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    Inspiration from Almedalsveckan 2023

    Stockholm (NordSIP) – As a certain sign that summer in Sweden has begun in earnest, the country’s political and business elites gathered this week around Almedalen, a park in Visby, Gotland, for a few days of engaging speeches, heated discussions on- and off-stage, intense lobbying, and partying under the stars. These days, Almedalsveckan, a tradition that Olof Palme started back in 1968, has grown into a veritable civic festival, attracting numerous participants eager to contribute to and join in the public discourse.

    As always, the sustainable investment community was well represented in Almedalen. NordSIP reached out to some of those lucky enough to experience the event in person to get a first-hand account of this year’s hot topics and get inspired, albeit by proxy.

    Still on top of the agenda

    “I would say that sustainability was one of the most discussed issues in Almedalen this year,” says Pia Gisgård, Head of Sustainability & Governance at Swedbank Robur. According to Johanna Lundgren Gestlöf, Head of Sustainability at SPP, the 2023 event is generally more low-key, with fewer seminars and participants compared to last year. “But there is still a big focus on sustainability. There are a lot of discussions about green energy, green transportation and the green industrialisation happening in the north of Sweden, for instance.” What is even more encouraging, however, according to her, is that “sustainability is now a natural part in seminars and discussions focusing on other topics as well.”

    From left to right, Fredric Nyström, AP3, Thomas Flodén, AMF, Pia Gisgård, Swedbank Robur

    Kristofer Dreiman, Head of Responsible Investments at Länsförsäkringar, confirms that sustainability is still on top of the agenda. “Moreover, it nowadays covers a broader spectrum of issues, including a better balance between environmental and social ones, and more technical topics, primarily driven by various EU regulations such as the taxonomy, SFDR, CSRD, CSDDD, nature restoration, to name a few,” he adds.

    Focus on regulation

    It was no surprise to the experts we talked to that many of the discussions this year were about all the new and upcoming sustainable finance regulations. “EU regulation for sustainable financial markets, in general, is centre stage,” says Dreiman. “There appears to be a disconnect between investors and investees regarding understanding, managing and reporting against topics covered under the SFDR’s principal adverse impact indicators (PAIs). Investees have primality focused on the taxonomy and upcoming CSRD,” he adds.

    From left to right: Adam Kostyál, Nasdaq, Filip Elland, Castellum, Johanna Lundgren Gestlöf, SPP, Kristofer Dreiman, Länsförsäkringar, Katya Nolvall, Swedbank

    Lundgren Gestlöf shares her impression that companies are doing a lot, but politics and regulations need to support this development. “Today, regulations can be both an opportunity and a barrier,” she says. “We need long-termism and clear regulations from politicians to ensure a level playing field.”

    “Next year, I hope that we will shift focus from regulation to impact and what actually needs to be achieved in the real economy,” comments Gisgård.

    Highlights from the panels

    Being a busy and eclectic week packed with plenty of discussions and presentations, different panels stood out for each of the Alemdalsveckan participants we interviewed. “I am very biased, of course, since I was part of the panel organised by the Investors Integrity Forum (IIF), but I’d like to highlight the need to curb corruption,” shares Patrik Jönsson, Senior Sustainability & Engagement Specialist at SEB. “The absence of corruption, in a wider meaning, is fundamental for societies to thrive. Moreover, it is a prerequisite for successful progress in all other important sustainability challenges.” IIF, founded recently under the Transparency International Sweden umbrella, is doing a great job promoting the importance of this issue, according to Jönsson.

    Ulrik Åshuvud, Transparency International Sverige, Mattias Munter, Skandia, Emilie Westholm, Folksam, Patrik Jönsson, SEB – image: courtesy of Transparency International Sverige

    Lundgren Gestlöf mentions the seminar SPP organised with Techarenan on how to make the Nordic region a ‘Sustainability valley’. “There was a huge climate impact on stage, with H2 Green Steel, Heart Aerospace, and Schneider Electric represented,” she explains. “The Nordic region has a lot of competitive advantages such as fossil-free energy and deep technology knowledge which we should use to be in the front of sustainable development. We need brave investors who are ready to take risks, especially technology risks. Here, public funding and public risk capital is needed together with private investors. There is no lack of capital, but we need to match it better with the demand,” she adds.

    From left to right: Jenny Rundbladh, Storebrand, Jenny Larsson, Schneider Electric Sverige, Sofia Graflund, Heart Aerospace, Nina Håkansdotter, H2 Green Steel, Johanna Lundgren Gestlöf, SPP

    For Dreiman, this year’s most interesting topic was the intersection between AI and sustainability, discussed in multiple panels. “What is a responsible application of AI, and should the regulator or the market define it without stopping the evaluation of the benefits of the technology,” he wonders. He is hopeful that AI can help improve ESG data collection between investors and investees. “That in itself can enable greater focus on actions rather than spending time on data collection,” says Dreiman. He also highlights other technological advances, such as scanning vast amounts of forest assets to identify fires, “granbarkborre”, and valuable biodiversity areas, as well as simulating floods against various climate scenarios in cities and coastal areas. “We have just seen the beginning, and the technology is evolving rapidly,” concludes Dreiman.

    Gisgård shares Dreiman’s fascination with the topic. “I listened in on several AI panels, both general but also from an ethic and leadership perspective,” she says. “I feel really inspired to start exploring how AI can be used within the ESG field,” concludes Gisgård.

    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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