All posts by Madeleine Brekke

International Leadership Interview: Thomas Kraft, Novelty Foods

Thomas Kraft

AmCham International Leadership Interview Series

An AmCham International Leadership Interview with Thomas Kraft, CEO & Founder, Novelty Food

Novelty Food AS is a Norwegian company that develops, sells, and imports an assortment of confectioneries and snacks, driven by quality and great flavors. Their award-winning mono praline, Grieg Suites, consists of Belgian dark chocolate and Lübeck marzipan cream, enriched with apple juice from Hardanger in the west of Norway on a layer of Viennese hazelnut nougat. With this unique combination, Grieg Suites is rich and innovative, drawing clear references from the national romance that the acclaimed composer Edvard Grieg represents.

Novelty Food is currently crowdfunding through Folkeinvest, inviting those who would like to partake in their journey of expansion both in Norway and abroad. The crowdfunding is open to Norwegian Bank ID holders, with a minimum investment of NOK 600.

Not many chocolates can boast of being made from Hardanger fjord apples. How did you come up with this combination?

When developing Grieg Suites, we wanted the brand and product to be a good representation of Norway. As Grieg has created the Norwegian sound, we wanted the chocolate to have the taste and sweetness of Norway as well. The choice of ingredients is influenced by our heritage, with marzipan being a classic confectionery ingredient, with long traditions in Norway.

We looked at a lot of fruits and berries to find what we could use, and in the end, we landed on apples. Grieg Suites is a tribute to Norway’s greatest composer, Edvard Grieg (1843-1907). And since Grieg composed a lot of his music in Hardanger, it was great to find a fantastic apple farmer in Hardanger to give it a real taste of Norwegian nature.

Novelty Food has distribution channels in Norway and the US, what are the key differences in the strategies in the different markets?

The main difference is that in Norway, Grieg Suites is seen more as a local product associated with Grieg and Bergen, but in the US, it is considered a more unique product representing all of Norway. Americans appreciate our background story, our connection to nature, and Grieg as well. We needed to communicate the Norwegian values and quality a lot more in the US, so they understand what the product is about, whereas most Norwegians have clear and immediate associations.

You have opted for unique profiling collaborations. What are the benefits and results achieved by such cross-promotion?

As a tribute to the fans of Grieg, it makes sense to work closely with the Edvard Grieg Museum, Troldhaugen, and the Grieg Society. Orchestras, composers, and concert halls have honored us with great feedback. We wanted the music of Grieg to accompany every piece of chocolate. Inside every gift box you will find the musical notes for Grieg’s famous composition “Morgenstemning.”

Since we are a small Norwegian company, we need something for us to stand out. When we have looked at what other companies have done worldwide, a lot of good products are connected to the heroes and cultural stars of each country. Creating a product based on a cultural hero in Norway has proven advantageous, and we wanted to cooperate with the Edvard Grieg Museum to be sure that we honored Grieg the right way and had the right product text and imagery to make sure that we were not just another company trying to earn money of someone else’s name, ensuring a real tribute through the partnership with the museum.

Cross-promotion has also opened doors for us, including our launch in China with Viking Cruises and other partners such as Disney in the US.

The first chocolate we created was in partnership with the singer Aurora – the first product she has collaborated on that is not music.

Grieg Suites is currently sold at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Theme Park in Florida. Do you find there is an advantage being recognized as a Norwegian brand when selling products in the US?

Norway has a very, very high standing in the US, both as a nation and as a people, and is viewed as very much in tune with nature. To have the Norwegian branded product at a theme park like Disney means a lot. We are the only chocolate there and I think we were chosen because of this close connection with Norwegian culture.

Before starting Novelty Foods, what was your leadership background?

I have been working with food and taste for the past 20 years, starting in the beverage industry building brands in Norway, and then led the Nordic launch of a fast-food collaboration with Circle K. From there, I started a small local dairy in Norway while simultaneously building the seasonal range of several pharmacy chains across the Nordics. So, it’s been a long journey both with private equity, private owners, family owners, buying and selling and seeing both sides of the table and learning how both small and large organizations work. I think it’s this background that enabled me to found Novelty Food, and made me take the chance to stand on my own and create a new concept.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs and companies who are looking to successfully launch in the US?

Most important when you launch in the US is to have the right partners, and of course, timing counts as well. We had horrible timing last year when we launched our products at the end of 2019 and the start of 2020 when the pandemic hit. So, one piece of advice is not to launch two seconds before a pandemic!

Having great partners is key because the US is a very complex and difficult market, so you need to have excellent feet on the ground to make it work. I would also recommend having some sort of brand awareness around you so people will see and find your product. For example, we have partnered with TV shows New Scandinavian Cooking and Wine First. Having our products visible on those programs really helps when you want to talk to the large stakeholders in the US because things are bigger there. We are 5 million people, so even if you are big in Norway you are not big in the US.

Where do you see Novelty Food in the next five years?

