Henrik Tjärnström: ‘No sleep till Kindred hits 0% harm’ 

Kindred Group’s pledge to incorporate ‘transparent safer gambling metrics’ as part of its financial reporting duty has been deemed a ‘leadership milestone’ by company chief executive Henrik Tjärnström.

This week, Kindred became the first listed operator to publicly disclose information on its share of corporate revenues generated from ‘high-risk customers’, alongside further data tracking its group-wide safer gambling efficiencies.

Tjärnström marked the disclosure as a ‘logical progression’ of Kindred’s safer gambling programme, as the company strives to act on the front foot to tackle problem gambling’s unique complexities.   

Nearing his 11th year in charge of Kindred, Tjärnström remarked that he was fortunate to have had the full support of his board in identifying early and pursuing sustainability as the foundation in which to grow the company. 

“For us, it was pretty clear, that we needed to accept change,” Tjärnström commented on his first days as CEO.

“The Swedish government had warned listed companies that they needed to become more socially responsive, placing sustainability at the forefront of their duties and operations.

“Changes were being demanded and I knew that they would implicate online gambling. As CEO I immediately asked my team to draft what a sustainability strategy would look like for an online gambling company.”  

With no previous guidance, Tjärnström acknowledged that it soon became apparent that developing an effective safer gambling programme would require a level of ‘commitment, resources and planning’ never seen before in gambling.

Tracking developments over a decade-long period, Tjärnström states that Kindred has revaluated and restructured all-units of its business, pursuing its goal of becoming the first operator “to have 0% of our revenue from harmful gambling by 2023”. 

Probed on the cost of the company’s corporate sustainability programme, Tjärnström remarked: “I don’t want to put a blunt figure on it, as it’s our duty and not a PR figure.

“Today we have over 100 employees dedicated to safer gambling disciplines such as the continued enhancement of our early detection PS-EDS system and our safer gambling tools. Furthermore, we have funded a dozen PHD’s working on academic research of problem gambling to feedback to our teams.”

Kindred sustainability commitment sees the company as the only online gambling firm registered on Morgan Stanley’s ‘Global Environmental, Social and Governance’ (ESG) index, maintaining a ‘AAA+’ score since 2018 – a record Tjärnström holds dear.

Market-by-market, online gambling’s social responsibility and sustainability remit will be judged by regulators questioning the wider industry’s conduct and discipline. Tjärnström responded that his team were not fixated by regulatory outcomes and understood political frustrations at governing the industry.

“The regulators are listening, however, it’s the politicians that we have to convince,” he said. “Here no company has proven that online gambling can be a 100% recreational pastime.

“We reported that 4% of our revenues were generated from high-risk customers, but we can’t think of that as a low number, these are still vulnerable people that need to be protected.”

Reflecting on 2020’s unprecedented events, Tjärnström stated that all business leaders will see a dramatic political emphasis on digital sustainability, improving safeties and consumer protections. 

He concluded: “Covid brought on forced mass migration to online, with many sectors caught unaware. In 2021, businesses have to provide safe and accommodating environments for all generations, that is the reality we are facing.” 

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