Department of Business Administration

Lund University School of Economics and Management

Biodiversity is the new CO2

Published: 2021-12-18

When the initiative “Giving research as a Christmas gift“ was launched Susanne Arvidsson, Sustainability researcher and Associate professor in Finance at LUSEM, became one of the possible receivers. Not that surprising: No one could argue that her research, new institute and national and world wide collaboration projects are unimportant. All done with the goal of getting closer to sustainability solutions.

A conversation with Susanne leaves no one untouched or unaffected. She tells things that provide insights, new thoughts and above all important knowledge. And her energy seems endless! Just a few examples of what she is working with for the moment is her almost one-year-old institute LISI, an application to the research foundation Mistra, follow-up work with “The Swedish Corporate Sustainability Ranking“, a new Pufendorf project and a number of projects about sustainability work in Swedish companies,  authorities and municipalities. Most topical is probably the new direction of sustainability work about how to align the financial system with the needs of biodiversity.

Biodiversity is entering into the financial context

Susanne explains how biodiversity is attracting a lot of interest and focus in the finance related field:

““Biodiversity is going to be the new CO2 and it is vital that we generate new knowledge and innovations on how to integrate biodiversity considerations into financial-decision making.’Transition finance’ is how the redirection and acceleration of financial flows towards sustainable activites are defined. To be able to steer financial flows towards companies that enhance biodiversity protection, the actors need to consider biodiversity aspects  in their decision making, and when making for example investments or lending out money.“

Susanne says that to study the CO2 emissions from companies has been difficult in some regards, however,  when she and her research colleagues now are approaching biodiversity impacts and dependencies, the complexity and multidimensionality increases exponentially. Defining and operationalizing biodiversity risks, impacts and dependencies are difficult to reach consensus on even for experts in biodiversity and ecosystems. For actors in the financial system biodiversity is a quite new language. 

“We want to problematize if and how we can capture the value of nature in all the finance models and approaches. To align the financial system with the needs of biodiversity is indeed a challenge and it calls for inter and transdisciplinary knowledge creation and an understainding of how approaches can become useful in deciosn makring proceses in industry and the financial system.  This is the point of departure of our Mistra application. The challenge is extremely complex not only to researchers in finance, but also to the experts – the biologists,“ says Susanne. 

The frequently mentioned and rewritten ranking “The Swedish Corporate Sustainability Ranking“ of which Susanne is chairperson published its latest results in the end of October. The Ranking shows that only 30 per cent of the largest Swedish companies communicate about biodiversity. There is obviously a need to continue to pursue these issues. 

What is Mistra and who are in the team behind your Mistra application?

“Mistra is an independent research foundation and Lund University has two ongoing Mistra programmes today. If we get this grant the programme will run 4+4 years and will be funded with 50+50 million. In addition to the international research team, the BIOPATH consortium include 34 influential partners from industry, the financial system and public authorities all with great potential to make short and long term impact on the global arena,“ Susanne says.

The researchers and partners behind the BIOPATH consortium will continue with their agenda and launch its plans when funding is received.

Pufendorf during spring

Related to the above Mistra programme,  is the Pufendorf Theme Nature by Numbers, of which Susanne is coordinator. This ’think hub’ will start in February and  involves reseachers from four LU faculties and SLU. In addition to Susanne, Fredrik NG Andersson joins from LUSEM. The idea to look at the whole process, how nature allows itself to be captured in for example public policies and  private initiatives like CSRD (Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive), the EU Taxonomy and TNFD (Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures).

When asked to conclude and tie all important things going on Susanne ends up speaking about the privilege about collaboration and co-creation both with researchers and external stakeholders:

“It is such a privilege to have the opportunity to take part in these external engagement initiatives that I am involved in and collaborate with partners from both business and industry; it really develops and gives a lot back to my research. I enjoy to be able to conduct research together with brilliant researchers from other faculties, disciplines and universities. To collaborate interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary is most inspiring.“

The Mistra application was handed in yesterday, the 20th of December. The message about a grant or not will reach the applicants in early spring. And the Christmas gifts to support research are already coming in to Lund University. Let’s hope for some wishes to come true this and the next year. For the sake of halting and restoring biodiversity loss.