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VD: Anna Malmhake
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A STORY ABOUT PEOPLE
BACK IN 1979, A FEW DARING ENTREPRENEURS MANAGED TO BRING AN UNKNOWN SWEDISH VODKA ONTO THE HIGHLY COMPETITIVE U.S. MARKET. THE NAME OF THE NEW BRAND WAS ABSOLUT VODKA AND IT QUICKLY BECAME THE NATURAL CHOICE FOR THE COOL VODKA DRINKER. FOLLOWING AN ICONIC AD CAMPAIGN WITH ANDY WARHOL, ABSOLUT VODKA ESTABLISHED ITSELF AS A WAY OF LIFE – ONE INTIMATELY CONNECTED WITH ART, DESIGN, FASHION AND CREATIVITY THAT IS STILL TRUE TO THIS DAY.
SINCE 2008, THE ABSOLUT COMPANY HAS BEEN A PART OF THE PERNOD RICARD GROUP, GROWING ITS PORTFOLIO TO INCLUDE SEVERAL NEW BRANDS. WE ARE NOW A GLOBAL INDUSTRY LEADER, KNOWN FOR OUR FAST-MOVING, AGILE WAY OF DOING THINGS, AND WE ARE PROUD TO SAY THAT ONE VITAL INGREDIENT HAS ALWAYS REMAINED AT THE HEART OF OUR SUCCESS: THE PASSION AND PERSEVERANCE OF OUR PEOPLE.
WHO WE ARE
GREAT BRANDS ARE BUILT BY GREAT PEOPLE – AND AS A GLOBAL INDUSTRY LEADER, THE PASSION AND PERSEVERANCE OF OUR PEOPLE LIES AT THE VERY CORE OF OUR SUCCESS. WE STAY TRUE TO OUR PURPOSE, WHICH CONNECTS OUR VALUES, OUR CULTURE, AND OUR PEOPLE TO AIM FOR GREATNESS.
AROUND THE WORLD WE SHARE RESPONSIBLY AND ACT SUSTAINABLY
At The Absolut Company, our ethos is grounded in the philosophy of one source and one community. We are driven by a passion for progression, and to take a stance in areas where we can make a difference.
We believe that with great brands comes great responsibility. Taking responsibility is a way of
building competitive advantage and achieving sustainable business success.
All businesses and people alike have a responsibility to monitor and work in a sustainable way – it is not only beneficial but also everyone’s responsibility to be part of creating a world we would like to live in.
Our products have different starting points and we draw on their unique strengths, needs, and opportunities to protect the environment and the places where our products are made.
We also support the people we work with and encourage responsible consumption. This work requires continuous improvement and effort from all of us. Together we create the world we want to live in. Passionate people make a difference.
”WE ARE CONSTANTLY LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE AND TRYING TO STAY AHEAD OF WHAT’S NEW.”
TINA ROBERTSSON, DIRECTOR PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT & REALISATION AND R&D
TINA ROBERTSSON IS THE DIRECTOR PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT & REALISATION AND R&D. FOR MORE THAN 10 YEARS SHE WAS THE DIRECTOR OF QUALITY & ENVIRONMENT AND HER PASSION FOR INNOVATION AND SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS STILL IS REFLECTED IN EVERYTHING SHE DOES HERE AT THE ABSOLUT COMPANY. TODAY SHE IS LEADING A TEAM, BASED BOTH IN ÅHUS AND STOCKHOLM, WORKING WITH REALISATION AND QUALITY ASSURANCE OF NEW AND EXISTING PRODUCTS.
YOUR TITLE IS FANTASTIC BUT VERY LONG. CAN YOU HELP US DECODE IT?
Ha ha! Well, I work together with an excellent team of colleagues with a wide range of knowledge and experiences, and we are constantly looking into the future and trying to stay ahead of what’s new. Among the things we do is to visit trade shows, conduct research and address every question around what’s happening in the world of new products, bottling, packaging and labelling. It’s our job to stay on top of those things in order to help our colleagues turn new ideas into reality. We also support the various departments in ongoing product development. That’s a short summary of what we do regarding Product Development & Realisation.
THERE IS MORE?
Oh yes! Then we have Research & Development where we, among other things, have our own chemists and a research lab. Together we work to gain in-depth knowledge and a better understanding about different production methods, raw materials and flavours. This is a very important part of the process in product development and we collaborate as much as we can with other brands and departments within The Absolut Company. One example is our new ready to drink-product that we have launched, together with the Malibu and Kahlúa team, as they have valuable insights and experiences in this field. Quality assurance of the wet goods is also an important part of our responsibility and this gives us awareness, depth and an overall insight from seed to sip.
YOU TALK ABOUT THE VALUE IN COLLABORATION A LOT. WHY IS THAT?