We are hoping to become a brand that is visible. In the case of Grieg Suites, my dream when I started was to be able to see the products at concert houses around the world, in tax free stores, and just walk into a store and hear someone recommend one of our products to someone who lives far away. Reaching this level of visibility and recognition is the goal for both Grieg Suites and VGAN. Especially for the latter, as it’s a unique brand that we hope will thrive within the competitive and growing plant-based marked.

How is sustainability incorporated into Novelty Food’s business model and products (i.e., packaging and sourcing of cocoa beans)?

Sustainability has been important from the start of the company as we were conscious of providing good terms for all employees, partners and those involved in production. As we don’t manufacture our products ourselves, one of the first and most important tasks has been to find the right production partners, and therefore, we have opted to work mainly with family-owned businesses. We seek long-term partners and make sure that they operate with fair-trade cocoa. We make sure that all the cocoa growers get the right price and for their products. In the next couple of years, our goal is to be a certified B-corp, especially for VGAN, which sets a high standard for how we work, how we package our products, and how we think in terms of new concepts and products.

Sustainability and ethical cultivation, together with high quality, are incredibly important to us. We can’t prove it, but we believe that if you feel good, you put more love into the job, which in turn will positively affect the ingredients and thus the taste will be better!

International Leadership Interview: Thomas Kraft, Novelty Foods

Novelty Food is a Norwegian company that develops, sells, and imports an assorted selection of confectionery and snacks, driven by quality and good flavors. Novelty Food consists of five dedicated employees with special expertise from different disciplines who all share a passion for food and candy.

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International Leadership Interview: Tine Jensen, CEO, Discovery Networks Norway

Having previously worked in Barcelona while commuting from where she lived with her family in Dubai, Tine Jensen’s active lifestyle was a useful commodity to have in 2018 – the year Discovery’s Norwegian CEO guided the organization through their first year as the official broadcaster for both the Winter Olympics and the Norwegian top tier football league, while simultaneously leading the company through drastic changes in a fiercely competitive market.

Tine sat down with AmCham to discuss the art of global leadership in an industry being revolutionized by the advent digital platforms, highlighting the importance of being proactive and seeking new challenges along the way.

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International Leadership Interview: Tine Jensen, CEO, Discovery Networks Norway

Tine Jensen

AmCham International Leadership Series

Having previously worked in Barcelona while commuting from where she lived with her family in Dubai, Tine Jensen’s active lifestyle was a useful commodity to have in 2018 – the year Discovery’s Norwegian CEO guided the organization through their first year as the official broadcaster for both the Winter Olympics and the Norwegian top tier football league while simultaneously leading the company through drastic changes in a fiercely competitive market. 

Tine sat down with AmCham to discuss the art of global leadership in an industry being revolutionized by the advent of digital platforms, highlighting the importance of being proactive and seeking new challenges along the way.

Where did you start?  Can you give us a brief description of your path to where you are now?

I am born and raised in Bodø in Norway. My parents were both teachers and taught me the value of team sports, engagement, and solidarity. Generally, I was very active in sports and activities growing up. Later, I moved to Trondheim to study. I was originally planning to study business and administration, but I quickly discovered that I would rather do strategy, marketing, and organization.

Upon completing my degree, I was going to become a consultant – because that was what everyone with that degree did back then, but instead, after encouragement from one of my professors, I started working with broadcasting for the TV-distributor Canal Digital Cable.

Here, I was tremendously lucky with my first leader, which is much of the reason why I stayed in the field of media and broadcasting. Plus, it was a fun time to work with TV. Cable TV was going to be professionalized and digitalized through the internet, and I got to experience that exciting journey for the industry firsthand.

Subsequently, having briefly tested the dot com enthusiasm — an enthusiasm that ended equally as briefly — I stared working for MTG, which owns Viasat, getting my first real leader role with P&L responsibility.

Then, my husband and I, with our two kids, decided to move to Asia. I had always wanted to work abroad, and the girls were still only about one and four years old, so we made it work. I applied for a study leave from work and opted for an MBA in Singapore, despite living in Kuala Lumpur where my husband was stationed. Which means I was commuting – staying five weeks at home and three weeks in Singapore.

One year on, my husband was transferred to Thailand, which meant an extensively longer commute for me, but it was still a great experience although somewhat challenging at times with young kids at home.

Upon completing my degree, I was offered a new job at MTG in Norway and we returned home. I eventually moved to Schibsted to experience other roles and areas within the media business. At Schibsted, they asked if I could be their expert on pricing and monetization, and I thought, “Sure, I can be a subject matter expert. Why not?” It was extremely educational to work in a company that focused on both newspapers and online classifieds in a period of intense digital transformation.

After two winters at home, however, the family had had enough, and we decided to move to Dubai. My husband worked for a mobile operator there at that time, so I ended up commuting from Dubai to the Barcelona Schibsted office every other week. I loved working abroad, and I think it is terribly important to have that experience if you want to become a leader.

