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think: act – Why companies' futures depend on older people

Issue 7, 2006

Industrialized societies are aging. In politics, the demographic transformation is generally seen as a problem. In truth, however, the trend offers both societies and companies opportunities, if they take things in hand and actively shape what follows change. Opportunities include new markets, not only in existing sectors such as health care and continuing education but also new areas such as novel forms of production designed for older people. Further, the pressure to close the demographic gap with stronger growth in productivity can and will drive more innovation. Read more in our dossier, which starts on page 15.

Demographic change means opportunities particularly for European firms—another area in which Europe is doing better than often believed. That was another conclusion from our “Best of European Business” competition in 2005. It held up a mirror to the continent, and what it showed was far more positive than many had expected. Now the competition is entering its next round. One of the new key criteria: using Europe’s diversity.

The continent’s opening to Central and Eastern Europe has increased diversity considerably. One firm profiting from Europe’s increasing integration is the Polish petroleum company PKN Orlen. The former state-owned monopolist shed its past to become a powerful player in the contemporary market. The company expects to continue growing, as board member Wojciech Heydel describes in an interview beginning on page 44.

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