Volvo Cars Family Bond gives all employees 24 weeks paid parental leave
March  30, 2021
Volvo Cars is opting in its 40,000+ employees around the globe, in all plants and offices, into a new all-gender, paid parental leave policy as of April 1, 2021. The ‘Family Bond’ policy will give all employees with at least one year’s service a total of 24 weeks of leave at 80 per cent of their base pay by default. The policy applies to either parent and the leave can be taken anytime within the three first years of parenthood. “We want to create a culture that supports equal parenting for all genders,” said Håkan Samuelsson, chief executive. “When parents are supported to balance the demands of work and family, it helps to close the gender gap and allows everyone to excel in their careers. We have always been a family-oriented and human-centric company. Through the Family Bond programme, we are demonstrating and living our values, which in turn will strengthen our brand.” The global policy is more inclusive and supportive than many existing policies around the world, and includes all legally registered parents, including adoptive, foster care and surrogate parents, as well as non-birth parents in same-sex couples. Some countries do not offer any paid leave to new parents, or exclude certain groups of parents – the latter is particularly true for fathers. Volvo Cars’ global policy is inspired by national legislation in its home market of Sweden, famous around the globe for its generous parental leave arrangements, which have delivered tangible benefits for parents and children alike in recent decades. It follows a parental leave pilot scheme launched in the EMEA region in 2019, in which 46 per centof all applicants were fathers. “This is more than a new parental leave policy for our employees – it is the embodiment of our company culture and values,” said Hanna Fager, head of corporate functions. “We want to lead change in this industry and set a new global people standard. By opting all our employees into paid parental leave we narrow the gender gap and get a more diverse workforce, boosting performance and strengthening our business.” When studying the outcome of its parental leave pilot, the company found that employees appreciated the policy for being gender neutral, inclusive and adaptable to personal needs. The studies also resulted in important insights on how to encourage even more employees to take parental leave and make parental leave for both parents the new ‘norm’. Some of the obstacles that limit the uptake of parental leave include parents’ concerns around the potential impact it might have on their team, fear around long-term career opportunities, and a cultural mindset about of what is expected of fathers in the workplace and at home. To encourage uptake, Volvo Cars has focused on communicating about its parental leave policy more effectively. By presenting the 24 weeks parental leave as a pre-selected option, the company aims to create a ‘default effect’ – essentially, people are highly likely to stick with pre-selected options. Ambiguous language, such as ‘up to 24 weeks’, is avoided as we tend to predict negative outcomes when there is uncertainty. By using tactics like these, Volvo Cars aim to remove confusion and cultural barriers, and provide parents with certainty. To further show its commitment to reducing the gender gap, Volvo Cars will share its participation results over time so that other companies can learn from its progress.    
Meet Nextory

William Nordenström is the Global Partnership Manager at Nextory — a Swedish founded company with the goal of making the world's books available to more people while challenging what it means to "read a book". As of February 2021, they are Members of the Swedish Chamber, making them eager to introduce themselves to our extensive network. 

It all started in 2015, when Nextory was founded in Stockholm by the entrepreneurs Shadi Bitar and Ninos Malki. Since then the company has grown to become one of the largest subscription services for audio and ebooks within the Nordic region, also available in other European markets. According to William Nordenström, the vision of the company can be traced back to the origins of the founders.  Shadi and Ninos's passion for books comes from their own experiences in Syria, where they grew up. They have both seen what happens when a dictator limits access to free literature. Therefore, democracy and the freedom of speech are topics close to their hearts. Also, books have been of great importance for their own personal development and helped them work their way into the Swedish society. What is the vision? — Our vision is to increase reading to enrich people's lives with beautiful stories. Nextory is a digital app and it is available for everyone, anytime, anywhere. Shadi Bitar—co-founder of Nextory

Keeping the startup attitude

Forward thinking, innovative and determined. Those are the words William uses when asked to describe Nextory. What separates them is primarily their constant work with developing innovative user experience, while at the same time not deviating from the notion that reading and listening is the most important thing. They want customers to stay with them because they enjoy the service and experience, rather than because of them offering an exclusive supply of books. — We have, among other things, a reading diary that we were the first to launch within our market. As a user you can follow your own development, how many books you read per month and the amount of time you spend. We also have a book challenge where you can challenge yourself and friends that are using the app.  There are still lots of opportunities for development, William ensures, explaining that what they are currently working on will end up being something very cool, if not revolutionary within the market. — We are very independent and self-propelled, and we have the resources to try out different things. We like to keep the startup attitude even though we nowadays are a much bigger company than we were a couple of years ago. We never want to let go of that feeling.

