The Swedish Ambassador and a former Prime Minister of the Netherlands were among the guests at a major business seminar hosted at AkzoNobel’s headquarters in Amsterdam.

“Sustainability, the new competitive edge for Europe” was organized by the Swedish Chamber of Commerce and highlighted the increasing importance that businesses, consumers and stakeholders are placing on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) issues.

His Excellency Mr Håkan Emsgård, the Ambassador of Sweden, said he was privileged to speak at AkzoNobel as the company was a good example of Swedish and Dutch businesses joining forces to become a global market leader.

“Sustainability is not philanthropy – it’s a core business activity,” he said.

Professor Jan Peter Balkenende, the former Dutch prime minister who currently leads the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition and is a partner at Ernst & Young, spoke of building a “Sustainability Valley” in the Netherlands.

People were increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability, he said, and businesses had to take responsibility by focusing on the ‘Three Ss’: Shape – by talking about business; Share – their views with NGOs and stakeholders; Stimulate – debate.

“Businesses have their own responsibility and can no longer wait for governments,” he said. “If you’re not choosing sustainability, you lose in the long run.”

Also speaking at the event were Leif Darner, member of AkzoNobel’s Board of Management, Karin Markides, President at Chalmers University of Technology, and Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer for the IKEA Group.

All highlighted how developing a sustainable approach to business was no longer a choice but a necessity. Those that embraced it now placed themselves at the forefront of the market, ensuring a successful future both for themselves and the planet. Innovative alliances and cooperative partnerships were also essential to realize these goals.