Interview: Stora Enso - Insights into Sustainable Leadership Events

Stora Enso is a global leading provider of renewable materials. They wanted to embed sustainability principles throughout their organization. But how to successfully drive sustainability transformation with more than 20 thousand employees across the globe?

Stora Enso invited 200 of their top leaders to Holmenkollen, Oslo – a city leading by example aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 95% in 2030.

SEe Sustainability learning platform was created to inform, engage and inspire leaders to embed sustainability in their own teams. The goal of the event was to launch the platform and bring Stora Enso leaders together to reinvent themselves and their company while keeping sustainability in focus during event planning and production. Attendees collaborated in workshops, participated in panel discussions, and left the event with a concrete plan to make a positive impact within their teams and Stora Enso.

Feedback for the event exceeded all expectations with an event score of 9,5/10 and net promoter score being 88, making it the most successful Stora Enso leadership event to date.

We successfully demonstrated sustainability principles as we reduced and compensated CO2 emissions and made Stora Enso SEe Sustainability event completely carbon neutral.

We sat down with James Barr, the project lead for SEe Sustainability event, for an insightful interview to talk about the journey of event planning and the role of event partners.

What was your role at SEe Sustainability?

James: My role was to be the liaison point between our CEO and the group leadership team and trying to help bring all the content and the inspirational aspects of it together. I was our project manager working with NJ to really bring this to life. When you’ve got an event with 200 senior leaders, taking up several days of their time, it needs to be perfect. It had to be an event that they saw as really inspiring and worth everyone’s time.

What would you say to other companies looking to create sustainable events?

James: We recognize that sustainability is the core of our overall business strategy and it has to be front and center of all discussions and decision making.

First of all, where we really had great success, was inspiring people with outside stories. We had nine external speakers, all approaching sustainability from slightly different angles, and each of these inspired different people at our event. That was the biggest learning – not just having internal discussions on how we see sustainability, but really getting that outside-in perspective.

The second thing is you can’t have a sustainability-focused event if any aspect of the event appears not to be sustainable. So it goes without saying, but you can’t have plastic bottles lying around, you can’t have unsustainable logistics. You just can’t do things that go against the sustainable conversation that you’re having throughout the event. Go above and beyond what you think might be necessary in the whole participant journey to really make sure that it all feels very sustainable in itself. I think that’s very relevant.

What would you say are the most important aspects of selecting an event partner?

James: I think the most important thing for me was absolutely feeling confident that the event partner was on top of all the planning aspects. I think that’s absolutely the number one priority, that you feel everything is under control. Obviously a live event can be quite a stressful situation. You don’t want surprises. You need to feel that everything is under control. I think that’s always been my #1 focus in terms of who to go with.

There also has to be a good, trusted relationship. You need to be able to believe in each other and work with each other in an enjoyable as well as trusted way. It should be enjoyable so that we all have fun planning the event and then I think that also comes across to the participants. When you’re actually there, they can see that there is no stress and everyone is just enjoying with confidence it’s going to go well. And then participants also feel confident, relaxed and enjoy themselves.

How would you describe working with NJ Production?

James: I think there are three areas that I would highlight. One is a little bit linked to what I was just saying – I was always confident in NJ throughout the process. So right from the first meetings through to follow-ups after the event.

I think throughout NJ’s team, they’re always very professional, very organized. And I think one thing that stood out for me was that each individual took real ownership of their part, the responsibilities were very clear, and each person was committed to delivering a good result from their role, whatever it might have been. Always very confident in the planning and implementation.

The second thing was the creative aspect, and I think this wasn’t actually necessarily on the top of my agenda. But I love the fact that NJ came up with so many different inspiring ideas, be it around workshops and fun board games around sustainability, party themes in the evening or even the auditorium set up creating a really nice environment in what was not the most naturally advantageous room.

The third thing, which I mentioned a little bit earlier, was that the whole event was fun. Yeah, it was. The whole team always seem to be smiling, always seem to take positive stance and it was clear that everyone was enjoying what they did and then that made it easy for me as project manager to enjoy what I was doing. And it just felt a very easy, happy, positive process throughout.

In summary, I would just say that I really compliment NJ for pulling together such a great team and also creating a company culture that is extremely consistent and allows for this kind of performance from an events agency. I’ve never seen that before and it’s really quite impressive. So really congratulations!


SEe Sustainability succeeded in driving the sustainability transformation, uniting Stora Enso leaders and teams to play their part for our future.

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