Abruptly, however, Discovery turned up with an offer. In the small Norwegian sector, the most exciting positions are few and far between, so the opportunity to become a combined CFO/COO with such a successful Norwegian broadcaster that is also part of a large, international broadcasting company was a no-brainer. That was three years ago, and I have since been promoted to lead Discovery in Norway.

What are the important decisions you make as a leader of your organization and how do they impact its global presence? Do you have any recent examples to share?

I mean, Norway and the Nordics are big markets in broadcasting. If something big happens here, it directly affects Discovery’s stock in the US. Furthermore, being in an industry currently under extensive digital disruption, the most important decisions I make are related to digital strategies and perpetual renewal, in addition to our abilities to adapt to new business models.

In our industry, time is our worst enemy. Both in terms of disruption from Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime, and so on, but also related to the consumers. We are battling to gain the attention of consumers every day, which means we cannot simply just optimize our products, but we must be innovative and able to explore new business opportunities quickly when they arise.

Keeping that in mind, Netflix and their equivalents have revolutionized the digital customer experience, but where they only provide digital content, we must continue to spearhead the traditional, linear TV experience, while simultaneously competing with their technology on digital platforms.

Hence, my most important decisions relate to ensuring that we can offer the best of both worlds. To achieve that, we cannot rely upon a five-year strategy anymore. The industry moves too quickly for that, which is why it is more essential than ever to communicate to the organization and the team in order to get them to not only understand the transformation process, but participate in it — and that is getting increasingly complex.

It is like American football — you know you need to get the ball to the endzone, but the tactics that get you there change continuously.

In an international organization, how do you build team morale and maintain creativity?

We have been through significant changes at Discovery in the past few years and have consequently changed the way we work. Everyone needs to master working across linear and digital, and through such vast changes in personnel, we have spent a substantial amount of time communicating our values, ambitions, and culture.

Through such processes, I believe the most important aspect I can contribute is to communicate the “why.” Why are we doing this? A leader will never get people to move in the same direction unless he or she manages to appeal to both the heart and mind of their colleagues, in addition to empowering them to be creative along the way.

This is particularly important when the organization is going through vast and drastic changes. For me, that means being open about both what we know and what we do not know, while laying the foundation that enables the organization to do what they do best – producing excellent content.

Would you use the same leadership style in a different organization? In a different country? How important is it to tailor your leadership style to your team and environment?

The core style would be the same — ensuring that I am there for the people around me and encouraging them to perform to the best of their abilities. Other aspects of my leadership style, however, would be adapted. The challenge is how to be authentic in light of the cultural context.

In terms of the organization, I think we are in a special situation in the media industry these days, which means that leaders are – and should be – focusing on leadership, transformation, and perpetual renewal. Our industry is changing so quickly that if a company, even a large one, fails to adapt to new ways of working and new consumer habits, they can quickly reach their Kodak moment. 

Where do new ideas and exciting proposals come from in your organization? Has your international experience helped you ‘think outside the box’ in your organization?

I am lucky to be working in a very creative industry. We are in the entertainment business after all. There are plenty of ideas from the organization locally as well as globally. Basically, a lack of ideas is not the problem, but finding the time to prioritize all of them is, which is why we must be selective. My job in this process is to ensure that ideas are flowing freely across departments internally. I dislike the thought of missing out on a great idea due to internal miscommunication.

What do you believe are shared traits among good leaders? Are than any common mistakes you notice leaders making? What is unique about being a leader in Norway compared to leading an organization in another country?

Most leaders generally have a strong sense of curiosity and drive behind them. I also think it is important to believe in yourself and the choices you make to ensure that you are authentic in your endeavors. I think if leaders fail to live their own ideals, one can quickly start losing the people. They too need to believe that leaders care.

Furthermore, I think it is important to be humble and look at oneself from the outside to understand how one might be perceived. Where leaders have previously failed – myself included – is when we fail to listen. Listen to the people in your leadership team and to the people in your organization.

If your job was a sport, which sport would it be?

I like the comparison to American football that I mentioned earlier. A sport with strategies, tactics, and a high pace, but where teamwork is essential to get into the endzone. Without a good team and collaboration, you can have the best strategies in the world, but it would make no difference.

How do you continue growing and developing as a leader?

It is rooted in my nature to seek challenges and be proactive. I prefer learning by doing, and I naturally seek out seeking challenges and tasks that I have not done before. It is difficult at times, but at the end of the day, I tell myself, “What is the worst that can happen?” Of course, it might have been more comfortable to not have sought out these new challenges, but it is in my nature and is a big part of why I have made it to where I am today.

When it comes to recent developments at Discovery, what are you are excited to talk about?

We have had a lot to be proud of recently. We did fantastically well last year with the Winter Olympics. Seeing the results of something we have worked very hard on for so long truly paying off is a great boost. It simply does not get much bigger than the Winter Olympics in Norway in terms of sports broadcasting! Additionally, expectations were extremely high as TV2 and NRK had done such great job with it for many years.

Furthermore, the way we combined the linear TV experience with digital players and streaming, in addition to how we managed to collaborate with third parties, was also great to see.

