NatWest ESG event in Stockholm provides platform for exchanging best practices and perspectives

NatWest’s ‘2024 ESG in the Nordics’ event, co-hosted with the British Embassy in Stockholm at the Ambassador’s Residence, presented an ideal opportunity for key sustainability stakeholders to engage in an interactive setting on a range of pertinent topics. Geopolitics, investment strategy and biodiversity were some of the key focus areas this year.

For sustainable investments, every election matters

Moderated by Dr. Arthur Krebbers, NatWest’s Head of Corporates, Climate & ESG Capital Markets, the first panel included a number of key take aways: 

  1. Global elections and sustainable policy implications: With millions of citizens in multiple nations, accounting in total for 60% of the global GDP, going to the polls in 2024, political risk is a key “G” concern. Simply put: For the selection of sustainable investments, every election matters. Election results, can, for example, have different implications on national decarbonisation efforts. New governments could put a greater focus on energy security, away from oil towards renewables - or become more lenient with the continued use of fossil fuels or coal. New elected leaders could also potentially make it harder (or significantly more expensive) for countries to purchase critical raw materials for green products. Initiatives such as the EU Critical Raw Minerals Act seek to counteract this by aiming to reduce the dependency on third countries for raw materials deemed crucial to meet climate objectives. 
  2. The future of energy: The panellists highlighted that the public energy debate is skewed towards binary debates, such as pro nuclear, or pro wind. They urged for conversations about renewables to focus on the right mix of multiple generation sources and how grid capacity can be ramped up – and, equally important, how to pay for this. 
  3. The changing attractiveness of geographies: Greenifying industrial processes could well result in shifts to countries that offer much needed raw materials or a more suitable policy environment. While this is not yet a feature of political debate, it could lead to major shifts in activity of certain sectors and associated employment. In this context, the specialists pointed to the ‘readier’ ability of South American countries to produce green hydrogen, which could significantly boost their attraction.
  4. Supply chain resilience and geopolitical conflicts: The strong interdependency of global supply chains, which are key for ensuring sufficient resources for the sustainability transition, could make a strong economic case for peace – or, at least, reduced conflict.

The challenge of measuring biodiversity risks

During the second roundtable, covering climate risks, the panel – moderated by Rahel Haque, Climate & ESG Capital Markets, NatWest – shared the following observations: 


  1. Embedding climate risk within production value chains: The panellists emphasised that decisionmakers ought to incorporate a ‘systems mindset’ (i.e. interconnectedness), ensuring that facets of climate risk (such as loss of biodiversity, or physical risks due to severe weather events) shouldn’t be looked at in isolation, but holistically.  
  2. Measuring biodiversity risks for specific assets: Biodiversity risks are currently measured on a case-by-case basis for specific assets and utilise satellite and remote sensing methodologies such as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) (top-down) while supplemented by on-the-ground measurements (bottom-up). However, it is challenging to measure biodiversity risk at the portfolio level because the materiality of biodiversity risks varies by sectors and geographies, which further complicates how best to interpret the outputs. Meanwhile, a growing number of companies are using Mean Species Abundance (an indicator of biodiversity intactness defined as the mean abundance of original species relative to their abundance in undisturbed ecosystems) as a key performance indicator (KPI). Yet, its relevance is questionable given the many factors that could impact the MSA (beyond corporate actions) and given comparability challenges. The specialists concluded that it will be crucial to increase the standardisation of biodiversity definitions to ensure consistency of reporting per Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) guidelines.  
  3. The potential for biodiversity credits to offset nature-based risk: The panellists pointed out that biodiversity credits are still in their nascency, and that technology firms and consultancies could play a significant role in helping to scale up this market. 

Investment strategies: Applying an opportunity lens is just as important as identifying risks

In the final discussion, the panellists - Harri Halonen, Partner at CapMan; Patrik Marckert, Senior Banker at Nordic Investment Bank; Katarina Gospic, Head of ESG Offices for H&M Group; and Urs Bitterling, Chief Sustainability Officer at Cubera - looked at decarbonisation as an investment opportunity, and how to overcome implementation hurdles on the road to net zero. With NatWest’s Caroline Haas, Global Head of Climate and ESG Capital Markets, as moderator, the five panel members delivered the following insights during the final panel discussion:

  1. Decarbonisation and its importance to fundraising: BlackRock’s recent announcement to acquire GIP for £12.5bn has brought home the focus and importance of climate-related assets to assist the decarbonisation objective of the Paris Agreement. Infrastructure investing, despite marginally falling in 2023, remained robust with $332bn of loan debt and $663bn in equity investments across the USA and Europe according to Infralogic. In this context, the panellists pointed to the ESG profiling of managers as an important tool for fundraising efforts. Also, the decision to label funds as Article 8 (as opposed to Article 9) has been deliberately positioned by asset managers who are active owners and thus want to work with their portfolio assets in decarbonising and creating economic value.
  2. Value creation: Whilst an ESG lens allows one to identify risks and opportunities, most decisionmakers focus on risks only, which (involuntarily) hinders value creation. Instead, corporates and investors ought to apply an opportunity lens, also with a view to enhance their relevance to ESG investors.  
  3. Decarbonisation of real estate: The panellists highlighted that the biggest drivers of decarbonisation of real estate relate to reducing the usage of space, but beyond that, obtaining real-time data is key to managing the space as it allows to understand the behavioural perspective of the asset.
  4. Decarbonisation investment themes: The specialists agreed that emerging key infrastructure investment themes aligned to sustainable topics are battery; green hydrogen; green steel; Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS); and the decarbonisation of the grid.


If you have questions about the ESG topics covered during our event, please reach out to:

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