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How working for the collective good helped bring a family closer together

IbyIMD+ Published 28 December 2022 in Magazine • 9 min read

The Ahlström family in Finland recognizes that commercial success depends not only on generating profit but also on making a positive global impact on the lives of others, write Malgorzata Smulowitz and Peter Vogel.

Maria Ahlström-Bondestam, a descendant of the Ahlström industrial dynasty, has always held a keen desire to contribute to society – even in small ways. Aged nine, she wrote a letter to Finland’s president asking him to repair a dangerous slide in a playground. To her family’s astonishment, she received a reply, and the slide was fixed.

Years later, these values would go on to shape how the 171-year-old family enterprise approaches philanthropy – in a way that not only inspires greater impact but builds a stronger family. That approach brings together the efforts of businesses, investments, and philanthropy by creating a “collective impact” strategy, an approach that other family businesses are now emulating.  

Those values have been inspired by her forebear Antti Ahlström, a 19th-century Finnish industrialist who founded the family enterprise in 1851, and his wife Eva – one of the first female industrial leaders in Finland. The business has its beginnings in the timber…

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