The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research
Investing in research to solve environmental problems
and promote sustainable development
One of the major challenges industry faces is that of decoupling growth from increased resource use.
In June, Mistra decided to invest in a second phase of the two programmes Mistra Future Fashion and Mistra Closing the Loop.
Eutrophic lakes can be restored by reducing their populations of roach and bream.
Nanotechnology offers opportunities to develop everything from medicines to technologies to tackle the climate threat.
The Mistra Fellows Programme has been set up to develop collaboration and enhance the exchange of knowledge between Mistra’s various research groups and international research organisations.
The Mistra Centre for Sustainable Markets – Misum – is playing a key part in efforts by the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE)
Plastics are both cheap and easy to make, and their uses almost unlimited.
Sweden is now well and truly part of the international policy and research arena on the future of the Arctic.
Mistra and the Swedish Research Council Formas are funding an environmental humanities research programme, to be led by Linköping University.
When the UN’s Millennium Goals to reduce world poverty expired in 2015, they were replaced with a set of global Sustainable Development Goals.
Making water and wastewater management more sustainable is one of the major global challenges of the future.
In December, the world’s leaders negotiated a new global climate agreement in Paris.
MistraPharma has studied how pharmaceutical substances in low doses affect marine and freshwater ecosystems.
Transport has a considerable impact on the environment, and in particular on climate.
Åke Iverfeldt is a member of the Secretariat for Strategic Development for the Future
Mistra Innovation has made available funding for five new projects to develop successful
Thanks to Mistra-SWECIA, Sweden’s forest owners now have a better understanding of how forestry can be adapted to the effects of a changed climate.
Smart materials and their potential to contribute to a better environment are attracting growing interest.
An international conference – ‘Transformations2015’ – was hosted by the Stockholm Resilience Centre in early October
Mistra Biotech, with its all-round approach to plant breeding and attitudes towards genetically modified crops, has received the go-ahead for a second phase.
Mistra’s mission is to help solve major, pressing environmental problems. We are also to contribute to a good living environment, help make Sweden more competitive and pursue industrial applications. So we are definitely contributing to the sustainable development of society.
We are doing so by funding research of the highest international class. At the same time, we want to see the research undertaken feeding through into decision-making processes or applications in industry.
We try to avoid investing in areas others are working in. We also need to be quick off the mark. That is something others perhaps want to be, too, but we have an organisational form which in fact enables us to move fast. We have a small secretariat, we do a lot of horizon scanning in collaboration with others and, with relatively little bureaucracy, we can take the plunge into new areas as they emerge.
In 2015, the United Nations adopted its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September, and in December the climate talks in Paris produced a very good agreement. Mistra and its researchers were fully or partly involved throughout both those processes – on climate and on the SDGs.
In managing our assets, we have for a long time had an approach that has not just been sustainable, but profitable as well. To date, we have provided research funding of over SEK 3.7 billion, and we have SEK 3 billion of our capital left. So we are absolutely convinced that our asset management does deliver a good return, if it takes a longer-term view and is guided by sustainability criteria. Since we fund research with the aim of making society more sustainable, it is very important that the way we manage our capital does not destroy the resources society depends on, but builds them up.
During the year we decided to issue a call for proposals on financial systems. We have seen from our own asset management what a slow, difficult process changing the financial system can be. A research programme in this area is therefore highly relevant.
Finally, it is important to strengthen the overall impact of what we do, a challenge we began to address in earnest in 2015. We intend to work towards that, and to evaluate more clearly in future what impact we in fact have.
Mistra’s research is not just about shaping policymaking and understanding complex processes. Some of it aims to solve very tangible problems and to help get innovations onto the market. Environment-friendly antifouling paints for boats and lead-free brass are two examples of concrete results of the Foundation’s research, which in some cases have also formed a basis for developing new companies.
In commercial terms, one of the most successful products to have emerged from a Mistra-funded programme is Selektope, a substance that can be added to boat hull paints to prevent barnacles from attaching to hulls and slowing boats down.