Expansion to the Netherlands

Nextory launched in the Netherlands as recently as December last year. With market research showing that Dutch people are similar to Scandinavians, for instance when it comes to the desire to try out new things and trusting new companies and services, the expansion to the Netherlands was an exciting test which so far has not disappointed.  — It is going super well so far. We have had an amazing start. It is always exciting to try markets outside Scandinavia, and the Netherlands was a big test in that sense. We are very excited to see what 2021 will offer.  Why a Swedish Chamber Membership? — I think it is a good way to connect with other Chamber Members, who hopefully can see the benefits of working together with us. We want to exchange experiences and hear about others' expansion to the Netherlands. And I am very interested and open to people contacting me about working together with Nextory and creating win-win collaborations.  

Text: Jennifer Nilsson — The Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the Netherlands

IPscreener — Technology and business insights for Inventors

The Swedish Chamber met with Linus Wretblad, serial entrepreneur and CEO of new Member company IPscreener. With the vision to create sustainable innovation and to democratice intellectual property, the AI driven platform enables everyone and anyone to explore and understand the knowledge hidden in patents.

Linus Wretblad, serial entrepreneur and CEO of IPscreener.

Linus Wretblad launched his first start-up back in 2000 — a service firm helping innovators and companies to assess if they were actually innovating new stuff or re-inventing the wheel, so to speak. Before launching his start-up, Linus worked for the Swedish Patent Office, giving him the initial idea to work as an innovation consultant. But what he noticed during those earlier years was the tendency for him to enter the innovation process too late.

— It felt like a shame having to decline and say ‘yes it is a great project, but you know it already exists’ too often. And then I thought that if we professionals can find it so easily, we might as well build an algorithm or an AI that does the same thing and help decline earlier in the process. So then I launched my second start-up, IP-Screener.

Democratising intellectual property

The vision is to create sustainable innovation and to democratize intellectual property, which basically means to enable everyone and anyone to explore and understand the knowledge hidden in patents. 80 percent of all the tech knowledge is hidden in patents, Linus explains, and as much as 90 percent of this data is free to use.

— The problem is that it is so complicated to understand and explore that you normally need specialists to do it. But what IP-Screener is doing is that it enables anyone, just from using your own words, your own texts or your own description of an idea, to straight away get a dashboard of the innovation landscape, and it also helps you to understand and interpret the documents showing up.

Is it like a search engine, in a way?

— I call it business intelligence collector, because you get smarter and get instant insights from the world-wide knowledge base. You get an understanding of the most similar technologies out there and how they relate, who the main competitors are and where they are. And also where the possibilities are to make more business. So it is more than a search tool. It is about building your knowledge and your brains to have better business.

Screenshot from the IPscreener platform.

Creating innovational structure

Naturally, it is profitable for businesses to use IPscreener during the so-called birth stage, where the business is still just an idea. That is when you according to Linus want to ask the question ‘might someone else have done this already?’ and explore thoroughly, rather than start building. However, larger companies with already established innovation workflows also profit from using IPscreener, he explains. Especially in terms of structure.

— You would benefit from having IPscreener as a tool for running through ideas as a preliminary step. This way, everytime you open up a new idea for review, you already have a dashboard of the innovation landscape provided, meaning that you have a structure for dealing with new ideas.

IPscreener helps to create a transparent process, especially in times where teams reviewing ideas within companies tend to be small with limited budgets, making it hard to review projects with exhaustive analysis. You sort of get a traffic light for different projects,, helping to distribute resources of time and efforts to those that more promising, and avoid risking reinventing the wheel Linus says.

