In Sweden, Smart Means Sustainable
A “Not Boring” Approach to Smart Cities
In late May, I had the opportunity to spend a week in Stockholm, visiting with smart city leaders and experiencing their smart city developments. One thing became immediately clear – in Sweden, smart cities is a mindset.
Swedes emphasize a culture of consensus. They believe that horizontal management processes are more productive for long-term success than a hierarchical, top-down style. They emphasize trust and pursue a holistic, inclusive, cross-disciplined approach with a focus on win-win.
When there is conflict, you talk it out until until the mantra, “together or not at all” rings true. The headline on the cover of their economic development marketing materials reads, “join us in co-creation.”
But this isn’t just pie-in-the-sky do-gooder-ism. Sweden is succeeding. Forbes ranks them as the #1 best country for business. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and World Economic Forum echo top of rankings from economic development to education. After Silicon Valley, Sweden has the greatest number of successful startups per capita. After all, this is where Spotify was born along with Klarna, an e-commerce payment solution. Entrepreneurship and technology is encouraged and incentivized.
Smart Means Sustainable
“Cities can provide a good environment in which people can live well without wasting the earth’s resources.” This statement on Sweden’s smart city approach emphasizes an important point – in Sweden being smart is about being sustainable.
I repeatedly heard the term “eco-governance”, which emphasizes sustainability and “creates a common ground for all before staring planning in each silo”. There is significant attention and time committed to planning and process. From this initial investment, they move forward in collaboration, acknowledging that the challenges are complex.
The early work is paying off. In 2010, the European Commission recognized Stockholm as the first green capital of Europe. Since 1990, the city has reduced green house gas emissions by 25 percent, and since 2012 the city has reduced energy use by 11 percent. The goal is to be free of fossil fuels by 2050.
The Grow Smarter initiative shares Sweden’s success beyond the national boarder to include Cologne and Barcelona. Three Lighthouse Cities are deploying 12 Smart Solutions to address three pillars of sustainability: economic, social and environmental. This is a part of the European Commission’s smart cities and communities effort under the Horizon 2020 funding stream.
How Sweden Executes a Smart City Vision
Smart cities is one of five innovation partnership programs expressed by the Swedish government. Also included is next generation travel and transport, circular and bio based economy, life science and connected industry and raw materials.