The first step towards an effective antifouling paint not containing toxic copper was taken more than twelve years ago, when researchers at the University of Gothenburg discovered that a substance used in veterinary medicine as a sedative for dogs and cats has the very opposite effect on barnacle larvae. Instead of sending them to sleep, it causes their legs to start kicking, preventing them from settling on slippery boat hulls.
The researchers presented their discovery to Mistra, and fairly soon were awarded research funding in the framework of the Marine Paint programme. Within just a couple of years, they had developed a highly effective product that keeps boats clean and improves their fuel efficiency, without harming the marine environment. The paint has been available on the Chinese market for a few years, but the real breakthrough came in 2015, when the substance was approved for use in the EU.
‘Thanks to that approval, we are now able to reach a wider market. That in turn has persuaded our customers, the paint companies, to invest in developing products based on our technology, which will hopefully increase our sales many times over,’ says Lena Lindblad, research director at I-Tech, the company the researchers set up together to commercialise their discovery.
Lindblad, who was herself involved throughout the development process, says that they would not have managed to arrive at a finished product without the significant support they received early on from Mistra.
‘It wasn’t just the money; it was the clear signal it gave – that this was a project worth investing in.’ In recent years, Mistra has increasingly backed projects of this kind, seeking solutions to well-defined problems.
‘That has helped get several new products onto the market, but it has also encouraged traditionally conservative industries to take significant steps towards more sustainable use of resources,’ says Christopher Folkeson Welch, one of Mistra’s three programmes directors.
Mistra also supports research that is broader in approach, one example being Mistra Future Fashion, which is seeking to make the fashion industry more sustainable. The programme is built around four themes, all linked to the concept of a circular economy: design, a more sustainable supply chain, the contribution users can make to more sustainable fashion, and ways of increasing textiles recycling.
Consumption of clothes is often fast, but the materials are ‘slow’. A basic assumption made by the researchers is that there is no getting away from fast fashion, which means that there is a need for clothes made from completely new, degradable materials. What is more, using clothes for longer would bring significant environmental benefits. If we as consumers were to use our clothes an average of three times longer, their environmental impact would be reduced by 70 per cent.
‘At the same time, we’re looking into the possibility of developing garments made from fabric-like paper, which can’t even be washed, but would go straight to recycling,’ says Sigrid Barnekow, deputy programme director of Mistra Future Fashion.
The clothes she is referring to are the kind we think of as ‘fast fashion’, the ones that dazzle for one night at a party, but then quickly lose their appeal and end up hanging in the wardrobe. It would be more sustainable to make them from a resource-efficient material and recycle them immediately.
Even more tangible, down-to-earth projects have been supported through Mistra Innovation and Closing the Loop. The first phase of Closing the Loop, completed in 2015, involved seven different projects, tackling everything from how entire vehicles can best be recycled to how individual substances such as phosphorus can be recovered rather than landfilled as hazardous waste. As the first phase of the programme ended, a second one began, with six projects sharing funding of SEK 38 million.
‘The projects now being supported are all exploring innovative ways of recovering the resources to be found in waste. Although they are all very different, our hope is that the synergies identified will enable them to deliver greater environmental and climate benefits together than they could individually,’ says Folkeson Welch.
The Mistra Innovation programme, too, serves as an umbrella for a broad range of smaller-scale initiatives. Since it began, it has provided support for 16 different projects. Compared with the large Mistra programmes, which have budgets of tens of millions of kronor, the individual projects making up Mistra Innovation receive just a few million each. At the same time, they are more clearly limited in scope; generally, the aim is to develop an idea so that it can be taken all the way through to market launch.
One project that has resulted in an environmental innovation is Lead-Free Brass, led by the company MMA in Markaryd. It was awarded SEK 3 million by Mistra Innovation to develop cost-effective methods of making plumbing fittings from lead-free brass. The background to the project was that the components currently on the market contain up to 3.5 per cent lead, which can be leached out and end up in drinking water and the environment.
‘The product we have developed has generated a great deal of interest around the world. Not least in the United States, where standards governing lead levels are stricter than they are here,’ says Kent Nilsson, head of production and technology at MMA.
