Swedcham at
70 years young

In March 1953, a group of insightful business leaders, all working for Swedish businesses in Brazil, met at the Matarazzo building in downtown São Paulo. They wanted to find ways to further strengthen the already close ties between Sweden

and Brazil – and their meeting became the start of Swedcham. If they were to appear again today, 70 years later, I believe they would be pleased to see that Swedcham continues to stands solid in 2023.

My own part of that history began in 2009, when I was appointed Managing Director. I had little business background, but the board, led by chair Christer Manhusen, assured me that professional networking and competence development was more important to the Chamber than business consulting. I am still here – and still see this is one of the best jobs anyone can have.

I was just a few years into the job when I received an invitation to meet with Queen Silvia, who in 2011 was back in her childhood hometown of São Paulo. She asked me about our work, how Swedish business was doing in Brazil, and her curiosity and extensive

São Paulo’s famous Matarazzo
building in the 1950s. It housed
offices for Uddeholm, Cia. T Janér
– and Swedcham’s first!

King Carl XVI Gustaf visited Swedcham
in 2017. Here with then Chairman
Nils Grafström (center) and Managing
Director Jonas Lindström (right).

knowledge left a mark on me, that to this day influences how I look at our work at Swedcham.

The job often swings from inspirational conversations to large events. I remember well when Volvo Ocean Race came to Rio de Janeiro. Ericsson celebrated 85 years in Brazil and had two boats in the race that year, with Brazil’s Torben Grael as skipper of one. During the stopover, Ericsson organized a luncheon to benefit Childhood Foundation, with Crown Princess Victoria as guest of honor. And as we know, Torben Grael and his team went on to win the race.

Grand events like that abound when I look back. There were the Nobel Prize Dialogues in 2013, the Football World Cup in 2014, the Olympic Games in 2016, the Global Child Forum in 2017 and the SEB Nordic CEO Conference in 2019. The Chamber participated in all these events. For the Olympics, the Swedish Embassy and Swedcham hosted a gala dinner in Rio, filled with Swedish and Brazilian design. “This is magic,” whispered the Queen as I accompanied her to her seat.

Then again, meetings smaller in scale often leave just as much impact. Such as when King Carl Gustav visited the Chamber in 2017, where he sat down with a group of Swedish startups in Brazil. A bit of a nightmare for the security teams, though, as the King insisted on walking from the hotel to the Chamber.

Over these years, the Chamber has grown in size and scope.

We are, for instance, members of the Swedish Chambers International (SCI), an organization of 24 Swedish Chambers abroad, where I sit on the board. In 2019, SCI launched the annual Global Business Climate Surveys, together with Business Sweden.

In Brazil, we have also launched a Young Professionals section in 2012, where we work to create links between Brazilian and Swedish youth and Swedish companies and universities. There is the annual CareerFair, and in 2023, we’re launching a mentorship program that pairs 30 young talents with executives from Swedish companies in Brazil.

Our online presence has of course grown over the years, with live webcasts and active social media channels. These initiatives became essential building blocks during the lockdown years of the pandemic. We became 100% digital in a matter of weeks. Today, we run hybrid events, with room for 60 in our auditorium in Jardins in São Paulo and the rest of the world online. By the way, in a recent such “digital fika,” skipper Torben Grael joined to update us all on what had passed since Volvo Ocean Race in 2009.

As we look forward, the Chamber will continue its work, looking at how business and technology can bring people together. Peace, democracy, free trade, sustainability, and social equality can only be achieved through open and constructive dialogue – and you can count on our continued work to offer platforms for such communication.

In this work, my deep thanks to my chairman Sergio Quiroga, our diversified and qualified board, and my small but efficient staff – and above all, to all our members.

Let’s continue writing history – together!