You get the podium at Stortinget for 5 minutes, what topic(s) do you address and why?

The professional Tine would address the importance of maintaining a strong media diversity in Norway. Media diversity is much more than news and online papers. The Norwegian language is important, and that is highlighted through quality Norwegian content, which we are proud to deliver.

As a private person, I would address elderly care in Norway. It is beyond me that even though we have so much wealth and welfare, we are still unable to deliver better elderly care for the people that built this country. When you look at future of healthcare challenges as well, with the Norwegian population expecting to become increasingly older, elderly care should be improved before more people reach that stage.

Where do you see yourself and your company five years from now?

If I am still relevant to the company and the company is relevant to me, I hope I am still at Discovery. As far as Discovery is concerned, we are still as relevant to the Norwegian people and the market as we are today, if not more. We are one of the leading digital content providers, producing quality Norwegian and sports content on Norwegian terms. That is our core business.

If you could give your 20-year-old self some advice, what would it be?

I would give the same advice to any 20-year-old. Work hard to be yourself. It is so easy to try to be someone else. Trust yourself and your values.

What do you see in the next generation of leaders aspiring to run an international organization? Do you have any advice for them?

Be curious! Go out to travel and study abroad – way too few are doing that. Even though you are planning for adult life in Norway, you should still get some global experience by living abroad.

Additionally, be prepared to work hard and smart. There are no shortcuts to your dream job, but that does not mean that you should keep running at the same wall repeatedly. Be smart – there is always more than one solution to a challenge!

AmCham Financial Forum: Supply Chain Resilience & Financial Risk Developments

AmCham Financial Forum: Supply Chain Resilience & Financial Risk Developments

Leaders from AIG, Badenoch & Clark, CMS Kluge, Crawford & Company, DNB, EY, GE Healthcare, Honeywell, KPMG, Kvamme Associates, Roche, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Thommessen gathered in person at AIG’s downtown offices for AmCham’s Financial Forum.

Reflecting on supply chain resilience, the forum was kicked off by Geir Hetland, Head of Finance at Thermo Fisher Scientific. Returning from a two-year stint at the company’s Carlsbad, California facility in 2020, Hetland was faced with an instant backlog that February requiring the company to kick into “COVID speed.”

Thermo Fisher needed to quickly reallocate resources, expand production capacity and customer management to meet the sudden increase in demand, and minimize disruption in the value chain. This included companywide recruitment, adding 40 employees in Oslo alone.

Thermo Fisher reversed regular cost savings parameters to investment and rapid approval, meaning that decisions that usually took six months needed a next day turnaround. Hetland also outlined unique cross-industry collaborations to address rapid plastic scaling, as well as large scale infection testing in partnership with US universities.

AIG‘s Cyber Practice Leader Nordics & Financial Lines Manager, Tine Simonsen, joined virtually from Denmark to provide financial risk insights within several key areas, including the impact of COVID on the insurance market.

As one of the largest cyber insurance teams in the Nordics, AIG’s award-winning cyber solutions help their clients better understand and address cyber risk, including proactive services to address weaknesses – including vulnerability scanning, malicious IP blocking, and cyber prevention training.

IT criminals have quickly taken advantage of work from home regulations, with approximately 90% of cyber claims being ransom related. Simonsen detailed changes in cyber insurance and risk assessment, noting that particularly cyber decisions have moved from the IT department to the board level.

An engaging discussion ensued, with forum participants eagerly assessing risk, forecasting methods, corporate responsibility, and increased transparency throughout supply chains.

Geir Hetland – Head of Finance

Tine Simonsen – Cyber Practice Leader Nordics & Financial Lines Manager

About the AmCham Financial Forum

The AmCham Financial Forum is a platform that gives financial leaders the opportunity to interact, share best practices, and learn from each other – building a better understanding of what it takes to run a successful international finance department in Norway. For interest in participating, please contact Madeleine.Brekke@amcham.no.

AmCham Financial Forum: IPO Frenzy and Transparent Compensation

Leaders gathered at KPMG Norway’s downtown offices for AmCham’s quarterly Financial Forum. Reflecting on his own observations over the past years’ “Norwegian IPO Frenzy,” our forum was kicked off by Geir Bjørlo, Partner at Corporate Communications. With 100 listings since 2020, the pace has now slowed to only a handful due to current uncertainty.

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Rising Leaders: Women in Tech Leadership

Rising Leaders: Women in Tech Leadership & Coffee Tasting

The 2021-2022 Rising Leaders and AmCham members gathered at Oslo Retail Association’s elegantly refurbished offices on Karl Johan.

Participants were joined by Ann-Kristin Nomerstad, Brand Manager of Starbucks Norway along with Starbucks’ own Coffee Masters for a private coffee tasting. Celebrating its 50-year anniversary this year, the international chain started selling roasted beans from a single location in Seattle in 1971 and has since become one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The Coffee Masters shared their best brewing tips and offered insights into both US and Norwegian coffee culture.

