Two initial projects (Project 1 and Project 2) were carried out from 2015-2018 with funding from the Hugo Carlsson Foundation for Scientific Research.

Following up on the two initial projects, Vinnova – Sweden’s Innovation Agency – is now funding a third project that brings together SEI, Jernkontoret the Swedish software developer Foxway and the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence in a joint effort to use the SDGs to ensure that strategic decisions contribute societal value.

Background and Project 1: Swedish steel industry for increased societal value

In 2013, the Swedish steel industry presented a long-term vision for 2050 outlining the active role that the industry intended to play in the shift towards a sustainable society. The vision lays out three commitments: 1) to lead technical development, 2) to nurture creative individuals, and 3) to produce nothing but societal value.

Initiated in 2014, the collaboration between SEI and  Jernkontoret was grounded in the question of how the steel industry could deliver on the third commitment – that all output from the industry should contribute to societal value creation.

A set with four explorative scenarios was developed to analyse how the industry, and society at large, could be affected by a wide array of external factors and uncertainties, such as globalisation, individualisation, digitalisation, urbanisation and climate change. The scenario set served as the starting point for identifying a range of strategic measures with potential to contribute to societal value creation. These measures were subsequently combined into portfolios of strategic options that were further condensed a 10-point action plan for the steel industry’s vision on societal value .

The project showed that a focus on delivering societal value could give the Swedish industry further competitive edge in global markets, and that by working closely with other Swedish and international stakeholders the industry would be well placed to contribute to a global sustainability transition.

Project 2: Methodology and toolbox development

In response to the conclusions from the first project, the second project was started in 2016 to develop methodology and a toolkit for guiding the industry’s research, product and process development towards creating societal value, and to stimulate discussion in and beyond the industry about the concept of societal value creation.

Based on SEI research on how multiple Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets interact in a given context, the project delivered a prototype “Agenda 2030 compass” for assessing the potential societal value of a new product or production process. The methodology consists of a workshop-based process for structured assessment of a certain intervention’s potential direct impacts across all the SDGs. The assessment is subsequently run through the compass tool to analyse how the direct impacts translates into indirect impacts across all SDGs taking into account contextual factors.

The prototype compass was finally piloted on a number of real-world cases showing on its utility to help in the assessment of different courses of action by placing the complexity of multiple interactions in a tool that supports a teamwork-based assessment. While the compass was developed for the steel industry the methodology is generic and can be used by any actor in business and government.

Project 3: The Agenda 2030 Compass for strategic decision-making

The third project, that started in December 2018, is moving the Agenda 2030 Compass from prototype stage to development stage to fit global actors. This tool will aid organizations’ decision-making.

The Agenda 2030 Compass is based on all the SDGs and analyses how the different goals and targets affect each other. In this way, it can quantify, visualize and compare how different action options contribute social value as measured through the SDGs. A measure can contribute positively to several goals at the same time but also have negative effects on some others, for example, a certain effort for increased public health can increase gender equality and economic activity but produce increased emissions.

As with the previous projects, this project will be carried out in a co-creation process with industry, public authorities, academia and civil society. Key actors with a special mandate to work towards the SDGs will play an important role as stakeholders. The results of the project will be possible to use for strategic decision-making in business sectors, within governments, for research and civil society organizations to assess the societal value impacts from investment options, research strategies and policy development.

SEI, the Swedish Steel Producers’ Association and the Swedish steel industry have for several years collaborated around the concept of societal value; what it means, how to measure it and get it to control future investments. This is a unique initiative in which a heavy industry, in cooperation with researchers and leading social actors, analyses how decisions about investments or measures affect the conditions for achieving all the goals of Agenda 2030.