I think it’s crucial. We need to be open to new partnerships, both internal and external. You get better results that way and it makes work more fun and you don’t get narrow-minded. I’m glad that we have a culture within The Absolut Company that is open and that we are not afraid of finding partners to work with even outside of the company.
SPEAKING ABOUT CULTURE IN THE WORK PLACE, CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT WORKING HERE?
People are passionate about what they do, which I love. It is inspiring and gives me energy. We also care about each other. We celebrate together and we help each other when times are tough. I also like the fact that we are good at learning from our mistakes. This encourages people to dare and it promotes innovation which in turn drives growth. A true recipe for success.
LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE, WHAT WILL WE SEE MORE OF IN THE COMING YEARS REGARDING PACKAGING IN OUR BUSINESS?
Better solutions regarding sustainable packaging. We are working a lot on how to minimize our environmental footprint. One issue is recycling our glass bottles. The challenge here is that not that many countries are as good as we are here in Sweden when it comes to recycling glass. Therefore, we focus a lot of our efforts in the U.S, which is a big market for us, in helping different states to develop better systems for recycling.
WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION REGARDING THESE TYPES OF ISSUES?
I tend to look at both major brands and smaller companies. For instance, it’s inspiring to see how companies like IKEA and Coca-Cola really are making a difference when they decide to implement their new sustainability programs and ideas in big scale. This puts pressure on, and inspire, others to follow which is great for all of us. Also, I love smaller brands like Houdini, who produce great looking sportswear products with as little environmental impact as possible. It’s not a CSR program for them, it’s part of their core business idea. We have a high profile regarding our sustainable work and we will continue to have that.
ANNE ENGER, ECO-DESIGN AND SUSTAINABILITY BUSINESS MANAGER
WHAT STARTED AS A MOVEMENT HAS EVOLVED TO BEING A GIVEN TOPIC WITHIN CORPORATIONS, SUCH IS THE CASE WITH SUSTAINABILITY. SO WHAT IS IT LIKE WORKING WITH SUSTAINABILITY THESE DAYS IN A MULTI-NATIONAL ORGANIZATION? ANNE ENGER IS ONE OF THE INDIVIDUALS WHO IS DRIVEN BY THE RESPONSIBILITY AND CHALLENGE OF ENSURING SUSTAINABILITY, AND SHE LOVES IT. SHE REALLY LOVES IT.
THERE’S NEVER BEEN SUCH A LARGE FOCUS ON SUSTAINABLE CORPORATIONS AS THERE IS TODAY. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
You’re right. I think there are a lot of external factors that are forcing businesses to take action today, I believe the climate meeting in Paris 2015 was important. Large companies want to increasingly take their responsibility. You see it with the younger generation entering working life as well; they want to actively do the right thing. Working with sustainability requires a different mind-set and new working methods. I believe that those companies, who don’t adjust their business will in the long-run, risk their survival.
DO YOU THINK ORGANIZATIONS CAN MAKE A REAL IMPACT WHEN IT COMES TO SUSTAINABILITY?
Absolutely! The Absolut Company is one of the largest exporting food companies in Sweden and in Åhus, where our distillery is, we’ve already done a lot. Our production is climate neutral today, and by reducing the amount of glass in the new designed bottle, we succeeded in decreasing emissions even further. As for the future, we have a sustainability vision and long-term goals when it comes energy efficiency, and resource use, and we now have a cross-functional steering committee to make sure those goals are implemented throughout the company.
HAS SUSTAINABILITY ALWAYS BEEN CENTRAL TO YOU AND YOUR WORK?
When I’m working I want to make sure to have a purpose and make a difference. But no, sustainability hasn’t always been the way in which I’ve channeled that passion. But since my generation and generations before mine have lived beyond our natural resources, it’s now our responsibility to fix it, and I want to be a part of that transformation. But I do enjoy nature a lot - horse riding is a great passion of mine.
HORSE RIDING SEEMS TO BE REALLY POPULAR AT THE ABSOLUT COMPANY, SOMETHING IN THE WATER?
Haha! Well it is a large sport in Sweden. I don’t know if there’s anything to it, but of course horse riding is more than just riding - there’s a lot of hard work, endurance and responsibility involved – which are also key factors when working with sustainability. You probably do three hours of manual labor for one hour of horse riding. Maybe there’s a type of a person who enjoys working with horses and working at The Absolut Company.
HAS THE ATTITUDE TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY CHANGED AT ALL SINCE YOU STARTED?
Absolutely. As I mentioned before, many years of hard work in Åhus has established a mind-set of sustainability throughout the organization. Today, responsibility and sustainability is driven by a passion that can be felt everywhere in the office. The drive comes from within each employee and I think that’s the only way to truly make an impact and a difference. I think it’s fantastic that sustainability is now one of the core aspects of the company’s communication strategy. We want to be open and transparent, which means we are open to being challenged, and that motivates us to continuously improve our efforts within sustainability. Otherwise we risk doing nothing, and that’s the biggest risk of all.