AmCham member Defigo, a property tech company, specializes in controls and keyless access for residential and commercial buildings. They made their official entry into the North American market in October 2021.

Defigo CEO Hildur Smaradottir, with a background in psychology and journalism, recounted the opportunities in her career that led her into the tech field. Hildur has since spent 15 years in various commercial roles in the tech industry. She also described challenges she has faced as a female leader in the industry.

Even though women constitute almost half of the workforce, they hold less than one third of the leadership positions in tech. Smaradottir stated that companies are missing out on a substantial opportunity as reports show that tech companies with a representation of female leaders have increased profitability, compared with companies with no female leaders (BCG). Although there is no ambition gap, Smaradottir mentioned that women being more critical of their own technical skills may lead to fewer applications from women for tech roles.

Ann-Kristin Nomerstad

Brand Manager for Starbucks Norway & Sweden

Hildur Smaradottir

CEO of Defigo

Charlotte Jørgensen

CSM at Defigo

To lead a team, trust is vital. In order to build trust you must be humble.

Hildur Smaradottir, Defigo

Charlotte Jørgensen, Customer Success Manager at Defigo, gave participants insight into her role and the impact of COVID on the workplace and supply chain. She also shared her hiring experience, joining the startup, and the transition from co-worker to leader within her team.

A majority of Rising Leaders participants work in or with technology, with females comprising approximately two thirds of the current cohort. The group discussed strategies to create greater gender diversity as well as sharing tips on hiring processes.

About the Rising Leaders Program

Rising Leaders, a joint AmCham-US Embassy initiative, brings together entrepreneurs, young professionals, and student leaders in an innovative program to promote diversity and connect promising talent. Through the program, participants engage international business leaders, learn about AmCham member companies, explore careers, and gain business and leadership skills.

The 2021-2022 Rising Leaders class – comprised of 18 women and 10 men between the ages of 22 and 35 – bring with them experience from healthcare, classical music, urban planning, organizational psychology, immigration, engineering, communications, technology, teaching, economics, finance, and marketing. All 28 program participants have demonstrated leadership, entrepreneurial, and/or business excellence in their educational pursuits and careers thus far.

For more information about the program, or to learn how your organization can get involved, please contact Madeleine Brekke.

Past Rising Leader Events

Rising Leaders: Core Values and Coincidences

Rising Leaders participants visited Accenture Norway’s headquarters where they were welcomed by Managing Director and Head of Accenture Technology, Torbjørn Eik-Nes. As the first in-person company visit in many months since the pandemic, participants were eager to absorb Eik-Nes’ career insights and professional guidance.

Read More »

Rising Leaders: Never-Ending Missions

Rising Leaders participants and AmCham members were joined by Lars Erik Grønntun, Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Kahoot! who shared his leadership experience and thoughts on building highly innovative yet resilient teams.

Read More »

AmCham Sustainability Forum: Urban Mobility & Sustainable Devices

AmCham Sustainability Forum: Urban Mobility & Sustainable Devices

Convening digitally for the latest AmCham Sustainability Forum, participants welcomed Kathrine Strøm, Development Manager, Transport & Urban Design at COWI and Jonas Bergersen, Social Impact Sales Lead Norway at Dell as session presenters.

As a prelude, Kristian Noll, senior at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, presented key findings from his research report Fueling the Green Transition: The Scope and Impact of Norwegian Environmental Policy in a Decade of Change. A former AmCham intern and recipient of St. Olaf’s Rand Scholar Award, Kristian became aware of the prevalence of sustainability as part of social and corporate discussions in Norway. He posed and answered the questions: “To what extent are civil and corporate attitudes toward environmental sustainability influenced by governmental policy” and “to what extent do these attitudes reflect a genuine commitment to sustainable practices?”

Presenters

Kathrine Strøm – Development Manager, Transport & Urban Design

Jonas Bergersen – Social Impact Sales Lead Norway

Kristian Noll – Department of Political Science (former AmCham Intern)

Oslo’s Paradigm Shift

Kathrine Strøm from COWI presented The Green Shift in Urban Mobility, focusing on their green city and green mobility strategy in collaboration with Oslo municipality. COWI is an international consulting group specializing in engineering, environmental science, and economics. On the consolidation of varied consulting expertise under one roof, Kathrine remarked that she “finds the synergy effects we can make between us very effective when it comes to making a more sustainable city.”

Strøm described how, in 2019, Oslo was named the European Environment capital, providing accelerated incentives for the municipality to pursue environmental action. With Oslo’s road traffic constituting approximately half of Co2 emissions in 2020, an apparent opportunity to reduce emissions lies in reducing of emissions through traffic. For the first time in Norway, a public body, namely Oslo’s municipality, is dismissing the time is money paradigm as it pertains to transportation, as the roads are no longer merely designed around cars but also non-motor-driven transportation.

