Axel Johnson has always been a part of my life, and the business was always present around the dinner table. Being a family company is a lifestyle and a life choice. Our strongest motivator has always been to build and expand, to do something new and to transform ourselves. We have constantly restructured and re-evaluated our business throughout our history, a history spanning over more than 145 years. We have gone through many shifts and we constantly develop into new areas. Over the past few years, retail has been undergoing its greatest transformation ever. Digitalization and technological advances are affecting how we work and generate new business models. Customer relationships are taking on new shapes and forms. Our businesses and commitments as a company require a high rate of progress and innovation.
Sweden has a good innovation climate, but we also face challenges when it comes to a lack of expertise in digitization. In addition to the many large- scale training initiatives that the Group carried out during the year, we also contributed to the Future Work Forum (Forum för Omställning), a platform that allows the business community, trade unions and academics to join forces. The purpose is to spread and share knowledge and solutions in order to manage the transformation in Sweden. This initiative was born out of a desire to play a tangible role in improving Sweden’s potential to respond to these structural changes while keeping society together. It will require more flexible education systems and fast tracks for competence development in professions with a shortage of employees. But we also have to inspire to life-long learning and cultivate a culture with an appetite for new knowledge and personal development.
As an owner family, we have a deep-rooted belief in the company as a positive force for change in society. Business value and social value go hand-in-hand and form a strong root system that nourishes us and drives us to work with sustainability as an integrated part of the company’s strategy. We invest and develop, measure and follow up. As a trade and services group, our focus has long been on reducing our environmental and climate impact, alongside our sustainability efforts in production and the development of more sustainable products and services. Our role in society is spreading into new areas and, in recent years, integration and diversity have been in the foreground of many new initiatives. It is a question of making use of all ypes of skills, and we want employees and leaders who reflect our customers and society at large. At the same time, we want to contribute to better integration and reduce exclusion in society.
In addition to the hundreds of activities under way within the Group to boost diversity, we also entered a new partnership during the year with The Global Village, which organizes Järvaveckan every year. Järvaveckan is an event that aims to build bridges and shorten the distance between the business community, civil society, the citizens and politicians. Järvaveckan 2018 attracted 30,000 visitors and created new forms of meetings and dialogues—meetings and dialogues that we want to be part of.
To continue the work of the earlier generations of a distinguished family company, a conscientious decision must be made—to both want and dare to carry on the legacy. My ambition is that Axel Johnson will be around for at least another 145 years. I am proud of and grateful for the way our managers and employees make their mark every day by developing our businesses.
Stockholm, April 2019