Commercial successes like this help to strengthen Sweden’s competitiveness. But that is not all; they also enhance the reputation of Swedish research abroad, which is just as important.
‘Those sorts of effects are not as easy to quantify as money in a company’s coffers,’ Christopher Folkeson Welch concedes. ‘But in the long term they are at least as crucial to Sweden’s development.’
Mistra’s work is not just about promoting a more sustainable world and making Sweden more competitive. Initiatives to enhance the capacity of academia by creating strong and enduring interdisciplinary research environments are no less important. The idea is that the research the Foundation supports should live on, beyond the six to eight years a programme normally lasts. That is part of the reason Mistra prefers to talk about investing in research, rather than funding it.
Although the research programmes Mistra establishes are long-term, there is a risk that the effort invested in them will simply vanish into the mists once they come to an end. Universities are difficult ships to steer, and if money stops coming in from one quarter, they have a tendency to slip back into their old course.
That was a point recently highlighted by an international panel of experts set up by Mistra in 2015 to evaluate earlier climate research initiatives. The panel’s chair, Harald Dovland, acknowledged that Mistra’s programmes are unusually long-term and produce research of high quality. But, he said, there is a tendency for the baby to be thrown out with the bathwater when they are at an end.
Sweco, which evaluated two decades of Mistra research a few years ago, reached a similar conclusion. Some programmes had helped to develop new fields of research and lasting organisations, the review noted, but often the building of centres and research environments ceased once programmes were completed. According to Sweco, that meant there was a risk of losing the capabilities and positions developed.
So, how do you make sure that research lives on when a programme ends? That is a problem all funding bodies have to grapple with.
Johan Edman is a programmes director at the Mistra Secretariat.
‘This is something we’re working on. We already have a number of informal requirements. We expect programme budgets to be scaled back during the second phase, to signal our planned exit. The idea is to get someone else to step in and take over. But we could do more.’
The question is very much on the agenda, he says, and Mistra has recently developed new evaluation criteria making clear that it expects to see long-term results. But other factors also promote a lasting outcome – such as involving universities and industry financially. Mistra’s insistence on co-funding is not just about eking out its investments in research. More importantly, it creates a sense of engagement and ownership.
‘If Mistra foots the entire bill, then putting a programme on the shelf doesn’t cost the others involved anything. But if it’s something they themselves have invested time and money in, they’ll take better care of it,’ says Edman.
He believes that the time to start thinking about life after programme closure is early on, and not in the last couple of years of the programme, when researchers are fully occupied writing articles and synthesis reports. There are some good examples of forward planning in this regard. One is the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), which is now in its second and final phase with Mistra support. There, a special fundraiser has been appointed to secure the Centre’s long-term survival, and Mistra currently provides just 20 per cent of its resources, with the remaining funding for the Centre coming from other sources. As from 2019, the plan is for SRC to fend for itself.
Another example is MistraPharma, completed in 2015 after eight years studying the environmental effects of pharmaceutical substances. A summary of its results and recommendations presented to decision-makers included a call to establish a new centre for drugs and the environment at the Swedish Medical Products Agency, to build on the knowledge gained from the programme. In the case of Mistra Urban Futures, which is studying sustainable urban environments, funding for a second phase was awarded on the clear condition that the programme host took steps to secure the Centre’s survival. The Centre, led from Gothenburg, is now carving out its strategy for the way forward after 2020.
A new initiative for establishing a strong research environment which Johan Edman views with great anticipation is The Seed Box: An Environmental Humanities Collaboratory, launched by Mistra together with the Swedish Research Council Formas. Involving 13 higher education institutions, it will bring Swedish humanities research on the environment and sustainability under a single umbrella at Linköping University. The aim is to establish a lasting power centre in environmental humanities – a field of research with roots in the 19th century and thinkers such as Henry David Thoreau and John Muir, and one that is now growing internationally.
