The Swedish ambassador in Spain explains how his country implemented a sustainable economic development policy twenty years ago and that has allowed it to maintain a “relatively high” growth.
Sustainability as a competitive advantage. This is how Sweden sees it. The country’s ambassador in Spain, Teppo Tauriainen, says Sweden has been a pioneer country in committing to a sustainable economy gives them a competitive advantage in the global market. The Swedish embassy in Spain has organized together with the IED Madrid and the Swedish Institute the exhibition Fashion revolution, the future of textiles, where H&M and the Swedish designer Martin Bergström will also participate.
Mds: How do you think public authorities should approach sustainability?
Teppo Tauriainen: Environmental policy is a priority of the Swedish Government. In recent years, decisions have been to strengthen the political issues towards sustainability. There is a social climate in Sweden that forces the Government to act in sustainable development and do so with very ambitious goals. The final objective that has been set in in 2045, is that we have a society in which the emissions are zero.
Mds: Will you need the support of citizens to achieve it?
TT: The Swedish society is willing to work for this. All actors must contribute to it, companies and also the general population. There is an understanding in the country that something must be done.
“Everyone has to change, and we will have a competitive advantage for being the first ones to do it”
Mds: What level of responsibility do governments have in this matter?
TT: Sweden is one of the most ambitious countries in this regard. In general, the Nordic countries are on this path and we want to be among the first. It is a challenge, but also an opportunity. Everyone must change, and we will have a competitive advantage for being the first ones to do it.
Mds: How do you put this into practice?
TT: Putting it into practice means in providing support, also through education and research. It is about encouraging the whole society.
Mds: Are you optimistic about the Fashion Pact?
TT: At the start, the pact was a success, but it is also a challenge. And we are worried about what we hear from other countries. The important thing is that there is a common reality that something must be done because each year the consequences are bigger. There will be more and more countries that understand that there is no other solution, even if it is a huge challenge. Sweden, for example, invests a lot of capital in the green fund for emerging economies.
“Sustainability is already the first selling point for many companies”
Mds: Who should the administration listen to, companies or citizens?
TT: Consumers are a very important force. Many of the changes in Sweden began precisely with a consumer movement, although they were not always organized.
Mds: Which actors accelerate more in this sense, companies or citizens?
TT: Swedish companies have seen that acting in a sustainable way gives them a competitive advantage. They know that if they invest in developing sustainable products, they will earn more money. And this, in the end, is the key to the business world. Companies in the mining sector, for example, immediately talk about how to be more sustainable. This is already the first selling point for many companies. Without them, in the end, we will not reach the goal set for 2045.
Mds: Who should people be following: Greta Thunberg’s mission or what companies like H&M are doing?
TT: It is difficult to say what really happens in reality. But Greta Thunberg will not change the way of acting, this has no relevance in what happens, while if H&M decides that the garment should be manufactured with sustainable fabrics it changes the way in which the fabric is produced. Greta Thunberg is much better-known outside of Sweden because in our country we had been with this speech for many years and we are already used to this type of action. I don’t mean to say that she is not important, it is necessary to have people leading this change.
“If H&M decides that garments should be manufactured with sustainable fabrics, it changes the way the fabric is produced”
Mds: Is fashion at the edge of a more sustainable economic system?
TT: In Sweden, in the sixties and seventies of the last century there was still textile production that polluted rivers. Today, there is nothing left and rivers are clean.
Mds: Is it a sector that can speed up change?
TT: It has an important role in the sense that it is a sector that we all know. It has a greater influence on the consumer than the weight it has on the economy. In steel, for example, important initiatives have also been taken to reduce emissions to zero, but it is a sector that does not have the capacity to change people’s mindset.
Mds: Does the future of economic growth go through sustainability?
TT: Yes, and Sweden is a good example. The economic development of the last twenty years has been in this line. And the result has been that emissions have been reduced while economic growth has been relatively high. And this is an important message for those who have doubts, for those who said that sustainability was going to affect economic development. They were wrong. Companies have seen that they can be profitable and sustainable at the same time.