Q&A, The Kavli Trust

What is the Kavli Trust?

The Kavli Trust owns Norway’s Kavli food group. Profits made by the group, which are not devoted to its management and continued development, are distributed by the trust to good causes. The Kavli group is unique in a Norwegian context. It is the country’s only food manufacturer to devote its profits to good causes – charitable works are not simply part of the business, but its entire purpose.

How can a commercial group be owned by a trust? Doesn’t it need an owner who is motivated by earnings?

The Kavli group is proof that this is entirely possible. The motivation for making money is that these earnings are used for the benefit of others. This has been demonstrated annually since 1962, when ownership of the group was transferred to the Kavli Trust.

Who owned the group before it was transferred to the Kavli Trust?

Kavli was founded by Olav Kavli in 1893. His son Knut took over the business, but had no children of his own. He therefore decided that the group would be owned and operated for the future by a trust. The Kavli Trust can be characterised as Knut Kavli’s legal heir, and it still manages the group today in accordance with his guidelines.

How much of the profit is devoted to good causes, and how much goes back to the group?

Speaking roughly, about 50 per cent of the profit is spent on good causes. In 2017, this translated into roughly NOK 82 million for research, culture and humanitarian purposes.

Why isn’t the whole profit distributed?

A substantial proportion of the Kavli group’s profit needs to be retained to fund its continued development and to ensure that it can expand and make even more money. Long-term growth in the charitable donations is ensured by investing in the group’s employees, building expertise, developing its brands and taking care of its production facilities. This has proved to be a well-functioning strategy. The group’s turnover has increased every year since the trust became its owner in 1962.

Who decides how the money is to be allocated?

The Kavli Trust works proactively to identify suitable projects, which are selected on the basis on fixed criteria specified by the board of trustees. The trustees decide who is to be given support. The work of identifying the right recipients is led by the Kavli Trust’s general manager.

Can the Kavli group’s employees help to decide who should receive support?

A certain proportion of the available funds is allocated each year for recipients nominated by the employees. Such nominations are made in each of the five “Kavli countries” where the group has production facilities. These are Norway, Sweden, Finland and the UK.

Can organisations or individuals apply for support?

The Kavli Trust’s general manager takes a proactive approach and largely identifies relevant projects, organisations and individuals herself. Projects can also receive support on the basis of an application, but this must then be specific, relevant, and clearly within the Kavli Trust’s guidelines.What process is followed in deciding whether to support a project?

After initial conversations and contacts which allow the general manager to collect basic information on the organisation and those involved, the applicant will be invited to submit a formal request to the board. The trustees may call on external experts to assess the project before they take a decision. Support can comprise a one-off payment or contributions running over several years, providing the organisation can point to good results and reports regularly and on time.

How are grants distributed geographically and between subjects?

The geographical breakdown is as follows: 70 per cent goes to the “Kavli countries” of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the UK. The remainder goes to development projects in Asia and Africa south of Sahara. The breakdown by subject is 60 per cent for humanitarian work, particularly health projects for mothers and children, education, training and entrepreneurship, 30 per cent for research, particularly on chronic fatigue symptom (ME) and dementia, and 10 per cent for culture, with a particular focus on children, young people and the elderly.

Which projects are currently being supported by the Kavli Trust?

The trust is active in around 70 projects covering 20 countries. See humanitarian projects, research projects and culture projects.

How much money has the Kavli Trust allocated since the start?

About NOK 370 million. Roughly NOK 140 million has been allocated in the past three years alone.

Why hasn’t the Kavli Trust talked more about this before?

Now that the trust is starting to allocate substantial sums, it feels that making more people aware of the connection between the products sold by the group and the way the revenues are spent would be a strength.

What products does the Kavli group manufacture?

In Norway, the group owns Kavli, making such products as caviar and spreadable cheeses, and the Q-Meieriene dairy combine, which offers Q-milk, sour cream, cream and Skyr. It also owns a number of national brands in Sweden, Finland and the UK.