During greenloop 2022, a unique conference focused on sustainability in the attractions industry, we heard from some of the biggest players in the industry. From Liseberg, one of the most visited amusement parks in Scandinavia, we heard from Maria Gimbro, purchasing and procurement specialist, who spoke about the opportunities and challenges of responsible purchasing and how her team is helping the park achieve its sustainability goals.
Celebrating 100 years at Liseberg
Gimbro joined Liseberg in 2013 and has over three decades of experience in public procurement and purchasing across a wide range of sectors. She started by giving some background about the park in Gothenburg, Sweden.
“Liseberg is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sweden. Since 1923, we have brought millions of people together to have fun in our amusement park, and next year, we will turn a staggering 100 years old.”
The park will celebrate this by opening a brand-new themed hotel, the Grand Curiosa in 2023, followed by its new Oceana Waterpark in 2024.
“This is a massive and historic expansion for Liseberg, which is owned by the city of Gothenburg. This differentiates us a bit from many other amusement parks in the world, and it also defines how we can behave when it comes to purchasing, as we have to apply something called the Public Procurement Act, a national law based on European Union directives.”
Public procurement is a purchasing process used by public sector organisations; a set of fairly strict and detailed rules on how to purchase.
“It means, in effect, that in public procurement we can not only consider the benefits arising for our own organisation, but we also have to look at the needs of the city as a whole,” explains Gimbro.
A long-term vision
For Liseberg, sustainability is about acting responsibly and with a long-term perspective.
“It’s about preserving our planet, and it’s about looking out for future generations. Sustainability is not only about the survival of the planet. I believe that it’s also about the survival of our business.
“We carried out a guest survey before the start of the pandemic, and the result was quite interesting. 92% of our guests said that it is important or very important that Liseberg works towards sustainable development. So that means that our guests are expecting us to take action and we have to take action. We have a long history and sustainability efforts have been made for a long time. But in recent years we have been working more systematically.”
Since 2018, Liseberg has been working towards an overall sustainability goal.
“By 2025, Liseberg will be a world leader in sustainable park operations. We work towards this overall goal from two perspectives. Firstly, we want to be a sustainability champion with high performance. But equally important are our efforts to lead by example. We want to inspire and help other parks to act more sustainably.”
Purchasing and sustainability at Liseberg
So, how does this overall goal affect the way that Liseberg purchases, and what does it mean to be a world leader in sustainable park operations?
“The Liseberg sustainability strategy includes five topics,” says Gimbro. “One of them is responsible purchasing. For us, this means that our guests shall be able to enjoy themselves with a clear conscience. They should feel confident that the products, services and experiences we offer are secure and fairly sourced in our procurements, with asset-appropriate environmental and social requirements.”
“For us, it is also about being careful with the company’s resources, since good finances are vital for long-term survival. So where do we start and what do we do? How did we go about to start working with this? Firstly, responsible purchasing for us is not a new process that lives a life on its own, parallel to other processes within the company.
“It’s not something that can be handled solely by a separate department, it’s more about putting on a different hat, looking at things differently and asking different questions. It’s a way of thinking, breathing and acting. It should permeate everything we do, including challenging our own behaviour in terms of the way we think, what we purchase and how we do it.
“In doing this, we can minimise environmental damage and safeguard certain social aspects such as equitable working conditions. Including sustainability requirements in public procurement is beneficial to the economy as well as to society as a whole.”
The purchasing team contributes to Liseberg’s sustainability goals by including sustainability requirements for all public procurements and monitoring those suppliers under contract for compliance.
“For us, it means also that at least 80% of products offered to our guests shall be eco-labelled or sustainable. This is a goal that we have set for 2025, a specific goal. So how do we do this before we start each procurement process? We put together a team in order to analyse our needs and the available suppliers in the market and what requirements can be met by them without raising prices excessively.”
“Sustainability requirements in our world are made up of environmental and social requirements, including human rights. We have our own code of conduct that imposes general requirements on suppliers. When it comes to business ethics, we expect all our suppliers to take active measures to counter bribery and corruption. The requirements are set on a case-by-case basis, depending on the product or service to be purchased.”
The challenges of responsible purchasing
In doing this work, Gimbro and her team inevitably meet challenges. Giving some examples, she says:
“As you can imagine, we buy a wide variety of goods and services. We enlist a large number of suppliers, from small specialist companies to international groups. So, we don’t have one supply chain and cannot define the supply chain. This is a huge challenge for us as we have limited resources working with these questions.”
“We also currently lack knowledge of all our supply chains. But, we are taking small steps one at a time by setting requirements, drawing up agreements and monitoring them. At the moment, we can only do this to the next link in the chain.