In addition to the strategy and design of Oslo’s urban roads and spaces, Strøm presented a project where COWI contributed to a more sustainable construction site, where building was performed with electric digging machines on cable and battery, replacing diesel engines, which consequentially meant a less noisy building process to the benefit of construction workers and city dwellers. One unresolved aspect of the project was that not all materials used were emission-free, and some trees were removed due to an intricate process of planting on such fundaments. Taking learnings and inspiration from this project, all buildings and constructions sites in Oslo municipality shall be emission-free from 2025. The named initiatives have contributed to a healthier, safer, more beautiful city to live in and visit, with less emissions and a reduction of flooding hazards.

Design Innovations and Consumer Responsibility

Jonas Bergersen outlined the goals, strategies, and design behind Dell’s devices, including their work with sustainable materials and packaging innovation, noting the need to make products as repairable and interchangeable as possible. Dell develops, sells, repairs, and supports computers and related products and services and has adopted new innovations at each step. Notable is their sustainable approach to material usage, including reusing and reforming metals that may previously have been discarded, and utilizing airplane carbon fiber surplus production in their devices, as well as ocean-sourced plastics. The goal is that materials, where possible, are reclaimed and recycled, and will enter a closed-loop system to ensure longevity for the life span of their products.

In addition to the devices themselves, another aspect of sustainability is to reduce energy intensity both when being built and when in use. Although sustainable packaging is an important step on Dell’s quest for sustainable offerings, the device itself constitutes the most energy required and represents a higher carbon footprint, making the significance of the device’s life span an important aspect to communicate to users.

In addition to Dell’s own efforts, they rely on their partners to support their sustainable mission and have made it a priority to educate on the importance of taking sustainable steps. Bergersen was also adamant about the responsibility that we as consumers have to perform our own due diligence with suppliers when procuring devices.

On a corporate level, the selection and discarding of electrical equipment can help companies reach their own sustainability goals if opting for sustainably viable solutions. “Don’t only measure the last mile” Bergersen said in response to client requests for device delivery to their offices, for example by EV’s. Such an initiative is positive; however, it doesn’t take into consideration the entirety of the device’s production process.

To conclude, Bergersen shed light on the world’s vast data volume, namely data stored in clouds, which is forecast to increase exponentially by 2025. The storage requires energy currently generated from non-green production. Again, we as consumers and individuals can help reduce data volume by deleting unnecessary files from the cloud to contribute to more sustainable energy consumption.

About Sustainability Forum

Future success is dependent upon running a sustainable business – for people, the planet, and profit. Hence, AmCham brings select, cross-industry member company representatives together on an ongoing basis to discuss opportunities, facilitate open exchange and determine how AmCham members can best contribute to Norwegian and US sustainability agendas going forward.

Read more about our Sustainability Forum and please contact Margrethe.Harboe@amcham.no for interest in future meetings.

Recent Sustainability Forums

AmCham Digitalization Forum: Digital Transition and Trust

AmCham Digitalization Forum: Transition and Digital Trust

“We are not a payments company, we are a technology company.” So began Mastercard’s Country Director Inge M. Kjønnøy as member representatives gathered virtually for AmCham’s latest Digitalization Forum. Founded by a group of banks over 50 years ago, Mastercard’s technology and expertise now enable transactions in more than 210 countries and 150 currencies – connecting 2,7 billion customers worldwide. With Mastercard’s recent acquisition of Nets and others, the company’s Oslo and Nordic offices have expanded significantly.

Kjønnøy went on to provide insights on the company’s transition within processing, open banking, data analytics, cyber and intelligence, digital rewards, and its vast commitment to sustainability – including a 2021 $600B bond framework pledge. Well recognized for payment reliability and trust, Mastercard’s sonic brand identity further piqued cross-industry participants’ imaginations. An engaging discussion ensued, led by Next Step CEO Jennifer Vessels and AmCham’s Jason Turflinger.

Presenters

Inge M. Kjønnøy – Country Director

George Turk – Digital Trust Director

Jan Henrik Schou Straumsheim – Head of Cyber Threat Operations

We Can’t Predict the Future, But We Can Plan for It

PwC’s George Turk, Digital Trust Director, and Jan Henrik Schou Straumsheim, Head of Cyber Threat Operations, then jointly took the lead, outlining key findings from the company’s 2021 global Digital Trust Insights survey. Less of a presentation than a dynamic Forum discussion, all agreed that cyber security is a top enterprise risk for their respective organizations – ranking above pandemic and business regulation concerns for most CEO’s.

 

Independent assessment and proactive security testing are vital for building resilience strategies, according to Turk and Straumsheim. “Cyber threats have evolved from being a nuisance to being fundamentally catastrophic” across multiple industries today. Empowering Information Security Officers, backed by better risk management investment by informed company leadership, helps level the playing field with attackers. Employee training – a fundamental cyber security weakness for many companies – was a recurring discussion theme. With tech security talent in high demand across Norway and the US, long-term hiring perspectives are also imperative.

