The secret ingredients of Swedish Sustainability

If any nation is synonymous with sustainability, then it would surely be Sweden.


Rated the world’s most sustainable country, Swedish companies are hailed as environmental leaders and its citizens lead the way in household recycling. The country is on target to become the first to run entirely on renewable energy by 2040. 

So what is the secret to Sweden’s sustainability success? As Europe’s largest provider of workplace furniture and a Swedish-born company, Kinnarps is ideally placed to provide a glimpse into what makes the Swedes so dependably sustainable. 

With that in mind, here is the secret recipe (well, at least as we see it)…


To solve the most intractable problems often requires a different way of thinking. Like the thinking that spawned the geothermal system at Stockholm’s Central Station, which captures body heat from over 250,000 daily commuters and turns it into heating for the entire building.

This same principle is used in Sweden’s famous ‘passive houses’, designed specifically to reduce energy consumption by powering themselves through energy generated by body heat, electrical appliances and sunlight. Passive houses have been built in a number of communities across Sweden, including Stockholm, Göteborg, Västerås and Helsingborg.



At Kinnarps, we put this same creative thinking into practice when we turn leftover wood into briquettes, which in turn heats our factory and even local premises. It’s a very Swedish way to solve the problem of excessive energy consumption.


Back in 1996, Växjö became the first city in the world to set the goal of becoming completely fossil-fuel free. Since then, it has become known as ‘Europe’s greenest city’ with more than 90 percent of its energy for heating coming from forest waste burned to generate heat and power for thousands of homes.

Add to this the fact that Stockholm’s entire subway system now runs on green electricity, with all of its buses set to run on renewable fuel by 2025 (not to forget that audacious 2040 target for the whole country), and the picture is of a nation unafraid to aim high when it comes to sustainability.


In Sweden, recycling isn’t demanded – it’s assumed. Only 4% of the nation’s waste ends up in landfills and 88% of all aluminium cans and PET bottles are recycled. The country has even had to begin importing trash from the landfills of other European countries to ensure its waste-to-energy factories are supplied with the fuel they need.

Then there are the urban farming allotment gardens that can be found in many corners of the country, where residents share a piece of land cultivated into gardens to grow fruits and vegetables. Even Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustav is on board; heating his palace with wood pellets and driving himself in a Volvo that runs on biofuel.

When it comes to making sustainable ideas real, there is nothing like seeing everyone around you already participating – especially those at the top.


In case you’ve missed it, 2017 has been declared the year of ‘lagom’. It’s a particularly Swedish concept of looking for the amount that is not too little, not too much, but just right. Lagom is an ideal applied to everything from strength of coffee, to working hours, to portion sizes. It’s a lifestyle, a habit of mind.

Sam Stocks, publisher of the European lifestyle magazine Lagom, puts it like this: “Our modern lives can often gear our minds toward the quest for more. The philosophy of lagom encourages an overarching balance across our lives: everything in moderation.”

Even Ikea is on board, recently launching its Live Lagom Project that encourages its UK customers to live more simply and sustainably. At Kinnarps, we do lagom when we re-upholster our clients’ furniture to give them a second life or when we engineer our fleet of trucks to run on energy-friendly tall oil. When it comes to looking after our planet, we find that a little bit of lagom goes a long way.


Sweden is undoubtedly an early adopter when it comes to sustainability. The nation’s deliberate shift from oil to communal, district heating in the early 1990’s put it on course to become the most energy friendly nation in the world in 2017.

In fact, Sweden’s approach to sustainability is marked by a perspective that prioritises long-term impact over immediate results. Two years ago, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven declared to parliament: “Children should grow up in an environment free from toxic substances…In a Sweden to be proud of, we will take climate responsibility for future generations.”

In keeping with this spirit, Kinnarps has worked hard to remove harmful chemicals from our manufacturing processes and ensure our furniture does not emit any invisible threat to users during its lifetime.

So there you have it – the secrets to Sweden’s sustainability success (or a few of them at least). The good news is that there is so much companies in the UK can learn from our Swedish colleagues. We at Kinnarps UK have discovered this first-hand.

Find out for yourself what we are doing when it comes to sustainability, or start a conversation with us about how we can help you make your workplace more sustainable.