The prospects of an enduring legacy are also enhanced if the research done is of a really high quality. Sif Johansson, now the director of Mistra EviEM – a centre engaged in evidence-based reviews of environmental interventions – used to head another Mistra programme, MARE. There, the focus was on helping decision-makers to identify cost-effective measures to address eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. Since that programme ended, research on the decision-support system it developed – Baltic Nest – has continued through the international Baltic Nest Institute, with partners at Aarhus University in Denmark, the Finnish Environment Institute and the Baltic Sea Centre at Stockholm University.
According to Johansson, the main reason for Baltic Nest’s success was that the system was accepted by all the countries around the Baltic and used by the Helsinki Commission (Helcom) in its Baltic Sea Action Plan. It was also employed in work on the EU’s Water Framework Directive.
‘Part of the explanation, though, was that we made our presence felt in the contexts that mattered. To promote broad acceptance of Baltic Nest, we contacted decision-makers in different countries, for example, and arranged workshops at Helcom and at international conferences,’ she recalls.
One of the distinguishing features of Mistra is its interdisciplinary initiatives, bringing together researchers who might not even have met otherwise. But cross-disciplinary collaboration can be difficult for academia to take on board. That much is clear to Annika Nordin, after eight years as the director of Future Forests.
‘Interdisciplinary research rarely fits the academic mould of a university,’ she points out. ‘Departments are organised around specific subjects. At the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), that means things like plant biology, ecology or forest management. There, an interdisciplinary programme like Future Forests doesn’t fit in all that well.’
Mistra’s Future Forests programme is now in its final year. Researchers have spent eight years investigating how Sweden’s forests can meet all the different expectations placed on them – above all, how to reconcile their nature conservation and recreational values with their role as a staple resource of the Swedish economy.
Today, the interdisciplinary environment Annika Nordin has built up works extremely well. Eight years of research and outreach have resulted in different stakeholders coming together and learning more about each other. But Nordin knows that if she now lets go of the programme, there is a danger of what it has created quickly fading away.
So what should the next step be? Future Forests is run by a consortium made up of SLU, Umeå University and the Forestry Research Institute of Sweden. According to Nordin, these organisations are interested in putting the research the programme has established on a permanent footing. Her goal is to set up some form of centre in Umeå, which will continue to explore these issues and provide an arena for stakeholders in the forest sector.
‘That’s our aim. Now it’s up to the universities and the Forestry Research Institute,’ she says. ‘How much they’ll be prepared to invest is not yet clear. At universities, money is always the issue.’
Climate change figures prominently among the environmental problems Mistra is working on. Some of its programmes are concerned with slowing the rise in temperature, while others are exploring the adaptations needed to minimise the effects of a planet which, despite the action taken, is becoming increasingly warm. Between them, these programmes have helped establish an international reputation for Mistra’s research and laid the foundations for new work on climate.
When high-level international climate negotiations get under way, all the more important component issues should already have been hammered out. That was the case when world leaders met to reach a new agreement in Paris just before Christmas 2015. Or almost, at any rate.
‘When we got there, we realised that the negotiators didn’t have a final proposal on how credit was to be given for measures taken by one country to reduce emissions in another. It was a coincidence that we were holding a seminar on the subject on the second day of the talks, but it enabled us to directly influence the shape of the agreement,’ says Lars Zetterberg, a researcher with the Mistra Indigo programme based at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.
One aim of Mistra Indigo has been to provide an evidence base for politicians, government agencies and Swedish companies. Two of the areas studied are European emissions trading and the workings of various international carbon markets – areas in which it is not always possible to see direct results, but which are nevertheless important for long-term progress.
‘We spent a long time working on a proposal to introduce a minimum price for emission allowances. When we presented it to ministers, MEPs and fellow researchers, everyone said it was the wrong way to go. Now, a few years later, there’s growing recognition that it maybe isn’t such a bad idea after all. People are beginning to realise that this is what it will take to get emissions trading working properly. I’d like to think that our research has helped bring about a change of view on minimum prices.’
Sometimes, though, there is no such about-turn, and politicians opt for solutions which Mistra Indigo’s researchers do not consider optimal. Perhaps not even second best.
‘Climate policy is the art of the possible. Often, the proposals we believe to be best are not politically achievable, but that doesn’t mean we go off in a sulk. We just have to keep at it and produce the analysis needed to implement the options on which agreement can be reached,’ says Zetterberg.
