The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) is Sweden’s largest and most influential business federation representing 49 member organizations and 60 000 member companies with over 1.6 million employees. It was founded in 2001 through the merger between the Swedish Employers’ Confederation (SAF, founded in 1902) and the Federation of Swedish Industry (SI, founded in 1910).
Close to 70 percent of the Confederation’s member companies have fewer than 10 employees, while only 1.5 percent have 250 employees or more. While virtually all of Sweden’s multinationals are members, these figures reflect the great number of small, entrepreneurial companies in Sweden’s thriving business environment.
In a nation with a long tradition of strong unions and a government committed to an egalitarian society, the role of the Confederation is critical in protecting, supporting and promoting the interests of businesses as well as in creating broad popular support for the value and importance of enterprise. A key Confederation position is that businesses are crucial for the existence of a prosperous society.
The long tradition of highly centralized relations with government and labor has given the confederation a unique role in the Swedish society and it is difficult to compare it with business organizations outside the Nordic countries.
The Confederation’s long-term goal is to help Sweden regain its leading position in the OECD prosperity league, where its position of 4th place has been slipping since 1970. To achieve this goal, the Confederation asserts that a world-class business environment is essential for allowing enterprises to grow and constantly create more new jobs.
Although the Confederation does engage in lobbying for specific issues, the momentum behind building a better business climate is largely a result of the efforts of the confederation in the public policy arena and of member businesses’ involvement and commitment when it comes to influencing public opinion.
A majority of those in the Swedish labor market are covered by a collective agreement covering wages and work conditions. Each member association in the Confederation negotiates separately with its respective union to arrive at mutually satisfying agreements. The Confederation plays a major role throughout this process in providing support and a structure for employer issues both when member organizations participate in negotiations and also when member companies are financially hurt by labor market disputes.
Member organizations communicate with and counsel their member companies directly. The Confederation provides a deep well of resources through reports, newsletters, research papers, its monthly magazine and its information-rich website.
The Confederation also acts as an advocate for business issues by arranging seminars and conferences, and by working closely with schools and the business community. It also supports a vast spectrum of research projects and conducts surveys.
The Confederation provides its members with expert knowledge in a number of areas including labor market and law, taxes, corporate law and intellectual property, economics and macro analysis, constitutional and legal protection, security and risk management, and trade policy. Other important areas of expertise include competition, education and learning, research and training, climate and energy, environment and market oriented solutions in the welfare sector.
In addition to its headquarters in central Stockholm, the Confederation has 21 regional offices throughout Sweden, as well as an office in Brussels.
The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise acts within the EU as an independent organization, but also coordinates with Businesseurope. With 40 member federations from 34 European countries, Businesseurope ultimately represents millions of companies with over 100 million employees. Businesseurope’s mandate is to work proactively to safeguard its members’ interests by informing and influencing EU decision makers.