EMPOWER OUR EMPLOYEES
Being a company that produces and sells alcoholic beverages, it is crucial to take responsibility and act as a good example. Therefore, The Absolut Company has a policy for employees on the use of alcohol. Within that, there are guidelines for employees and management on how to act within the company.
To build a company that can meet future challenges and consumer needs, the workforce needs to be diverse. Differences enrich the workplace and promote creativity, and The Absolut Company has set high targets on creating balanced teams. The company undertakes various actions to meet this goal such as strengthening support for female leadership or ensuring diversity in recruitment and education of employees.
To get a balanced workforce it’s essential to focus on increasing the number of female managers. We set an ambitious goal of having a 50/50 gender balance among all managers by 2018, and we have already reached that goal. Today, we not only have a 50/50 gender balance on our Executive Committee, but across all management levels at the company. We also aim to be more diverse in other aspects, such as age, different backgrounds, and nationality for example.
"TO BUILD A COMPANY THAT CAN MEET FUTURE CHALLENGES AND CONSUMER NEEDS, THE WORKFORCE NEEDS TO BE DIVERSE"
Besides working for greater diversity, The Absolut Company also puts a lot of effort into improving the health and well-being of its employees. We work together with a consultancy group that specializes in stress management. We contracted them for some specific cases, in which a few of our employees needed help with managing stress.
The company strives to constantly develop and improve the management and leadership at the company. By monitoring the well-being through employee surveys, the results and progressions are mapped each year. In that survey, aspects such as empowerment, innovation, and working environment are measured. The results are used to map the areas where there is still room for improvement and provides a stepping stone for the company to make our working environment even better in following years.
CREATIVE AND PROGRESSIVE THINKERS MAKE OUR COMPANY THRIVE
All from the start, the founders of Absolut and of Pernod Ricard, have built their success by being creative and progressive thinkers – thereby making their companies thrive. In today’s decentralized and entrepreneurial culture, people who want to make a difference are still the key to success. And the company relies on the good judgment of each and everyone.
By empowering and investing in employees, providing flexible work arrangements and learning schemes, the company is now a workplace where employees are encouraged to grow. The Absolut Company perceives its people as ambassadors for the sustainability work, with the goal that the company and its employees work as role models in the industry.
All employees are educated in the company’s sustainability strategy and actions, and they are also engaged in the company’s sustainability work. One such activity is the annual Responsib’All Day, a global initiative within the Group. More than 18 000 employees in 80 countries participate. This day is the opportunity to highlight yearlong Pernod Ricard initiatives and share the five industry commitments on responsible drinking. Furthermore, all employees have the possibility to volunteer during work hours, in organizations, schools or projects with the ambition to improve the sustainability.
The Absolut Company focus a lot on diversity, on balanced teams. Diversity – in terms of gender,
age, nationality, background, leadership style, personality type and other attributes – is key to building creative teams.
The company has set a goal of having a 50/50 gender split among all managers by 2018.
The company search for and try to attract candidates who will increase diversity within the organization.
Every other year, all employees respond to a survey on how they experience the working environment and their work situations. The latest survey, in June 2015, showed progress in 9 out of 14 areas.
The Absolut Company - a proud part of Pernod Ricard
PERNOD RICARD HAS A LONG TRADITION OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND INNOVATION, SO IT’S NO SURPRISE THAT THE ABSOLUT COMPANY HAS FOUND A NATURAL PLACE AMONG PERNOD RICARD’S STABLE OF BRANDS. TOGETHER, OUR GROUP IS A WORLD LEADER IN PREMIUM SPIRITS.
We are proud to have such a strong portfolio of innovative brands. In addition to Absolut Vodka, Pernod Ricard entrusted The Absolut Company with the global management of both Malibu and Kahlúa in 2009. The focus on innovation has generated several product developments since then as well as the two entirely new brands, Absolut Elyx and Our/Vodka, built solely from our own passionate intrapreneurs.
Our head office in Sweden’s capital city of Stockholm employs 200 people, who handle all strategic brand management and innovation for our portfolio. The Absolut Company also employs staff in Canada and the United States. Together, we strive for innovation in everything we do.
Just like in the early days, Absolut Vodka is still produced in the small town of Åhus, where the company has 300 employees. From that single source, 99 percent of all Absolut Vodka is then sold abroad, making it Sweden's single largest export product in the food category.
The Absolut Company is one of six brand companies within Pernod Ricard. The brand companies manufacture and develop products, and define the global marketing strategy, while the market companies adapt their strategy for the local markets. Pernod Ricard’s extensive distribution network entails 80 market companies covering more than 150 markets worldwide. Brand companies and market companies both report to Pernod Ricard Holding, a listed private equity company that is responsible for the overall strategy of the group and is headquartered in Paris. So in essence, the word “glocal” fits pretty nicely to our company.