— The red light is when you find something completely overlapping, and then you can close the budget. Yellow might be projects that are partly overlapping, which then gets smaller budgets. And green is where you do not find anything similar, and those are the cases where you should do an exhaustive manual assessment.

Chamber membership and strategy

IPscreener is a member of five Swedish Chambers around the world, the most recent being the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands. But despite the fact that he has been doing start-ups for more than 20 years, Linus admits he discovered the benefits of a chamber membership quite late.

— I never thought about the fact that we have Chambers of Commerce in different countries. When I then met people from the chamber in San Francisco during an innovation camp, it sort of opened up a new world to me. I thought ‘hey this is a good network and solid organisation, and the brand of three crowns and Sweden is very strong’.

From there on Linus started to explore the chamber networks, creating events and exchanging contacts. As the memberships have increased over the years, he continues to benefit from the same things.

— I think that is a very good way to create networks and to share experiences, and I believe very much in that. Also in letting the chamber be a door opener for companies we normally have problems reaching, for example when we are exploring new features of ours.

Why is the brand of Sweden strong?

— I wish I had realized this sooner, but Sweden is a very solid brand which has been on the international market for a long time. It stands for quality, transparency and reliability. And that opens up a lot of doors. If I say that we work together with the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, people want to listen and they are more interested to share experiences.


Text: Jennifer Nilsson — The Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the Netherlands

HEX Travel—Moving towards a sustainable future

The Swedish Chamber met with Tuija Jokisaari, Owner and Managing Director of HEX Travel — a Destination Management Company specialized in providing visitors to the Netherlands and Benelux with all they need for a meaningful visit. In difficult times like these, they prepare for a future of sustainable tourism and meaningful traveling.

“As you can tell from my name, I was born in Finland'', says Tuija Jokisaari — Owner and Managing Director of HEX Travel. Like many Finnish families in the early 70s, Tuija’s moved to Stockholm, Sweden. That is where she grew up, worked and eventually developed a passion for the traveling industry.  “Then one sunny day I went to Austria for a skiing holiday”, she continues laughing. From there on it went fast. Tuija decided to move to Amsterdam with her new found love and started to work for a traveling company, taking care of Swedish groups coming to the Netherlands. Little did she know she was about to start her own traveling business just a few months later.  I just started at my own kitchen table. It was in the year 1997 when I started to build up HEX Travel and today we are still here, doing it with lots of passion and energy. Why a Destination Management Company? — It all has to do with my background. Working in the hospitality business, and taking care of people. When I came to the Netherlands I discovered that there was a need for taking care of Scandinavian and Finnish clients coming here. Me noticing that was important, and proved to be very successful in terms of business.

Making traveling meaningful

Helping groups and individuals to organize their stay in the Netherlands — including everything from hotels to study visits — HEX Travel call themselves a full service company, with their main customers being corporate clients such as architects, city planners or municipalities. They make sure that anyone with an interest or purpose to visit the Netherlands gets that all-important extra level of service. — It is not about booking hotels, everyone can do that. It is about making our clients’ trips meaningful. We connect Scandinavian or Finnish companies with Dutch ones, so that they can meet and learn from each other, whatever business area they are in. And it has proved to be a successful format. “It is a language thing, but also a cultural thing”, Tuija continues, explaining that it is important to understand what Scandinavians prefer when coming to the Netherlands, but also what the Dutch culture and mentality is like. What is specific about Scandinavian and Nordics when they travel? — Well there are differences between the countries… With Swedish people you see that Fika is important. They have lots of coffee breaks and discussions before making decisions, meanwhile Finns tend to be quicker. And Norwegians tend to have a way of telling us basically ‘this is what we want and we want you to execute’.

