MONDAY 2 JUL 2018 10:50 AM


Widely regarded as an idyllic region of social provision, economic balance and environmental sustainability, the countries of Scandinavia are hard to beat in terms of citizen happiness. Now Sweden, a country recognised as much for its innovation as for its islands, has been ranked top of Reputation Institute’s Country RepTrak® 2018 list.

A shift from third place in 2017, the recognition of Sweden as a desirable location for both business and citizens can be attribute to a number of factors. These include emphasis on place branding its major centres, such as Stockholm, as the ‘capital of Scandinavia,’ and a strong external perception globally. Governmentally, too, Sweden attracts admiration from all manner of political circles - its egalitarian social model is widely admired, and in some cases emulated.

Through tracking and analysing the responses of 58,000 citizens in the G8 economies, Reputation Institute ensures a broad perspective on what sets Sweden apart from the rankings' 55 other countries. “I am convinced that this result stems from the fact that our social model creates not only growth but also freedom, equality and security. More and more people understand that inequality is a major obstacle for economic development in the world,” says prime minister of Sweden, Stefan Löfven.

In terms of business, Sweden is of course synonymous with brands such as furniture designers IKEA, music streaming service Spotify and clothing brand H&M. While engrained into modern global society, each are products of Sweden’s entrepreneurial spirit and Scandinavia’s openness to building an economy which caters to doing things a bit differently.

“It is gratifying to see that Sweden ranks number one as the most reputable country. Especially with characteristics such as being a welcoming and progressive country,” says Ewa Lagerqvist, CEO at Visit Sweden. “For being such a small country, a lot of creativity, design and technology comes from Sweden… It really shows that our ways of living make a mark globally and gives reasons for tourists to come visit our country.”

Nicolas Georges Trad, president of global accounts at Reputation Institute, says, “What sets Sweden apart is that is perceived as a highly principled, altruistic, egalitarian, and environmentally-conscious country. Countries that excel, like Sweden, focus on creating strong reputation profiles built on all three aspects of country reputation – government, economy and environment."

For Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, chief reputation officer at Reputation Institute, Sweden’s success in this year’s rankings is an anomaly in the wider trend for country reputational decline. In fact, of the top five countries with the best reputation, three are located in Scandinavia. This points to a more joined-up country brand strategy than other world regions might be used to, in which areas with a similar outlook function in similar ways. “Overall reputation declined in 2018, but a few countries retained an excellent reputation,” says Hahn-Griffiths.

“These countries are defined by ethics, aesthetic beauty and a feel-good factor. But country perceptions of economic might, size of population, and GDP do not necessarily translate into a strong country reputation.”

In a world made turbulent through political shifts, climate instability and economic uncertainty, building country reputation is arguably more crucial than ever. Sweden, with its commitment to prioritising the health and wellbeing of its citizens while fostering a business-inclusive environment, is being recognised for its efforts. Given too the country’s environmentally sustainable credentials, it seems may of the world’s countries can learn from Sweden.

The top ten list of countries is as follows:

1.         Sweden

2.         Finland

3.         Switzerland

4.         Norway

5.         New Zealand

6.         Australia

7.         Canada

8.         Japan

9.         Denmark

10.       Netherlands


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