Stockholm (NordSIP) – On Tuesday, January 28, SPP announced the appointment of Johanna Lundgren Gestlöf as its new head of sustainability. Lundgren Gestlöf replaces Johanna Landberg who joined sustainable fintech startup Doconomy last November.
After graduating from Stockholm School of Economics in 2016, with a master’s degree in economics, Lundgren Gestlöf joined Swedish management consulting firm QVARTZ. As a consultant, she worked on projects across industries such as insurance and MedTech, as well as across practices such as commercial strategies, mergers and acquisitions, and reorganisations.
In parallel, Lundgren Gestlöf, also acquired experience on the political scene, working for the Swedish Centre Party in Södertälje City Council for several years, as well as at the national level. “Sustainability was one of the main drivers for my political engagement,” she explains.
“I look forward to contributing to an SPP that stays at the forefront of sustainable investments, actively pushing the financial sector forward towards accelerated sustainable development.”
“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to join SPP as the new Head of Sustainability. It is easy to sort your waste or take the train to Gothenburg instead of flying, but I believe the key to a sustainable future is through structural changes among companies, capital owners and regulators,” she explains.
Maintaining SPP’s Leadership
“I joined SPP to be a part of driving the sustainability journey going forward, a journey which SPP has been on for many years,” she adds. “I am impressed by the true engagement across stakeholders in SPP for the topic and hope to leverage my experience from both strategy and politics to further contribute to this development. SPP has proven to be a very caring company, with a great sense of belonging, which I truly appreciate.”
“I look forward to contributing to an SPP that stays at the forefront of sustainable investments, actively pushing the financial sector forward towards accelerated sustainable development.” That being said, there are three specific goals that the new head of sustainability hopes to achieve. “First, I want to continuously reinforce SPP’s sustainability efforts to create real impact and contribute to a sustainable future. I also want to increase customers understanding of, and faith in, the impact their capital can make. Moreover, I also want to make sure SPP continues to internally walk the talk by integrating a sustainable mindset across functions.”
“We must further improve our transparency and encourage the trend towards more standardised benchmarks and regulations.”
In the short term, demand for sustainability seems robust, Lundgren Gestlöf argues. “We expect the interest for sustainable investments to grow as awareness increases. Sustainability is the single most strategic issue that affects our investments, and we need to do our part in providing the market with a smart mix of sustainable solutions. We hope that 2020 will go down in history as the year when substantial capital flows take a more sustainable direction.”
A Future to Look Forward to
While Lundgren Gestlöf can expect smooth sailing, a couple of hurdles remain. “I think two of the largest challenges are the complexity of our core product and the potential erosion of sustainability as a concept,” she argues.
“Even though half of the capital on the world’s stock exchanges consists of pension assets, it is a low-interest product for many consumers. However, we see an increasing demand for sustainable savings solutions from both investors, employers and consumers,” she explains. “SPPs guiding star is ‘En framtid att glädja sig åt’ (“a future to look forward to”) and I think we need to create engagement for our products by proving today, the effect on the future. Here I think we need to be brave, stubborn and prepared to repeat ourselves beyond the point where we are tired of our message.”
“ESG requires hard work, curiosity and a deep understanding of the connection between ESG and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
Lundgren Gestlöf is also concerned about sustainability-washing. “Sustainability has become a hygiene factor – consumers and investors are expecting products and services to be sustainable, which is essentially good. However, when every company talks about how they work with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it becomes a challenge to communicate the substance behind it,” she explains. “It is important that sustainability does not only become a marketing tool, and it is difficult for customers to tell the difference between marketing and real impact. Here, we must further improve our transparency and encourage the trend towards more standardised benchmarks and regulations.”
The Contributions of ESG Integration
However, SPP’s new Head of Sustainability does not see ESG integration as a hurdle to achieving more progress and making investments more impactful. “Having more financial flows in a sustainable direction is always positive,” she says. “With that said, there will always be leaders and followers. ESG requires hard work, curiosity and a deep understanding of the connection between ESG and the UN SDGs. To harvest the true power of ESG as a tool for impactful investments, we as investors need to use the UN SDGs as a framework and make sure to direct capital flows towards companies that contribute positively to the goals. With a genuine approach to sustainability, we can overcome the hurdles and make progress.”
For Lundgren Gestlöf, there is little risk that ESG could become too much of a “safe-zone” for managers instead of pushing them ahead. “Our task as a pension provider is to create value in a sustainable way by ensuring that our clients’ money is invested in companies that are part of a sustainable future. Some may take the safe route and stay in the safe zone. I believe, however, that money will flow where sustainability grows!”
Image courtesy of SPP