The Sixth Swedish National Pension Fund (AP6) has been boosting its sustainability ambitions recently. Two new specialists, Per Norberg (pictured) and Anna Grgic are joining responsible investing veteran Anna Follér this September to help accelerate the fund’s sustainability efforts. In a series of interviews, NordSIP gets to know the new team members better as they are onboarding their respective positions at the fund.
“I feel that this is a great opportunity and point in time to join AP6,” says Per Norberg. “Sustainability is finally beginning to gather the attention it deserves from society and the business world. And the financial sector is crucial in allocating capital to businesses and organisations which can provide the necessary solutions,” he explains. Norberg joins AP6 from the Sustainability Services division of audit and advisory firm KPMG. As a consultant, he has gained valuable experiences in many different aspects of sustainability, from the environment and climate change to human rights, anti-bribery, and anti-corruption issues.
Having worked on several engagements with various private equity firms gave Norberg an appetite for the industry. According to him, many PE firms have high sustainability ambitions. They are also uniquely positioned to successfully integrate the sustainability agenda in their portfolios due to the nature of the asset class often characterised by majority ownership. “AP6’s responsibility as a state-owned pension fund with a single focus on unlisted assets is to exert influence on our general partners and ensure that sustainability is taken into consideration in all investments,” says Norberg. “To do this, we need to communicate our expectations and priorities clearly, and to follow up on these commitments,” he adds. Norberg looks forward to engaging in discussions and actively working with the general partners to learn and share knowledge on creating sustainable value while generating positive impact.
“The fact that the capital we manage is the foundation for all of Sweden’s pensions further adds to the importance and responsibility we have been entrusted with, something the organisation does not take lightly,” says Norberg. He sounds impressed with his colleagues’ deep knowledge of the industry-specific sustainability opportunities and challenges.
“I believe that there are a lot of societal impacts from companies’ activities which are currently not being priced accurately by the financial markets,” reflects Norberg. “What I see as sustainable investing is being proactive in recognising and acknowledging these impacts both in current and prospective investments. I don’t think there has to be any conflict between generating good returns while minimising or eliminating negative impacts on society,” he adds.
Norberg also seems acutely aware of the many challenges that responsible investors face today. The lack of data and standards, for one, is a problem, despite recent progress when it comes to transparency. “For AP6, it will be important to collaborate with other limited partners to align on which type of sustainability information and data we request for monitoring purposes. Data and information collected should also be subject to internal controls and assurance to ensure accuracy and completeness. The information requested will, of course, also have to take into consideration regulations and voluntary initiatives to minimise the reporting burden for GPs and PCs while still providing a complete picture,” he explains.
Another challenge that many investors seem to be struggling with is incorporating the less tangible sustainability aspects. According to Norberg, areas such as human rights, anti-corruption, biodiversity, and tax transparency are difficult to measure and thus challenging to incorporate. “I believe that investors who successfully manage to integrate all aspects of sustainability into their investment process from both a risk and opportunity perspective will have a greater resilience and be better positioned for the future,” he concludes.
Image courtesy of AP6