How Volvo evolved into a purpose-led organisation


In today’s business world, ‘disruption’ has been a hot topic for quite some time now. In a landscape identified by technological (r)evolutions, empowered customers and a high speed of digitalisation, businesses need to reorient themselves. One company that bravely embraced this challenge, is Volvo.
During the second Callebaut Collective ‘Talks’, Sven De Smet, Head of Brand & Consumer Journey of Volvo Car Group, reported to a specialized audience of (mobility) industry experts on Volvo’s strategy for the future on how to redefine their business and how to embrace the chaos that comes with it.

Reconnect through redefining your purpose

Throughout the conversation with Sarah Steenhaut (Callebaut Collective), Sven’s story, filled with anecdotes, was built around the key drivers of reorienting your business. The first one can be found in Volvo’s history. It has always been about ‘safety’, he explained. When people hear ‘Volvo, they think about ‘safety’. This has been our purpose as a car manufacturer for a long time.

However, due to the recent climate of changing technology and customer needs, the mobility industry quickly met upcoming challenges. In order to meet these challenges, they decided to go back to their roots and started focusing on their purpose. As a purpose-led organisation, the customer has always been the key part of their business. This translated in Volvo’s change of course, coming from being a car manufacturer, going to being a ‘provider of freedom to move in a personal, sustainable, and safe way’.



Innovation through collaboration

A second key driver can be found through embracing collaboration with external partners.

In order to accomplish sustainability, supply chain issues have to be addressed. Companies need to look through their supply chain and should start making purpose-led decisions from the start, instead of maintaining a reactive position.
Within a highly regulated industry, Volvo is not only meeting regulatory requirements but challenge themselves even more, by thinking further than ‘electrification’ as an end-goal. They adopted a broader perspective on the mobility industry and developed themselves within this rapidly changing framework. Collaborations with Uber and the development of a daring vision of the future with the concept 360C are just a few examples.

Besides all this, Sven put a strong focus on the internal collaboration driver as well. When evolving into a company with a renewed purpose, the right skills and competence are becoming a fundamental question. How are you going to successfully leverage the available internal competences, by re-allocating them within your company? The answer is: carefully analyse the core competences. Try to understand what people are good at and how these skills can be deployed across departments.



Watch and learn

Take away important learning and apply them in order to make a successful shift, was another key driver mentioned by Mr. De Smet.
One key source of inspiration are millennials. Through gathering important insights, Volvo has been able to effectively respond to this generation’s needs by providing custom services.
However, initiatives go way further: why not have the ability to make your car accessible to peers through a few taps on your smartphone? In-car package delivery is another mobility question that Volvo is trying to answer.

In every industry, businesses are starting to redefine their way of doing things, as an attempt to deal with the disruption and coming out on top along the way. Finding your purpose and using it to lead your organisation, collaborating on every level and learning for the future are the key drivers of this transformation.

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