This article is the third of the NordicSIF blog series 2020 hosted by Finsif.
Swesif was born from the initiative of 10 members and formally founded in 2003. Over almost two decades Swesif has taken an active role in supporting the industry in transforming itself. Today the organisation counts 125 members and continues to attract a widening array of new applicants.
“Despite the pandemic and the lack of in-person meetings, Swesif continues to be a relevant meeting place for the sustainable investment community in Sweden,” says Susanne Bolin Gärtner, Swesif’s chairwoman since May 2020. “Given our long history and the strong growth our organisation has undergone in the past few years, it seemed a good time to reflect on what our core mission is and where we should direct our focus going forward.” In September 2020, the board of Swesif, which currently counts 11 board members, gathered for two full-day workshops to discuss and re-visit Swesif’s purpose and aim.
A collaborative spirit
“The discussions were intense and really engaged,” says Robert Vicsai, the board’s vice-chair. “Our board is truly diverse in characters and experiences, which we hope is representative of the industry at large, with members from academia, asset owners, fund selectors, both equity and fixed income, sell-side and buy-side analysts as well as service providers. This breadth and depth of expertise provides for a good balance between revolutionary thoughts and the Swedish tendency to compromise.”
As a result of the workshop, the board proposed changes to Swesif’s bylaws, something that had not happened since they were first adopted. The main achievement was to clarify the goal of the organisation to make it more actionable. “Our bylaws are where our DNA is written. Sharpening the definitions that make us who we are strengthens our motivation to better serve our members,” says Susanne.
The right partners
From the start, Swesif has been driven by the commitment and time of its board members while the administration was taken care off by a consultant. At the beginning of 2020, Swesif decided to give it website a makeover and upgrade communication with its members. “Communication is one of these areas that cannot simply be driven casually as an add-on to our already busy professional lives,” Robert explains. “Partnering with NordSIP whose main activity is to spread information about sustainable investing on a day-to-day basis seemed like the right type of win-win situation. At the beginning of the summer, NordSIP also took over the administrative part of Swesif’s work, which has proven to be quite synergistic.”
Collaboration with partners both locally and oversees have always been central to Swesif’s activities. “Last year, the Nordic SIF conference which we had the chance to host here in Stockholm showed how strong the Nordic community can be, when we all work towards the same goal,” comments Susanne.
Towards an ambitious future
For 2021, Swesif has set an ambitious agenda with measurable milestones and achievements. On top of the list are the projects led by working groups on the topics of water, fixed income, longtermism in investment analysis, education and the Sustainability Profile (hållbarhetsprofilen) which needs an update. “It is high time we discussed how the Sustainability Profile should continue its course and how it can meet the needs of the upcoming launch of the regulations on taxonomy and disclosures,” says Robert, who is co-heading the project. “In Sweden, this tool has played an important role in the self-regulation of the asset management industry. How will the initiative co-exist with the more all-encompassing EU regulation?”
The project on longtermism in investment analysis is the second part of a collaboration initiated in 2018 with the Stockholm Sustainable Finance Centre (SSFC) which concluded with a report and a seminar in the spring of 2019. Initiated in 2019, the water project which is conducted in association with the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) aims at developing methods and tools to help analysts and portfolio managers to identify and address water-related risks in their assessment of companies. Meanwhile, the working group on fixed income has just kicked off with a first meeting. It includes members and non-member specialists in sustainable finance and green bonds among other areas relevant to the theme. Last but not least, a new project this year is to further develop access to sustainable investing education for Swesif’s members.
Other articles of the NordicSIF series