DANISH BUSINESS ETHICS: They also consider the environment and social bottomlines
Malaysian companies intending to do business with the Danes be forewarned: they generally follow a set of business ethics that do not necessarily hinge on the profit bottomline.
Lest it be misconstrued that Danish companies abjure dividends from investments, they set three bottomlines for themselves: the environmental, the social, and, of course, profits.
Thankfully for all, profits are still very much in the equation but balanced against everything else that keeps society honest, healthy and happy.
I stumble upon this unique business model at the 22nd floor office of Ambassador of Denmark to Malaysia Nicolai Ruge at the Sunway Tower in Jalan Ampang where minutes earlier we had embarked on a discussion on how Danes do business at home and abroad.
It is a pleasant discovery for me which sets me to immediately think of how this can filter down the ranks of businessmen in Malaysia, some of whom are still saddled by the belief that the only bottomline to business is money.
I am convinced at this point that it is an equally gratifying experience for newly arrived Ruge who is eager to tell Malaysia about Denmark and the Danish way of life which has always piqued the interest of people around the globe.
The forty-something envoy with some Asian experience by way of Vietnam and Papua New Guinea explains that the triple bottomline is intrinsic to most Danish business models as their way of giving back to the society in which they do business.
The most recent, and visible, example of a company engaging in this slightly alien business philosophy to Malaysian entrepreneurs is that of pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk signing on the dotted lines with the Health Ministry to change the face of diabetes among mothers and children here.
The interestingly named “Jom Mama” (let’s get going, mum, in Bahasa Malaysia) programme seeks to improve the health of young mothers-to-be before and during pregnancy by way of a healthy diet and physical activity.
It will also attempt to try to increase healthy literacy and encourage adoption of healthy choices by young couples.
Altogether, these principles represent a set of against-the-grain policies willingly undertaken by a commercial entity that using conventional wisdom would rightly have been trying to cash in on the ever-growing rate of diabetes among Malaysians.
“Novo is carrying out an interesting collaboration with the Malaysian Ministry of Health to reduce diabetes among mothers and their children,” he says, clearly proud that a Danish company has embarked on such a venture.
Ruge has very much more to be proud of as there are more than 60 Danish companies operating in Malaysia, some of whom are familiar names like Carlsberg (of the long, cool, Dane fame), shipping giant Maersk, United Plantations Berhad, and, of course, Novo.
According to embassy statistics, Danish exports to Malaysia in 2011 amounted to RM600 million while imports from Malaysia stood at RM760 million.
Danish exports to Malaysia are primarily monopolised by machinery, food products and medicinal and pharmaceutical products while renewable energy and the environment and ICT are also being promoted.
He feels the “rejuvenated” Malaysia-Denmark Business Council (he is a board member) can play an important role in expanding trade ties between the two countries.
It is time to ask him about his first ambassadorial posting here which comes on the tail of two lesser postings in Asia.
“I applied for Malaysia as I was very much attracted by the multi-racial character of the country,” he says, adding that he has been busy over the past five months getting to know the local political, economic and cultural terrain.
His personal agenda for this year in Malaysia is to promote bilateral diplomatic relations and trade, play an effective role in consular affairs and engage in public diplomacy.
“I have been going full steam ahead since arriving here, talking to Danish companies here on how we can take trade to new heights,” says the envoy who is also accredited to the Philippines.
A unique aspect of the Danish embassy’s responsibility here is that it also issues visas to Sweden, Norway and Iceland.
Ruge, a self-confessed fitness enthusiast, with interest in cycling (he has brought his bicycle with him), golf and tennis. And there is also badminton, which he plays and which Danes excel in for some unexplained reason.
I remind him of the historical rivalry between Malaysia and Denmark in this sport with both fighting tooth and nail for victory over the years in major international competitions.
The south Indian food-loving diplomat, who finds local greenery refreshing and traffic confusing, flashes a whimsical smile at this as though saying that his side may have lost a few battles but that the war was certainly not over.
In true Viking spirit, Ruge can be expected to give his all like his countrymen in taking Denmark-Malaysia relations to new heights.