only of myself, but of the collective efforts of many”.

Ellen Thorsrud Behrenst

“As a Sustainability Director, I’m a sort of travel guide and cheer leader for our many companies on their way towards realizing the sustainable future that we all want for Orkla and the global community”.

9. Cecilie Kjeldsberg, CO-Founder and CEO, Better Living Projects

Cecilie Kjeldsberg is deeply passionate about a world where everyone has got the opportunity to become financially independent. With her 29 years of age, Cecilie Kjeldsberg is the youngest nominated on this list. Nevertheless, Cecilie was only 16 years old when she started rallying for equality and women’s rights. After living in Nepal for a year, she experienced that the women didn’t earn any money on their vegetables, even though they worked incredibly hard. “For someone who is from Norway, it was strange to see women who have so little influence over their own job and income”, she says.

That was the takeoff for founding Better Living Projects, which runs a sewing center in India. The business started in 2018, and the center employs 15 local women with no education, who are trained to sew. The women sew ethical and sustainable carrying nets and aprons that are sold both locally and to the Norwegian corporate market.

Cecilie is educated within Development, Environment and Nutritional Science and due to her study of Nutrition for Global Health at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, she completed her MSc project about Women’s Empowerment.

Cecilie Kjeldsberg

“My belief is that tremendous progress towards gender equality and diversity can be made if global trade stops socially excluding, and starts creating jobs for women and minority groups under decent working conditions”.

10. Silje Bareksten, Chief Sustainability Officer, 3 Norske AS

Silje is publicly known for standing up to companies’ use of greenwashing (greenwashing is a form of misleading marketing in which a product or business is presented as better than it actually is in terms of impact on climate, nature and people). She has written several articles for the Norwegian Finansavisen, as well as for the Danish Financial Information Agency, together with Ida Pernille Hatlebrekke, which has resulted in the launch of the Norwegian greenwashing site grønnvaskning.no. with cooperation from organizations such as Skift – Sustainable Business Leaders, Zero and WWF.

Silje previously worked as Head of Sustainability and Technology at Nor-Shipping, Head of Smart City at Oslo Region and as a Technology Strategy Manager at Inven2. She holds a Master of Science (M.sc.) from Norwegian University and Technology (NTNU) and is specialized in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Organizational Psychology. She has previously been a member of the Board of Advisors at Mesh and member of the Global Future Council on the Future of Russia, chaired by the World Economic Forum.

Silje Bareksten

“It is not a shame not to have managed to become sustainable in 2020, it is the very few companies who actually are, but it is a shame to take advantage of companies that work hard, invest and innovate to adapt to greener operations”.

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