CBS Impact summit: How Danish do the largest Danish companies feel?

In 1990, the total annual turnover of the ten largest Danish companies equated 19.5 per cent of the Danish GDP. In 2015, the number was 45 per cent. Associate Professor Martin Jes Iversen from the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy has examined four of these companies’ impact on Danish society and the meaning of being a Danish company. Selected results from the Impact case study will be presented at the CBS Impact Summit on 16 November.


Today, Denmark is home to some of the largest global companies within health care, shipping, brewing, dairy, service, toy production, pumps, and household equipment. This gives the largest Danish companies a colossal ‘Business in Society Impact.’

With CBS’ ‘Business in Society’ strategy as a starting point and on occasion of CBS’ 100th anniversary, the researchers behind the Impact case study examined the impact that these four companies – Novo Nordisk, Danske Bank, Arla Foods, and Maersk Group – have and have had on Denmark… and the other way around.

The starting point is the dramatic structural change that has marked the Danish economy and Danish business society, traditionally known for small and medium-sized companies, through the past 25 years. In 1990, the total annual turnover of the ten largest Danish companies equated 19.5 per cent of Denmark’s yearly GDP. In 2015, the number was 45 per cent.

What does it mean for a corporation to feel Danish?

- With the Impact case study we decided to investigate what it means to Denmark – and to the companies themselves – that these Danish beacons, that have grown and transformed into global giants, are and perceive themselves as Danish, says the research project manager, Associate Professor Martin Jes Iversen from the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy (MPP), and continues:

- How has their perception of themselves as Danish companies belonging in Denmark affected them and their actions in relation to Danish society? How has this self-perception evolved concurrently with their internationalization? Will the giants continue to be Danish in the future?

Even though the companies are very different from each other, they have all had an extraordinary impact on Danish society and on the global markets they operate in. The project entails an initial examination of the financial, social, and environmental impact of the companies, focusing on the ways they themselves have reflected upon and engaged in their meaning for Danish society through the past years.

Denmark’s large corporations engage actively in society

The Impact case study has a meta-focus on reflection and self-perception rather than focusing on specific impact.

- Among the things we have covered is how the companies, concurrently with their increase in growth and meaning, have become ever more specific and conscious of their policies regarding their place in and importance to Danish society. It also turns out that they allocate resources for initiatives and take on responsibilities to ensure that Denmark functions as a society, says Martin Jes Iversen.

The work of structuring the findings and drawing up the conclusions is still ongoing. However, it is so far along that Martin Jes Iversen and his collaborator on the project, MPP Assistant Professor Ida Lunde Jørgensen, are negotiating the publication of their study as a book with Routledge, one of the world’s leading academic publishers within the humanities and social sciences.

At the same time, they are working towards the research study making up the foundation of an elective about large international companies’ self-perception of their meaning for society over time, which Martin Jes Iversen and Ida Lunde Jørgensen are currently planning.

Denmark’s large dependency of a very few companies

On Thursday, 16 November, the researchers behind the Impact case study will present selected findings at the CBS Impact Summit. A panel consisting of the four companies’ CEOs – Thomas Borgen of Danske Bank, Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen of Novo Nordisk, Søren Skou of A. P. Møller-Mærsk, and Peder Tuborgh of Arla Foods – will also present themselves and their companies and discuss the subject.

Minister for Industry, Business and Financial Affairs Brian Mikkelsen (the Conservative Party) will speak on ‘Dream scenarios for business policy for Denmark in a global World’ (translated from Danish), and CEO of The Confederation of Danish Industry as well as chairman of CBS’ board, Karsten Dybvad, will speak on ‘Business in Society. The business society’s perspective on what CBS should focus on in the coming 100 years’ (translated from Danish).

Jim Hagemann Snabe, chairman of the board in A. P. Møller-Mærsk and adjunct professor at CBS, is the keynote speaker and will speak on ‘New principles for strategy, innovation, and management in the fourth industrial revolution’ (translated from Danish), and, naturally, Martin Jes Iversen will present the CBS Impact research and speak of its current context for the development in the coming decades.

- I can disclose two specific conclusions of the study. One is that in Denmark we must change our self-perception as a society. Because of their size, these large companies make up both a great asset to our welfare and a very vulnerable Achilles heel because of our dependency on them, Martin Jes Iversen points out and continues:

- The other conclusion is that the incredible growth, which these international giants experienced since 1990, in the later years has been replaced by stagnation. It poses the question: If the large, Danish companies have gone through their golden age then which are the next companies we are to live off?

Read more about ‘CBS Impact Summit: What will Denmark live off in the coming century?’

The summit is fully booked but will be live streamed from 14:00 on Thursday, 16 November via this link

The page was last edited by: Alumni // 10/20/2021

Factbox: Corporate Impact initiative

The Corporate Impact initiative is a case study aiming to uncover the impact on Danish society of four of the largest Danish companies – Novo Nordisk, Danske Bank, Arla Foods, and Maersk Group. It is also a ‘Business in Society’ research project led by Martin Jes Iversen from Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy. The study presents its findings so far at the CBS Impact Summit on Thursday, 16 November.