Swedish Council of Ethics Searching for an Executive Director

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – It has been over a year since the Swedish National Pension Funds 1, 2, 3, and 4 announced that they were launching a strategic review of their joint corporate engagement arm, the Council on Ethics. At the same time, John Howchin, the Council’s Secretary-General for almost 12 years, revealed that he would be stepping down to pursue other ventures.

    On 22 November, the CEOs of the four AP funds, Kristin Magnusson Bernard (AP1), Eva Halvarsson (AP2), Staffan Hansén (AP3), and Niklas Ekvall (AP4), issued a joint statement commenting on the results of the audit conducted during the past year. It makes clear that the collaboration between the funds is set to expand and that the Council will continue to be a key partner, integral to their coordinated sustainability efforts.

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    “The First, Second, Third and Fourth AP Fund work together on sustainability to strengthen the AP Funds as exemplary managers and responsible owners,” write the four CEOs. “Developments within and views regarding sustainability have rapidly evolved in recent years, placing increasing demands on our own sustainability work. It is, therefore, important for us to be proactive and further develop the Council on Ethics so that the good work being done can continue to make progress. The Council on Ethics is a very important collaborative body for the AP Funds, enabling resource-efficient management of potential sustainability risks and thereby also achieving better results for the income pension scheme both today and in the future.”

    During the audit, the purpose of the Council on Ethics has been clarified: to ensure that the AP Funds continue to serve as global role models on sustainability issues. The organisation is also tasked with supporting the AP Funds in complex and material sustainability issues in order to achieve the objectives that the AP Funds set for themselves.

    Further, the statement reveals that the work of the Council is expanding to more asset classes. Currently, the organisation conducts a biannual screening of the funds’ holdings in foreign equities in order to ensure that they are not associated with violations of international conventions ratified by the Swedish parliament. Going forward, the Council will be screening not only equities but also business loans.

    The review conducted by the AP funds also has some implications for how the Council will be organised going further. A board of directors is established, consisting of one representative from each fund appointed by the respective CEO. Meanwhile, the Council will be strengthening the organisation by adding three new positions: an executive director and two sustainability analysts.

    Whoever the future executive director, his duties will include establishing an administrative office to continue to drive positive change in companies in which the AP Funds have holdings.

    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia has accumulated experience in asset management for more than 20 years in Stockholm and Beijing, in portfolio management, asset allocation, fund selection and risk management. In December 2020, she completed a program in Sustainability Studies at the University of Linköping. Julia speaks Mandarin, Bulgarian, Hindi, Russian, Swedish, Urdu and English. She holds a Master in Indology from Sofia University and has completed studies in Economics at both Stockholm University and Stockholm School of Economics.
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