Principal, Edlund Consulting Ltd.
In business as in sports, we honor the competitive application of acquired skills, applied against fair and measurable criteria. Sports, at its best, is performance through dedication. Ethics in sports is mostly associated with the absence of cheating by athletes and teams. And when people in business use sports language to motivate their teams, they mostly talk about winning fairly. Sadly, in sports organizations as in business enterprises, the power of the purse can obscure the focus on fairness. Money is a dangerous lure, and the only prevention – and cure – is transparency; and a set of behavioral rules just as strict and immutable as the time keeper or scoreboard that tell winners from runners-up and losers on the field.
- Vice President, EMEA, Arthur W. Page Society
- Trustee and Member of the International Advisory Board, Institute of Human Rights and Business
- Visiting Fellow, Henley Business School
Björn Edlund’s focus is the role of business in society. As Head of Communications, over a period of more than 20 years he worked with 11 CEOs in three issues-rich companies, Sandoz/Novartis, ABB and Shell. He retired for age reasons from Royal Dutch Shell in 2010, after nearly five years of reputation recovery and corporate positioning.
As a consultant, Edlund advises corporate clients and civil society sector leaders. He teaches, writes and speaks on communications and leadership as well as on advanced stakeholder management, with a special emphasis on business and human rights.
From October 2011 until October 2014, Edlund was Non-Executive Chairman Europe, Middle East and Africa at Edelman, a part time position. Since January 2015, he serves as part-time international outreach executive for the Arthur W. Page Society, a professional organization dedicated to advancing the leadership role of the chief communications officer.
Edlund is acknowledged as a trailblazer in the profession. In 2009, he was among the first EMEA recipients of the SABRE Awards, a recognition for lifetime achievements in branding and reputation management. In 2013, he became the first non-US recipient of the Alexander Hamilton Medal, bestowed by the Institute for Public Relations to those who have advanced the profession, and in 2015 he was inducted into the Arthur W. Page Hall of Fame.
At Shell, Edlund was responsible for the global energy group’s worldwide reputation management, internally and externally. He devised and implemented an integrated communications program centered on key themes and rebuilt the global function into cross-business, country-based and regionally connected units geared to provide better, proactive business support through more focused messaging and enhanced stakeholder interactions.
Edlund came to Shell from ABB Ltd, where he headed communications from early 1998 until October 2005, adding the leadership of sustainability affairs from early 2005. During the turnaround years of ABB 2001-2003, he was intimately involved in refocusing the company on its core businesses. At the time, ABB grappled with serious strategic, financial, structural and cultural issues. On behalf of the chairman and CEO, Edlund also led a project to rebuild the values framework guiding the behavior of ABB’s more than 100,000 employees.
Edlund drove the integration of corporate responsibility and other sustainability aspects into ABB’s business planning and practices, adding human rights considerations to business risk assessments and closely engaging stakeholders in annual dialogues in the main countries.
Edlund was a co-founder, in 2003, of the Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights, a multi-company project aimed at helping business integrate human rights responsibilities into day-to-day practices. He also helped found the Institute for Human Rights and Business in 2009, where he serves as a Trustee and board member since 2010.
Edlund has been working in business communications since 1989, when he joined The Rowland Company, a U.S. communications agency, as a senior consultant based in Zurich.
Swiss chemical-pharmaceuticals group Sandoz AG recruited him in 1992 to head its global communications network. After Sandoz merged with Ciba to form Novartis in 1996, Edlund set up his own communications consultancy. Clients included Novartis, Schering pharmaceuticals of Berlin, Philip Morris Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and from early 1998 the ABB Group.
Edlund grew up in Sweden and studied history and political science at Stockholm University. After moving to Switzerland, he became a secondary school teacher, and taught secondary school in Basel. He began his international career in news agency journalism in 1977 as a staff correspondent for United Press International in Sweden. He later served as UPI’s news editor in Germany and bureau chief in Spain. He covered politics, general news, wars, sports and human-interest stories. His sorties included reporting from Lebanon 1978 during the civil war, from Poland during the Solidarity uprising in 1980 and in early 1982 after the democracy movement had been quashed. Other key stories included Spain’s transition to democracy and the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Edlund organized UPI’s 1982 soccer world cup coverage in Spain.
In 1983, he joined Reuters in London as a World Desk editor and later that year was posted to Mexico as Chief Correspondent. He also served for a period as Reuters News Editor, Latin America and the Caribbean, and for two years as Chief Correspondent in Germany. With Reuters, Björn led text and news picture coverage of the civil wars in Central America, Argentina’s newfound democracy, the opposition to General Augusto Pinochet’s rule in Chile, the ouster of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier in Haiti, Brazil’s development, and natural disasters including the 1986 earthquake in Mexico City and a landslide that killed 20,000 people at Armero in Colombia. Other highlights included President Reagan’s historic trip to West Berlin in 1988, the agricultural reforms of the European Community, and reporting from Teheran after the downing of an Iran Air jetliner over the Gulf by a U.S. warship. He organized and led the coverage of the 1986 world soccer cup in Mexico, and reported from the Olympic Games in Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988.
Björn Edlund works in English, German, Spanish and French, as well as in his native Swedish. He and his Swiss wife Veronika, a physiotherapist, have homes near Basel, in France and in Sweden. Their multi-lingual daughter Rebekka, who holds an MA from Basel University, is a Spanish and English teacher in Sweden.