Capture_DigiForum1
Source: PwC

AmCham Digitalization Forum

AmCham’s long running Digitalization Forum was initiated to foster leaders’ digital transformation confidence and inspire cross-industry collaboration. If you are interested in attending a future Digitalization Forum, please email amcham@amcham.no.

Rising Leaders Program 2021 – 2022 Reception

Rising Leaders Program 2021–2022: Off and Running!

AmCham and the US Embassy recently welcomed new members and continuing participants of the Rising Leaders program at a reception at Villa Otium with remarks given by Chargé d’affaires a.i. Sharon Hudson-Dean, Public Affairs Officer Jillian Bonnardeaux, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs guest speaker Jo Sletbak, and AmCham Norway Managing Director Jason Turflinger

Sharon Hudson-Dean recently began her assignment as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, coming from a three-year position as U.S. Consul General in Sydney, Australia. Ms. Hudson-Dean has over two decades of experience as an American diplomat and has represented the United States in several countries. We look forward to working closely with her and her team going forward.  

Jo Sletbak is a Senior Advisor in the Unit for Business Relations at the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since starting his diplomatic career in 1990, Sletbak has held several impressive positions both at home and abroad. From August 2017 to end of July this year, he served as Norway’s Consul General to San Francisco and the Western US. Sletbak reflected on his experience working with Norwegian companies in the states.

Program participants had the opportunity to meet with AmCham Board members as well as Embassy staff to discuss US-Norway trade and investment, sustainability in modern business, and Norway’s blossoming start-up culture. 

This year, 15 new members to the program will join continuing participants in engaging with business leaders and attending informative events. Rising Leaders come from a wide range of personal, professional, and academic backgrounds. Ten countries are represented amongst the participants – a group that includes student leaders, diplomatic staff, young professionals, and entrepreneurs. 

The 2021-22 Rising Leaders class – comprised of 20 women and nine men between the ages of 23 and 35 – bring with them experience from healthcare, classical music, urban planning, organizational psychology, immigration, engineering, communications, technology, teaching, economics, finance, and marketing. All 29 program participants have demonstrated leadership, entrepreneurial, and/or business excellence in their educational pursuits and careers thus far. 

We thank the U.S. Embassy Oslo for hosting a wonderful introductory session and look forward to continued collaboration for the fourth edition of the program. We also want to thank the outgoing Rising Leader board for all their hard work and dedication to the program for the past two years. 

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Chargé d’affaires a.i. – Sharon Hudson-Dean

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Public Affairs Officer – Jillian Bonnardeaux

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Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Jo Sletbak

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Managing Director – Jason Turflinger

About the Rising Leaders Program

Rising Leaders, a joint AmCham-US Embassy initiative, brings together entrepreneurs, young professionals, and student leaders in an innovative program to promote diversity and connect promising talent. Through the program, participants engage international business leaders, learn about AmCham member companies, explore careers, and gain business and leadership skills. 

For more information about the program, or to learn how your organization can get involved, please contact Madeleine Brekke.

Past Rising Leader Events

Rising Leaders: Core Values and Coincidences

Rising Leaders participants visited Accenture Norway’s headquarters where they were welcomed by Managing Director and Head of Accenture Technology, Torbjørn Eik-Nes. As the first in-person company visit in many months since the pandemic, participants were eager to absorb Eik-Nes’ career insights and professional guidance.

Read More »

Rising Leaders: Never-Ending Missions

Rising Leaders participants and AmCham members were joined by Lars Erik Grønntun, Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Kahoot! who shared his leadership experience and thoughts on building highly innovative yet resilient teams.

Read More »
Yara Mentorship Meeting

AmCham Mentorship Program: Crisis Leadership and the New Role of Business

AmCham Mentorship Program: Crisis Leadership and the New Role of Business

Emerging corporate talent and seasoned executives from 12 industries gathered on August 23rd to meet with President and CEO of Yara International, Svein Tore Holsether. Proving to be an uplifting and endless treasure trove of information, the discussion centered around a particularly timely topic – leadership before, during, and after a crisis.

Initially established in 1905 as Norsk Hydro, Yara was the world’s first producer of mineral nitrogen fertilizers –a disruptive technology at the time. Their intent was to increase food production to satiate the growing population and combat famine. A study in crisis response and innovation, the company grew to 13 000 employees in over 50 countries, decoupling from Hydro into Yara International in 2004.

Holsether joined as the CEO of Yara in 2015, allowing him to witness first-hand the Paris Agreement, discuss globally the important role of food production in combating climate change, and ultimately catalyze an internally driven redefinition of their mission statement: Responsibly Feed the World and Protect the Planet.

“I am ready to challenge any company out there in the world on our employees' ability to say what the mission is."

Svein Tore Holsether

Respect and Trust

The ability to explain every accident experienced by the company in the last year (80% lower than the average comparable organization, Holsether comments proudly), from memory, is a respect Holsether asserts he owes to all employees. This respect and sense of responsibility seem to radiate through the organization, being echoed by the strong culture of safety, and employee’s recognition of the gravity of their products in the global marketplace.

