Per Bolunds tal vid Global Ecolabelling Networks konferens ”Putting Words into action”

Stockholm, 10 oktober 2017.

Det talade ordet gäller.

Thank you for that kind introduction!

The name of this conference, is, as you know, "Putting Words into Action". And I must say, and maybe not in a humble way, that I find that this title suits me very well.

It is said that the definition of politics is about who gets what, when and how. But I'd say it's also about creating ideas, getting people behind them and most importantly - being able to put them into action.

When it comes to the Financial markets you could frame it another way, using an American saying – Put you money where your mouth is! We've heard a lot of promises from financial actors – now it is time to act, to change the investment patterns. To put their money where their words are.

In a few minutes I will have the great privilege to announce and reward the first Nordic Swan-labelled investment funds. This is an initiative that the Swedish government proposed at the Council of Nordic countries in 2015. An idea that has been turned into a proposal and is now turned into action.

Through this, we as individual consumers can now put our money where our mouth is – put our savings where they contribute to making the world a better place.

I understand that you previously had an entire section, on consumer power, here today. And I think that – at least in this room – we can all agree on the power that we have as consumers. That our choices as consumers have a direct impact on our world. But we have to give consumers the tools to act.

Which is exactly what eco labelling or environmental labelling does, it is a very effective tool in our efforts to make our consumption patterns more sustainable.

To be active and make informed decisions on the financial market can be a challenge for consumers, this is a complex market with an abundance of information. While more and more consumers show a strong interest in sustainable investments, many lack a deeper knowledge about financial services, products and sustainability.

My job, as the minister of consumer markets – is to make it easy for consumers to make the "right" choice. Or at least help consumers to be able to make informed choices.

When you save your money and/or invest in a fond – it hasn't always been clear as to what exactly you are investing in. It's been hard to decipher which companies you support.

I think it was Desmond Tutu who said that "people of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change".

The Nordic Swan Ecolabel is a very well-known and higly respected trademark in all the Nordic countries. By using the Nordic Swan a company in a simple and credible way can communicate environmental, and CSR related work. And I think that we all have to save the world a little, every day. All of us, needs to be planet keepers. Therefore, this licence is one more important step towards making it easy to do the "environmentally" right choice.

Because our problem, is not that "Winter is coming" – our problem is that winter might not come at all. Time is running out, the climate change is here and now. We've seen it with the flooding's, with the hurricanes and the extreme drought.

And in the global transition into a sustainable and fossil free economy, with increased respect for human rights, one cannot stress the importance of the financial markets enough. Because the investments that we do today determine what world we will have tomorrow.

It is therefore welcome that in Sweden as well as internationally, a rapid transfer of capital is currently taking place, where it is becoming the new normal to contribute to a more sustainable financial market through socially and environmentally sustainable investments. Financial actors today consider environmental and human rights to a widely greater extent than ever before.

This positive trend has many different explanations. First of all; it is increasingly obvious that the risks of failing sustainability work have increased. Just look at the companies behind the deep-water horizon spill or the fiddling with the carbon dioxide emission levels from cars.
Secondly, sustainable investments contribute to better business results and higher returns. A connection that becomes clearer every day.

One example of this connection is investments in fossil fuels, which have become increasingly insecure. As prices for renewable energy fall rapidly, demand and fossil fuel prices will fall as well. Lenders and shareholders are at risk of major losses as their investments in fossil energy fall dramatically in value. Ultimately, this may lead to a lower return for customers to those investors who do not take this development into account.

Or as Christina Figueres, Executive secretary of the UNFCCC put it; "Climate change increasingly poses one of the biggest long-term threats to investments."

So there are strong reasons why major investors now are moving from focusing on short term performance and quarterly reports. Instead, what becomes increasingly important today, is what creates long-term value within companies, namely active environmental work, dignified working conditions, respect for human rights and active anti-corruption work.

Sweden has started this transition, and the Swan Ecolabel certified investment funds isn't the only step that is now taken to creating a more sustainable financial market. If we're going to live up to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement we need to increase the speed. Therefore;

  1. The government has recently proposed new legislation that requires of all Swedish fund managers that they clearly disclose their sustainability efforts. It will now be possible for customers to easily get information on how the manager of a selected fund works with environmental issues, social conditions, respect for human rights and active anti-corruption work. Fund managers who choose not to have serious sustainability work will need to, clearly, be transparent towards their customers about this.
  2. And the Swedish national pension funds which jointly manage over 130 billion dollars will get a legislative overhaul which demands of them to move in a more sustainable direction. This means that the funds must pay attention to international agreements which Sweden has ratified, such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement.
  3. Lastly, in the premium pension system, we will propose a sustainability requirement which stipulates that a fund will not be allowed on the platform without properly declaring how sustainability is integrated in the investment process.

These initiatives are a few examples of how we step by step move towards a more sustainable financial system. And how we give green consumer demands a stronger position on the financial markets.

So, to me this is a great moment and an example of bringing a great idea into action. The new swan ecolabel on investment funds will give me, and you and all other consumers the opportunity to – finally – put your money where your mouth is!

Thank you!