“Another challenge is that organisations like Liseberg are structured based on financial returns. We talk about performance, budget performance, the bottom line and so on. I think that this view needs to shift in order to achieve major breakthroughs. I could give examples within our own organisation where we couldn’t afford to choose the sustainable alternative due to harsh budget restrictions, partly thanks to the pandemic.”
Sustainability is a long-term commitment for Liseberg
For sustainability goals to be met successfully, Gimbro says that it must be a long-term commitment.
“You need to be structured, focused and collect resources. It’s not something you tick off the list and you can be done with it. It’s a moving target that drives continuous improvements.”
Being a part of Gothenburg City is also, in a way, a challenge, she adds:
“Sometimes we have to trade our own needs and goals for those which will be better for the city as a whole or the benefit for the city as a whole. But of course, at the same time, this is also an opportunity as the city’s central purchasing group draws up agreements that we can benefit from.”
This shows that, where there are challenges, there are also opportunities:
“We have still a lot of ground to cover and it’s very exciting. One area where we have identified that we can work much more deliberately is to engage and involve our suppliers early on. The suppliers sit on a lot of knowledge; they have innovation, and they have creativity. The same goes for our guests and employees. They sit on a lot of knowledge and they can come up with creative ideas that we can use during this work.”
The circular and sharing economy is currently a hot topic in the city of Gothenburg says Gimbro.
“Here, there are many opportunities. For instance, in equipping new offices, we can do it with circular or already used furniture. Instead of buying new mobile phones for employees, we can buy refurbished ones and so on. There are so many examples.
“We can also share resources between the companies within the city of Gothenburg, which is another interesting thing to work with.”
In addition, the park itself is a desirable storefront for suppliers:
“We meet a lot of guests, so they have an excellent possibility to showcase their products and services here. We are a big buyer in certain areas. This makes it easy for us to get a lot of interest and have an interesting dialogue with suppliers.”
A structured approach
In order to purchase responsibly, Gimbro and her team need to address these opportunities and challenges in a structured way.
“What are we trying to achieve here? Obviously, we want to meet regulations. We need to reduce our risks and satisfy stakeholders. We have identified a number of SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] that we want to realise.”
“This has been done on an organisational level. What we need to do now, and what we have done already, is to translate this into sustainable procurement strategies; goals for our procurement and purchasing activities. We have to focus on what we buy, and who we buy from.
“By mapping all of this, we can get a better insight into what we need, and where we need to be. We are currently working with category management in order to get a better knowledge of our supply markets. We have identified many hotspots and we’re currently setting purchasing strategies within a number of purchasing category families, F&B being a very big one.”
Sustainability in action at Liseberg
To finish, Gimbro gives three specific examples.
“The first one has to do with Christmas trees. Every year we decorate our park with 1500 trees to make it into a magical winter wonderland. The challenge we have met in the past is that it can be a conservative industry, with resistance to change and new suppliers. Internally, we lacked knowledge of possible suppliers, how the industry was organised and how Christmas trees are grown.”
“We decided that we needed to do something. So, we conducted market analysis. We visited a number of farmers to learn more about possibilities and challenges, growth rates and so on. Then, in order to meet all the challenges, we created a new set-up with a long contract period of ten years. This would enable contractors to switch to more organic farming methods.
“We gradually increased the number of eco-labelled trees, starting with 5% and building up to 80% by 2025. We actually reached the 2025 target already during the first year of delivery, which was absolutely amazing.”
Christmas trees, branded clothing and sustainable ice-cream
Another example is branded clothing.
“Our employees are now dressed in new clothes that have been purchased or procured with sustainability as the main driving factor when choosing a supplier. We had a list of requirements and qualifiers that suppliers needed to fulfil in order to be awarded a contract and we found a very interesting supplier who could deliver on all this.”
Finally, Gimbro talks about how her team changed the procurement for a classic amusement park experience: ice cream.
“Again, we had a lot of new requirements in the procurement process. But we found a local supplier who has a new factory, which is powered by 100% renewable energy. They also have very short transport routes and a low staff turnover.”
Sustainability lessons from Liseberg
Talking about the lessons that Liseberg has learned during this process, Gimbro says:
“We needed to find our hotspots to focus on and build our cases out of category management. In order to be successful, we need to secure the resources needed for sustainability. We need knowledge, commitment, time, and finance. It’s important to engage on a broad level. Sustainability is not a department, you need everyone on board.”
“It’s important to balance structure and culture. Everything counts, no matter how small a suggestion or creative solution you come up with. Make sure you give room for creativity, for small initiatives as well as big ones.
“It’s also important to manage and communicate what you do, what gets measured and what gets done. Your sustainability work will make your colleagues proud and happy. Storytelling is very important; don’t forget to inspire one another.”