Mistra Indigo has also collaborated closely with researchers at the US think tank Resources for the Future. This has generated an interplay of ideas across the Atlantic on how different environmental management systems should be designed.
‘Sometimes they’ve learnt from us, and sometimes we have learnt from them.’
Mistra’s programmes, which seek to address a variety of environmental problems, range all the way from overall policy issues to tangible measures affecting everyday life in Sweden. At the overall, international end of the scale is Mistra Indigo, at the other end are programmes like Future Forests and Mistra-SWECIA, both of which have looked more specifically at Swedish society and its need to respond to anticipated climate challenges.
‘Our research programmes are designed to help solve environmental problems. One such problem is global warming, so many of our programmes have a clear focus on climate,’ says Thomas Nilsson, a programmes director at Mistra. ‘That was an area we got into early on, with our funding for research on climate modelling. Over time we’ve also started to support work on how society needs to change and adapt to cope with the climate change expected.’
Although Mistra’s research is very wide-ranging, it does not cover everything. The Foundation has for example chosen not to fund energy research on a significant scale, the reason being that there are already other successful players in that field.
If Mistra Indigo’s researchers have rubbed shoulders with international decision-makers, those involved in Future Forests and Mistra-SWECIA have met with individual forest owners the length and breadth of Sweden. Both of these programmes, which have been clearly interdisciplinary in approach, have studied how climate is changing, and the effects of those changes. They have also developed strategies for adapting to climate change.
‘Over the eight years since Mistra-SWECIA began, forests have increasingly become the main focus of our work,’ says Åsa Gerger Swartling, a researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute linked to the programme. ‘This has involved an in-depth study in close collaboration with 28 private forest owners in Skåne, Gävleborg, Jämtland and Västernorrland, as well as a larger-scale questionnaire survey of 3,000 owners and 1,000 forest professionals. We’ve also cooperated with other stakeholders in the Swedish forest sector.’
Views of climate change adaptation have evolved in the eight years of the programme’s existence. When it was launched, talking about preparing for a warmer climate was frowned upon – many saw it as throwing in the towel.
‘Today, we feel that was a somewhat naive way of looking at things. It’s more acceptable now to think about and develop adaptive measures, in tandem with reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The launch of Mistra-SWECIA was well timed to coincide with this awakening, and I hope we have helped bring about a more mature debate and establish adaptation to climate change as a generally accepted field of research in its own right.’
One reason Sweden was among the pioneers in other areas of climate research, but slow to get to grips with adaptation, could be that there was a belief that, in this part of the world, the effects of climate change would be largely beneficial. It was expected that forests would grow more rapidly, for instance, or that grape vines could perhaps be cultivated on a larger scale.
‘There are in fact a range of adverse effects on natural ecosystems, and for different sectors of society. Effects that are not sufficiently understood,’ says Gerger Swartling. ‘So we need to work closely with forest owners, who have to handle these new challenges in their day-to-day work. In many cases, they have shared experiences with us which we had never even thought of, as well as helping us to understand that adaptation to climate change is a more complex process than we’d previously realised. That has given rise to shared learning that has been of great benefit to us as researchers, but hopefully to forest owners as well.’
To give something back to all the people who have contributed to the various studies, there has been a consistent policy, throughout the programme, of publishing its results in a popular format.
‘Partly for that reason, many of them have got back to us and told us how they’ve been affected by their involvement in our research, and what ideas they have about adapting their own forestry practice. Ideas that will take time to have an impact, because forest owners are used to thinking on timescales of 80 years and therefore don’t jump at every new trend that comes along. They want to do their homework properly before they make changes, but hopefully we’ve helped give them a better basis for future decisions.’
What, then, will be the long-term impacts of Mistra’s climate research? That remains to be seen, although some direct, short-term results can already be identified.
‘Over the years, Mistra has become a strong brand in the area of climate. Internationally, it is seen as a guarantee of good research. Although Mistra Indigo is now a closed chapter, the knowledge it has built up will be put to practical use. In new programmes, or somewhere else in the world of research,’ Lars Zetterberg believes.
