Rising Leaders participants gathered at TGI Fridays Aker Brygge to focus on how to tackle sustainability challenges. Attendees heard from McDonald’s Nordic QA and Supplier Sustainability Lead Hilde Øverby, who highlighted the company’s extensive sustainability and youth outreach efforts. In addition, program participants took part in a highly engaging debate on sustainability in business with AUF General Secretary Sindre Lysø and Unge Høyre Functioning Leader Daniel Skjevik-Aasberg.
TGI Friday’s Aker Brygge General Manager Nassim Khodadi welcomed program participants and highlighted a number of initiatives the company is implementing to become more sustainable, including attacking the problem of food waste head-on.
It was a welcome that set the stage well for McDonald’s Øverby. A long-time participant in the AmCham Sustainability Forum, Øverby took participants through McDonald’s comprehensive sustainability platform, highlighting why young leaders should not be afraid to bring their innovative ideas forward to their more senior colleagues.
“Don’t give up. Develop your idea, no matter how small. If you truly believe in it, you can scale it up and create good solutions that make an impact.”
Øverby then showed how McDonald’s itself is impowering young farmers and entrepreneurs to develop exciting sustainable products. Highlights included a pilot program with manufacturing companies Roltex (Belgium), GH Plast (Sweden), and Pla-Mek (Norway) that takes plastic waste from the fishing industry and furnishes it into trays McDonald’s hopes to eventually use in restaurants across Norway.
In line with the definition of sustainability adopted by the AmCham Sustainability Forum, Øverby also highlighted how McDonald’s has developed a comprehensive sustainability platform by both working with partners such as WWF and following their holistic, three-E model (ethical, environmental, and economic) when making strategic decisions.
After her presentation, Øverby then fielded questions from Rising Leaders, a dialogue that included the importance of creating brand awareness around sustainability issues and how to empower youth from diverse backgrounds to become young leaders in companies such as McDonald’s.
Following Øverby’s remarks, two youth politicians – Sindre Lysø from the Labor Party youth organization, AUF, and Daniel Skjevik-Aasberg from Høyre’s youth organization, Unge Høyre – took the floor to participate in a unique, roundtable debate with program participants.
Lysø and Skjevik-Aasberg spoke strongly about the importance of young people in business making their voices heard, particularly on sustainability issues, with both noting that the divide on various sustainability issues is more generation than political.
“We have visions, we know that society could be better. We are not in a position to think we can’t do anything – we are future customers, and innovation is driven by young people,” remarked Unge Høyre’s functioning leader.
Both additionally saw that Norwegian companies were making strong contributions to sustainability in raw materials industries, noting Hydro’s extensive sustainability work in aluminum production and Equinor’s growing commitment to renewable resources and carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Lysø, an educated civil economist with a degree from the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) added that the key to leveraging Norwegian corporate innovation to build critical sustainable solutions is increased public-private cooperation.
“Companies are great problem solvers. They bring together considerable amounts of competencies and skills, including bringing in international talent. However, companies alone cannot solve the climate crisis. Cooperation with the state is essential – and that type of cooperation is one of Norway’s greatest strengths.”
According to Lysø and Skjevik-Aasberg, an element essential to accelerating progress on sustainability issues is the establishment of innovative frameworks that promote sustainability and inspire both businesses and individuals to take action.
“We don’t have the frameworks we need to achieve the SDGs. Therefore, there’s a lot of talk, but we need to act – and we know businesses will be more competitive if they take steps to reduce emissions, among other actions,” Skjevik-Aasberg noted.
It was a sentiment that resonated with Lysø, who added that strong frameworks will also play a critical role in creating frameworks that aid workers in developing the skills necessary to thrive in a more sustainable global economy.
“Making the transition will be challenging, however, the energy industry in Norway has a lot of competence in the skills necessary to power sustainable solutions, such as offshore wind. Here the state, employees, and employers must work together [to aid the transition].”
To close out the debate, Lysø and Skjevik-Aasberg also discussed the importance of having a diverse, international workforce with the competencies necessary to power sustainable growth, actively discussing with international program participants who have struggled at times with the transition to Norway. Both noted the importance of attracting skilled immigrants to Norway and making them feel welcome – areas where both agreed that Norway could improve.
“We really need an inkluderingsdugnad,” Sjevik-Aasberg concluded.
Rising Leaders is an initiative of the US Embassy and AmCham to provide access for young, up-and-coming leaders from diverse backgrounds to high-level representatives of the established business community. AmCham Managing Director Jason Turflinger and US Ambassador Kenneth Braithwaite officially inaugurated the program in April 2018.
The 24 program participants — consisting of 12 women and 12 men from nine countries between the ages of 22 and 35 — have demonstrated leadership, entrepreneurial, and/or business excellence in their educational pursuits and careers thus far. Participants engage business leaders, learn about AmCham member companies, and gain business and leadership skills.
For more information about the program or to learn how your organization can get involved, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.