Jen Martin Skibsted is guest blogging for the Forum. He is the Founding Partner, Skibsted Ideation and a Young Global Leader at the Forum. He will be attending the Annual Meeting in Davos.
The Annual Meeting will rally under a number of subthemes, one being ‘Nordic Experience’. I was invited to WEF HQ with a few Scandinavian thought leaders, including Erik Solheim, Klas Eklund to discuss how one could share the perfect ‘Nordic model’ Carl Bildt has popularized: “…based upon Finland’s education, Estonia’s progressive tax policy, Denmark’s labour market, Iceland’s entrepreneurship, Sweden’s management of big companies and Norway’s oil.” Little did the Forum know that a shared Nordic norm is that of perceiving their nation as outstanding.
Hence little common ground was found and only a little Nordic will be shared in Davos; unfortunately, because there are very few attractive and successful alternatives to American style liberalism out there. Regardless of political stance, it is made sufficiently probable that we face 3 interlinked global challenges: Water supply, Energy supply and Global warming. The leadership and solutions to remedy these challenges do not seem to be advanced by the US and the push for increased consumption of goods does not comply with these agendas.
Scandinavian countries have asserted some leadership in this field, personalized by Connie Hedegaard. However, when the Scandinavian presidents and prime ministers convene in Davos to discuss the policies behind the economic success and social innovation that are hallmarks of their countries, the main issues will be Public-Private Collaboration, Fiscal Reform, Gender Policies, Employment and Social Protection, not Sustainability.
We are in need of new consumption patterns and revenue models. Some of these could be extrapolated from Nordic practices. We need to take into account that every resource-transformation step applied to goods consumed need a certain amount of energy (Newton's 2nd law). Therefore longevity will be a significant parameter in development of goods in the future, quite contrary to the norm today of reducing product life to promote faster replacement. Scandinavian consumers traditionally seek well designed, reliable products that last a lifetime and can be passed on to future generations. A prerequisite is aesthetic sustainability; if people lose their emotional attachment to the product they lose the product. Scandinavian design and consumption patterns could be extrapolated to new services and sharing models.
In a world increasingly complex and interconnected, we need alternatives to visions that see us as atomized entities – Scandinavia has some underlying principles of cohesion that we need to explore.