Powerful pennies

 magdalena-hakansson By Magdalena Håkansson, Business Development & Client Relations Manager at GES

On this year’s ranking of Sweden’s top 101 “environmentally powerful people”, published by Swedish magazine Miljöaktuellt now for the 7th time, we are thrilled to find members of the investment community claiming the top four spots. Not only are investors among the very top but also their total number on the list is the highest ever. And it is about time. Investors can and are influencing sustainability matters – including issues such as carbon exposure, biodiversity, and pollution. By assessing these aspects in potential investments, engaging with the companies they own, as well as participating in the overall policy and regulatory debate investors can make things happen. As an example, when investors pay attention to and ask companies to provide information on how they manage and perform on relevant sustainability risks & opportunities they increase the awareness of these issues within the companies and put pressure on them to demonstrate what they actually do.

When investors use their influence, the impact is not only local. Investors can use their power globally through their (often larger) stakes in domestic companies with global operations and/or through their diverse international portfolios. A single investor can put sustainability issues on the agenda. But when investors come together and collaborate the impact can be tremendous, as demonstrated by last week’s climate resolution at BP’s annual meeting which gained a staggering 98.28 per cent’s support.

For most, climate change and related issues, such as carbon and water risk exposure, are what first comes to mind when thinking of sustainability. But sustainability is so much more. In Sweden, large corporates such as SCA, Stora Enso and TeliaSonera have provided good (or rather bad) examples of what sustainability can also be about – i.e. corruption and human rights violations. These cases have served as an eye-opener to the corporate and investment community at large, when it comes to realising the inherent sustainability risks that require sound and active management. And through the representatives of institutional investors, who have actively been engaging with the companies to ensure proper measures are being implemented, there is also a broadened understanding of the influence investors can have on progress.

Investments and sustainability follow the same pattern as many other developments; first there are a few who take the lead and pave the way by demonstrating issues that investors should pay attention to and ways they can act. However, there is no one optimal solution for integrating sustainability. All the frontrunners have their own scope, own focus and their own unique approach to different issues. But importantly, what they all have in common is that they are using their power to effect change. Behind the persons on this year’s list I’m sure there are many investors who are soon to join the ranks. I recommend the investment community to pick inspiration from the great examples demonstrated by Sweden’s “most environmentally powerful people”. Find your own optimal solution. Use your power.

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