Moving towards a sustainable future

Up until the corona pandemic, Tuija thought she had seen it all. But with global lockdowns and traveling restrictions, HEX Travel, like the rest of the traveling industry, took a big hit. “It was like pulling a plug, and then there was basically nothing”, she says.  Still, the Dutch-Scandinavian team manages to move forward and prepare for the future. “The traveling industry is going to come back”, Tuija ensures. In the past we saw that Amsterdam, for instance, suffered from the wrong kind of tourism. So together with the city of Amsterdam, but also internally, we have started to educate ourselves on how to create sustainable tourism with a GSTC Training Program. So that once people start traveling again, people can experience the destinations in the Netherlands in a better, more respectful way. 

A message to the Members

With many Swedish corporate clients traveling through them to the Netherlands, a membership in the Swedish Chamber was natural for HEX Travel. And in times like these, they seem to profit more from the membership than ever before.  — It has always been wonderful to see everything you do, from all the events to the newsletter. I know that we as a company profit from the relationship with the Swedish Chamber, and now we have had a lot more time to do so. As they patiently wait for traveling and tourism to return to normal, Hex Travel would like to communicate to all Chamber Members that they are accessible and ready to help with anything you need. — Even small things such as making dinner reservations, helping to get a Swedish guide for clients coming to visit companies in the Netherlands, or a recipe for a Smörgåstårta. Whatever they need, they can reach out to us. Website:   E-mail:    

Text: Jennifer Nilsson — The Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the Netherlands

Are you our new intern?

Are you our new intern for Autumn 2021?

[video width="1920" height="1080" mp4=""][/video]   In the video we have Marketing and Communication Trainee Jennifer Nilsson, Event and Program Management Trainee Gustaf Eriksson and Scholar Benjamin Selvani enjoying Amsterdam and the chamber office. The Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the Netherlands looks forward to welcoming a new intern to our office in Amsterdam for the period of 23 August 2021 – 10 January 2022. As an intern, you will be an important part of the team at the Chamber and contribute to the everyday operations of the entire organisation. The internship includes both specific duties to your internship role as well as supporting the office with administrative tasks. Click for more information about the internship and how to apply.
The Swedish Chamber Webinar The impact of the new Pension system in NL: Act now or wait until 2025?
Today the Swedish Chamber was proud to host the webinar “’The impact of the new Pension system in NL: Act now or wait until 2025’’ by Montae & Partners.   We would like to thank our accomplished speaker Theo Stam from Montae & Partners for sharing his expertise and experience. The message was very clear: - “Act now and don´t wait”. Make sure that we you are informed in time and make sure that your employees are involved. Communication during the entire process is important. All the details of the new legislation are not finished yet, but the basis of the new system is in place and there are subjects that needs attention already. Keep an eye on the important dates and be aware of that this project is extensive and time consuming, so start on time, says Theo Stam.  The Swedish Chamber of Commerce would like to thank Theo Stam for sharing his expertise and experience. A video of the presentation is available below. [video width="1020" height="880" mp4=""][/video]   Webinar recording below:
Economic impact of COVID-19 according to CBS
How are consumer prices developing? The consumer price index (CPI) was 1.8 percent higher in February than in the same month last year. The inflation rate still stood at 1.6 percent in January 2021. The increase in inflation is mainly due to the price development of motor fuels. In February, fuel prices were 0.7 percent higher than one year previously, while motor fuels were 5.4 percent cheaper in January year-on-year. Consumers paid an average of 1.676 euros per litre for petrol and 1.354 euros for diesel in February. In January, this was 1.615 euros and 1.289 euros per litre respectively. The price developments of clothing and energy also had an upward effect on inflation How is retail turnover developing? In January 2021, the Dutch retail sector recorded 5.9 percent year-on-year turnover decline. The volume of sales went down by 8 percent. However, due to the measures against the spread of coronavirus, there are great divergences within the sector. Turnover in the food sector rose by 8.6 percent, while turnover in the non-food sector shrank by 37.7 percent. In addition, online turnover increased by more than 92 percent in January.
Swedish Trade Minister Anna Hallberg: “Deglobalisation is an illusion”

Swedish Trade Minister: "Deglobalisation is an illusion" Free trade is under pressure, even in Europe. Sweden, among others, has explicitly spoken out against protectionist tendencies. "Embrace that we are globally dependent on each other."

Read full article in Dutch Source: NRC