One thing is certain, however, and that is that Mistra’s commitment in this area remains strong. After lengthy preparations, two calls for proposals relating to climate were announced early in 2016. An international panel of experts appointed in 2015 had evaluated earlier climate research, rating it as largely excellent. The panel called for funding for programmes that could help to make Sweden climate-neutral and identify ways of adapting society to meet the challenges of climate change.
‘Based on the expert panel’s advice, a decision has been taken to invite applications for two new programmes,’ says Thomas Nilsson at Mistra. ‘One on transformative changes in society to achieve challenging climate goals, the other on geopolitics and the link with climate change.’
Five questions to Lena Treschow Torell,
who will shortly be stepping down as Chair of the Mistra Board
I was in fact active on the Board back in 1994, when I served a term as a member, so I’ve been involved much longer than that – from the very beginning. I’ve sat on lots of different boards, in both industry and the academic world, but Mistra has been by far one of the most interesting ones. At the moment, I’m a member of the boards of Investor, SKF and SAAB, and also chair of Chalmers University of Technology, so I’ve plenty to do. But I’ll miss the amazingly wide range of people here, with their cutting-edge expertise from very different sectors. Also, because Mistra’s mission is so broad and requires collaboration between academia, industry and policymakers, everyone on the Board makes an effort and no one is able to dominate. So there’s been a lot of humility, and our meetings have been very rewarding.
To begin with it was uphill work. Large-scale interdisciplinary programmes were a novelty at that time, and there was still something of an ‘alternative’, brown-rice-and-sandals feel to environmental concern. It wasn’t something company boards talked about. In politics there’s always been a lot of support for safeguarding the environment, but getting industry and institutes of technology on board was a challenge. The big corporations, though, saw the potential early on, and these days environmental thinking is an integral part of most Swedish companies’ business models. That’s an amazing development.
I know from my own earlier research at Chalmers, on lithium batteries, that at the time there was no way Volvo would put anything like that in their cars. Today we can see how fast things are moving in that field.
Initially, the emphasis at Mistra was on research programmes in the natural sciences and engineering. But now we already have good technical solutions to a host of environmental problems. Further progress is more a matter of passing new laws, changing people’s behaviour, and getting large-scale industry onside so as to achieve bigger volumes for smart innovations. That’s why, in recent years, we’ve turned our attention increasingly to the social sciences. The financial sector, for instance, has had its eyes opened to the environment and sustainability, thanks to our new programmes at the Stockholm School of Economics. The next step was involving humanities researchers in The Seed Box, led from Linköping University. So now our programmes really do cover the whole research spectrum.
I don’t think I’d want to focus on one thing in particular – we’ve done so much. But if, instead, I were to single out an unexpected success, it would be our investment in antifouling paints for boats. It all started over ten years ago, when a few scientists had quite a wild idea about how to prevent barnacles attaching to boat hulls. Now, after many years’ work, some of it as part of a research programme funded by us, a non-toxic paint has been developed and patented around the world. I also have a soft spot for the Mistra Innovation programme, which gives small businesses the chance to link up with universities and research institutes. This enables them to develop their ideas in a way they couldn’t do otherwise, and to come up with new, smart innovations.
Having sat on many boards, I’ve seen that companies are keen to recruit graduates from the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE). At the same time, I’ve been concerned about how little attention SSE has paid to the environment. So it’s both pleasing and incredibly important that, with Mistra’s support, the School is now investing heavily in sustainable development, in both its research and its education. Today’s SSE students are trained to think in environmental terms – which will help industry to develop new, sustainable business models.
I’m confident that we are efficient and quick off the mark when it comes to identifying the right fields of research. The approach Mistra has chosen is to use outside experts to assess the potential for new initiatives in interesting areas, while maintaining a small secretariat with the skills needed to set up research programmes capable of breaking new ground. That allows us to be dynamic and work on a very broad front.
