Implementing sustainable solutions require trust in authorities, something America can learn from the Nordic countries.
Last Thursday, I spent the day with the Danish ambassador to the United States, Christina Marcus Lassen, the Governor of my state Washington, Jay Inslee, and numerous c-level executives from Nordic companies. They all attented a summit at the National Nordic Museum in Seattle, “Nordic Innovation Summit 2023.” One American speaker after another paid tribute to the Nordic countries, highlighting trust and cooperation as two things the US can learn from Denmark and the Nordic countries when it comes to innovative, sustainable solutions.
Two days before the summit, I went with my 12-year-old son to the Architecture Hall at the University of Washington. Martine Reinhold Kildeby, Head of Strategic Partnerships, for Bloxhubin Copenhagen, gave a guest lecture titled “Copenhagen Blox and Bloxhub : Nordic Hub for Sustainable Urbanisation.”
Kildeby explained what Bloxhub is and how private and public institutions and companies collaborate – for greener and innovative solutions.
After the lecture, I asked Martine Kildeby: What is the biggest challenge when collaborating with Americans? Without hesitation, she answered: “Trust.”
Trust. A small word with a big meaning. The degree of trust in Denmark and the Nordic countries is generally high. The Nordic populations trusts their authorities and trusts that they want the best for the population. The same is certainly not the case for the American population, where mistrust and vigilance are baked into the DNA.
I brought my son to the lecture to show him what a great country he comes from and that Denmark is in the forefront when it comes to sustainable solutions.
“What did you learn from the lecture?,” I asked him as we left the building.
“Everything is connected,” he replied as the conversation turned into thoughts about how a simple thing like planting a tree next to a bench in the city involves many agencies and reached the conclusion how important it is for different groups to be able to work together.
At the summit at the New Nordic Museum, I learned about electric boats, green steel, green fertilizer, electric trucks, sewage plants, wind turbines, urban planning, circular economy, and much more. But what kept coming up regardless of what company presented were two things. Everything is connected. And trust. Private and public organizations must be able to cooperate, and to be able to do that you must trust each other.
Cooperation and trust. It is in our DNA in the Nordic countries. It is an integral part of why and how our societies work. Historically, the Nordic countries have had to cooperate to adapt quickly. That attitude benefits us when it comes to sustainable, innovative ideas.
But working together and trust are far from the basic identity in the United States. What working together means to the Nordic countries, competition means to the USA in terms of being a key characteristic. Contrary to what one might think, something as soft as a feeling – trust – is alpha and omega. Not spreadsheets, laws, and rules, which are also important, but not the most important. Cooperating and trust make projects successful, the feeling of being able to trust each other is the cornerstone in order to find solutions.
There is hope, however, then it comes to bringing America up to speed in sustainable solutions. If there is something Americans believe in, it is financial gain. Just as Copenhageners don’t get on their bikes every morning because they want to improve the environment but because it is the most convenient and practical way to get around in the city, Americans choose green solutions – because it makes economic sense. Partnering with The Nordic countries which have innovative ideas and can cooperate make a lot of sense.
On the other hand, by virtue of being the world’s largest economy, having resources and space, the USA is an attractive market. That is why one Nordic sustainable company after another is starting branches in the USA. When Nordic companies give Americans the opportunity to choose a green, sustainable solution, while at the same time providing economic benefits in contrast to traditional “black” solutions, they will make changes and enter into an industrial symbiosis.
Legislation, research and industries must work together – for the well-being of all populations. The Nordic countries cannot be too arrogant in wanting other countries to implement sustainable solutions the Nordic way: Governments and other cultures implement and learn differently. The important thing is not that the world does as the Nordic countries do. The important thing is to create sustainable changes – for the benefit of the entire planet and its population.
Regneark er ikke det, der skal forbedre miljøet
Tillid er nøgleordet – ikke mindst tilliden til myndighederne. Der kan USA godt nok lære noget af de nordiske lande.