Eskilstuna – from industrial decay to world-fame: How the town became the most environmentally friendly industrial town in the world!
Martin Roos is the CEO of Destination Eskilstuna
Eskilstuna is an industrial city in the heart of Sweden with a population just over 100 000. During recent years, they have been working hard to make the city sustainable and green. Eskilstuna’s path has been an uphill battle: it is a former industrial town, with high unemployment, low expectations about the future and a considerable share of migrants. The former steel-producing town with unemployment around 5 % higher than the national average, has had no choice but to reinvent itself.
Many cities strive towards sustainability, but Eskilstuna stands out because of outstanding achievements and systematic, co-ordinated work in the ecosystem. Their efforts have been crowned with a generous reception by domestic and international media attention and won the Placebrander of the Year 2019 award in Sweden.
Eskilstuna is the most environmentally friendly industrial town in the world
The strategy of positioning the city brand on the environment and sustainability dates back to 2013, when systematic work began to reach this goal. Thanks to the public sector taking responsibility and leading the way, the post-industry gloom of Eskilstuna has made way to recycling. Buses run on electricity and biogas produced at the local waste plant; residual heat from industry production is used for heating, waste is sorted – and locals have had their trust in the future of the city renewed.
In 2013 a joint venture was formed between the municipality, enterprises, the public sector and academy with the goal to capture the city’s DNA and its strengths. The process started with a brand study where 3 000 persons in Eskilstuna, Mälardalen and the rest of Sweden participated. They also conducted a series of meetings, conferences and workshops. It resulted in a brand strategy platform that captures strengths and DNA of the city which manifests in six positions.
- Sustainability & Environmental
- Sports & Music
- Industry & Innovation
It also resulted in a brand promise that doesn’t serve as a slogan but rather something that the city has to deliver:
“Eskilstuna is the most environmentally friendly industrial town in the world”
With the positions and brand promise as a base the next step was to capture the essence in a communication strategy so the place development can be communicated easily to its stakeholders. It resulted in the concept of “EskilstunaEvolution”
ReTuna – a shopping mall for recycled goods
Eskilstuna is a city “where nothing is wasted” according to a shopping mall for recycled goods, ReTuna Återbruksgalleria. Here only second-hand goods are sold and it is hugely popular among locals and receives visitors all the time. The centre was started with the help of the municipality: Eskilstuna’s energy board owns ReTuna, gave seed funding and provides subsidies for tenants who rent premises for their shops. ReTuna has also been featured by BBC, World Economic Forum, The Guardian and others, with social media views counting over 24 million views. (Read here)
During the past few years, 4 500 people or 124 groups from 27 different countries have been to the city for study visits. It is an inspiring story, founded on concrete activities and co-operation led by the public sector to drive change at a place. Several cities in Sweden are taking stock and wish to follow Eskilstuna’s example.
Martin will talk about how to mobilise co-operation to lead change and create a more sustainable city.