I’m also confident that we’re able to deliver. A few years ago we carried out a major evaluation of the impacts of our more than 30 research programmes, and recently a panel of experts reviewed our climate initiatives. Both delivered a favourable verdict, concluding that our research had produced benefits – new solutions that are helping to solve a variety of environmental problems. The message was that Mistra’s long-term programmes, with early involvement of stakeholders, are the right way to bring about the type of research that can change processes in society and make it more sustainable.
One thing I wish I had done, and which I’d encourage my successor to do, is evaluate the academic impacts of our work. What, for instance, are the benefits to researchers of taking a PhD and pursuing a career within a Mistra programme? That’s something I’d like to know more about.
With my own background in nanotechnology research, I find the programmes on nanotechnology and smart materials particularly exciting – I feel there’s great potential there. It will also be interesting to see what comes of the green humanities programme in Linköping. This is a bold initiative, establishing a new field of research that will look at how people respond to societal change, and how we can find common approaches that will help us move towards a more sustainable society.
So my message to the Board is: good luck, and here’s to more of the same when it comes to breaking new ground!
Money has more to do with sustainability than you might think. First of all, you need huge financial resources to be able to invest in sustainable technology and energy systems. Second, it’s good to put a price on the environment, assign a monetary value to it, because that puts pressure on companies and the financial sector to make the right investments and think about the environment.
The financial sector is extremely important, because it channels the capital needed for investment. It’s the financial sector that gives credit ratings and determines market values. All these things are signals that influence companies’ investments. If we want to see greener investment, that has to be reflected in prices, in credit ratings and on stock markets – which is where the financial sector comes in.
The financial sector has become much more interested in sustainability in recent years. That is partly because the environmental impacts of warming, for instance, are clearer, but also because so much has happened at a political level. There’s the Paris Conference, the G7 – the leading industrial nations – who have said that, in time, fossil fuels need to be phased out. And then there are Sweden’s own environmental objectives. All these things show that this is serious, so the financial sector has to take the environment into account.
Certainly the financial sector could be more active, and that’s starting to happen, in various ways. Banks, for example, are looking more at the environment when approving loans, they are developing sustainable products such as green bonds, funds are becoming more transparent about their environmental footprint, and so on. Things are moving fast in all these areas, so in future the financial sector will I think be a driver of progress on climate and the environment.
There are several things Mistra can do. First, the Foundation supports research on sustainability. Second, we want our own asset management to be sustainable. That’s to say, we want to invest in green businesses and set an example, showing others what sustainable asset management can mean.
Mistra’s own asset management has I believe long served as an example. And the funding for major research programmes in green finance, at the Stockholm School of Economics, will I hope bring major breakthroughs in research and education, which will in turn influence tomorrow’s decision-makers.
Misum is one of these research programmes at the Stockholm School of Economics, set up with major funding from Mistra. The aims are to do research on the sustainability of financial systems, and to provide education, so that future business leaders, CFOs or whatever are able to take environmental impacts into account from the start in their companies.
As for managing Mistra’s assets in years to come, we need to be even better at going through every part of our portfolio, asking questions like: What’s the significance of the company we own there? What do they do? How can we be sure they’re doing the right thing in terms of long-term sustainability? And how can we step up the pressure on the people managing our money, so they in turn do the same homework on the companies they invest in? So we intend both to develop our own skills and to put more pressure on the people managing our capital.
Total to Swedish recipients, SEK m 0Total to foreign recipients, SEK m 0
Disbursements in SEK m, by recipient
Disbursements in SEK m to the five largest recipients
0Five largest recipients’ share of total funds disbursed.
Phone: 08-791 10 24
Mobile: 070 – 732 03 17
Phone: 08-791 10 28
Mobile: 070-732 40 73
Birgitta Jonsson Palmgren
Chief Financial Officer
Phone: 08-791 34 80
Mobile: 070-344 54 66
Christopher Folkeson Welch
Phone: 08-791 10 26
Mobile: 070-732 30 74
Phone: 08-791 10 27
Mobile: 076-112 37 00
Phone: 08-791 10 22
Mobile: 070-629 88 12
Phone: 08-791 10 23
Mobile: 070-659 09 60