Meet Church of Sweden’s New Head of Sustainable Investing

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – Late last year, sustainable investing veteran Gunnela Hahn left the Church of Sweden after a decade and a half of leading the organisation’s efforts to act as a responsible asset owner. Understandably, it has taken some time to identify the person to fill the rather big shoes that Hahn left behind. The search for a worthy replacement has produced results, however. In August, Linda Sundberg stepped in as Head of Sustainable Investing.

    NordSIP caught up with Sundberg to hear what compelled her to join the Church of Sweden in the first place and how she intends to safeguard and develop further the organisation’s rich legacy of sustainable investing.

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    “It was, actually, an inspiring conversation with Gunnela a while ago that first set me on this course,” recalls the newly appointed manager. “She conveyed so eloquently what a fantastic job this was and the incredible impact a small and dedicated team could achieve. The feature that I found most compelling, however, was the long-term time horizon, which is the very foundation of the Church’s sustainable investing efforts.”

    From state to Church

    Promoting long-term sustainable value creation is something that Sundberg is well-acquainted with, joining from a position as an Investment Director at the Government Offices of Sweden. She finds many parallels in her work there, from conducting cross-portfolio sustainability analysis to having a close dialogue with state-owned enterprises to ensure they are at the forefront of major societal trends.

    Sundberg can’t help but compare her former team to the one she is just getting to know. “We were only about thirty colleagues in total responsible for a portfolio of 43 state-owned enterprises amounting to about SEK 850 billion,” she explains. “I thought that was a slim organisation, but compared to the one at the Church of Sweden, it really isn’t. Here, we have a small, dedicated team, and it strives to do so much,” she exclaims.

    Aiming high

    Resolving the equation of limited resources and unlimited ambitions is a given priority for Sundberg in her new position. “I am still getting to grips with what is expected of us and what we can realistically achieve,” she says. The objective of the Church of Sweden is to be a responsible owner in the broad sense. As a long-term, active owner, the Church has vowed to take advantage of the opportunity to influence business and industry in a sustainable direction, independently and in partnership with other investors.

    “It makes me humble, looking at the broad spectrum of the sustainability work ahead,” confesses Sundberg. Since she started last month, she has been familiarising herself with what has already been done and where the challenges lie. According to her, there is, for instance, a clear climate strategy in place. When it comes to investing in preserving biodiversity, on the other hand, the work has just started.

    “Measuring the results of our sustainability efforts is another area I intend to focus on,” says Sundberg. “We need to know what we have achieved by engaging with the companies we own and what our impact really is.”

    The value of values

    The sustainable efforts of the Church of Sweden are guided by a financial policy based upon two fundamental values: the principle of human dignity and the concept of stewardship, as reflected in international environmental and human rights conventions and existing frameworks for responsible business.

    “A solid value baseline is essential for our work,” explains Sundberg. “It guides our decisions and makes communicating our expectations to the managers we entrust parts of our portfolio easier. It is also key to explaining to our stakeholders why we invest the way we do,” she concludes.

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