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Svein Tore Holsether

From the first reports of the Covid virus in Wuhan, where Yara operates, to the vast shutdowns in Italy, program participants were guided through the sense of urgency and uncertainty that permeated the Yara offices. “We fully understood the potential magnitude of this, and how essential our products are to farmers. If our products do not get to the farmer, yields drop. In the case of wheat, by 50%,” Holsether commented, “our organization felt the pressures of surviving a health pandemic and responsibility of preventing a hunger pandemic.”

Knowing immediately the importance of maintaining operational control and protecting the health of employees, the Yara management team pulled together a panel of their most experienced operators. Leaning away from the traditional reaction of setting in place massive reporting structures and strict demands, Holsether asserts that his team knew they could rely on their colleagues globally because of three primary characteristics: a strong sense of mission, an unflappable safety program, and solid company culture.

Holsether noted that when he approached the board to tell them of their decision to give full regional control, they received full support. He empowered the organization to make decisions regionally, and prescribed three priorities:

  1. Look after the health and safety of Yara’s employees and contractors
  2. Support local governments in limiting the spread of the virus
  3. Get the product produced and out to the customers

Loyalty and Lasting Change

When the production numbers started rolling in, the company knew they had made the right decision. Regionally, teams were fighting for their rights to produce, meeting their goals, and ensuring that farmers globally were receiving their products. With this feedback, and knowing that the pandemic would be lasting, Holsether and his team set to work on how to reduce fear in their organization, and thereby allow for deeper focus. Yara put into place income security for all employees and contractors globally, in the case they should need to shut down. They initiated sick pay in areas with no formal regulation, and later, global parental paid leave.

“These past 18 months have been life changing for many of us and it has definitely, for me as a CEO, changed the way I lead the company and my productivity.”

Svein Tore Holsether

The past 18 months, the urgency, the reduction in travel, the need for regional understanding, has all impacted Holsether as a leader and brought him closer to Yara as a whole. Taking this time to connect with employees, he has made himself available by email and through town halls, answering every email he receives. His respect for, and dedication to, the mission of the company, the role of the employee, and the importance of global responsibility shone through in every aspect of his presentation.

Svein Tore recently accepted a new for as the president of NHO, a role that requires much dedication, which has left a lot of people wondering how on earth he has the time to allocate. His response to that is “how do I not have time?”. He suggested that participants reflect on how much time they spend on internal communication versus external communication. “It is about collaboration and SDG goal # 17: Cooperation and Partnership. That is where NHO comes in. “

Achieving goals with farmers is only possible if their retailers help set the agenda on how the food is grown – ensuring farmer livelihood and a healthy climate.

“Business will not prosper in a society that does not prosper."

Svein Tore Holsether

Leaving mentees with lasting and thought-provoking advice, Holsether highlighted how participants can choose work sustainably. “Do something that gives energy rather than extracts energy – it’s the only way for work to be sustainable.”

About the AmCham Mentorship Program

With its unique cross-industry orientation and global approach, the AmCham Mentorship Program offers a dynamic, internationally minded arena for leadership development.

The program pairs emerging corporate talent with seasoned executives from AmCham Patron-level member companies. The result: a collaborative arena that fosters improvement and reflection, prepares young leaders for the challenges of the international marketplace, and forges bonds between AmCham member companies.

If you are interested in participating in the mentorship program, please contact Madeleine Brekke at madeleine.brekke@amcham.no for more information.

Past Mentorship Program Events

AmCham Mentorship Program Wrap-up & Next Edition!

The 2021-2022 edition of the AmCham Mentorship Program convened for its final meeting in February. Presenting were Hydro’s Vice President of People, Communications and Sustainability, Erika Ahlqvist and Hudson Nordic’s CEO and Managing Director, Ola Lenes.

Read More »

Norwegian start-up wins AmCham EU Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award

During the past nine years, AmCham EU has hosted a Youth Entrepreneurship Award in cooperation with JA Europe. The award is open to start-ups from all over Europe.
 
Announced today, we are happy to share that this year’s winner is a Norwegian start-up! Congratulations to Maria Wathne, CEO of Paramate for winning the Female Entrepreneur of the Year 2021 award!

Paramate develops sensors and connected software that enables fish farmers to monitor the level of hydrogen sulfide on their land-based farms, preventing outbreaks of toxic gas and promoting better management of resources and the environment.

Read the press release HERE

The Altia & Arcus merger in Finland, Norway and Sweden

Merger between Altia Oyj (Altia) and Arcus ASA (Arcus) was notified to competition authorities in Finland, Norway and Sweden. The parties to the transaction are alcoholic beverage companies that mainly manufacture, import and distribute spirits and wines.

Altia is a Finnish company that is primarily active in the Nordic countries. Arcus is a Norwegian company group that operates in 30 different countries, although with main footprint in the Nordic countries and Germany. Competition authorities in all countries where the merger was subject to (mandatory) filing accepted the merger subject to divestiture commitments.

Read more HERE