The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research
Supporting research of strategic importance for a
good living environment and sustainable development
The research that Mistra funds continues to be important. For international environmental work, 2020 is a decisive year. We have less than a decade left to achieve the global Agenda 2030 targets. At the time of writing, Sweden and large parts of the world are severely affected by the coronavirus. The pandemic is shaking up our societies and will characterise global trends for a long time to come. The crisis and recovery may be part of the transformation into a sustainable, resilient society. But this requires new forms of cooperation and knowledge. Here, Mistra’s programmes can make a difference. In this situation, in Sweden and worldwide, research and innovation are crucial in both enabling us to understand the restructuring we need and highlighting solutions.
During 2019, we saw the completion of several of our multiyear research initiatives. Results have already proved useful in a wide range of areas, from sustainable fashion and materials recovery to urban development. Thanks to the inclusion of users in Mistra’s programmes right from the start, we have laid a solid foundation for the findings to yield practical benefits and genuinely help to bring about more sustainable development.
We have also initiated numerous new programmes. One of them is an investment aimed at developing chemicals with less impact on humans and the environment. As before, there is great breadth in our initiatives: we have also announced funding of programmes to foster more sustainable sport and outdoor life, a more secure food supply, and environmental communication that is adequate for today’s polarised debate, with its many conflicting aims.
The fact that Sweden leads the way both in the environmental sector and as a research nation gives Mistra a unique position. Stepping up our presence in Brussels during 2019 was noticed. Wherever we have sought to take part, we have found open doors and interest in what our researchers have to say. In our new initiative launched during the year, Mistra Dialogue, we aim to help researchers in Mistra-funded programmes to penetrate the EU’s decision-making processes and adapt their messages for optimal effect. The aim is, by supporting our knowledgeable, committed researchers, to give their results the maximum possible impact.
One factor giving Mistra a special role is that, many years ago, we realised the importance of sustainable efforts in investing our assets well. Influence on the financial market must go hand in hand with our research initiatives. Another step to meet the financial sector’s growing interest in sustainability issues has been to create meetings for researchers and operators in this sector. One aspect of this is developing investor briefs — that is, summaries of the state of knowledge in high-priority areas. An initial brief on research on plastics use was produced in 2019, and we plan further briefs on textiles and fashion, and on recovered raw materials.
The years ahead will thus be crucial for how our societies are to meet the major challenges we face. The roads forward have proved complex and require knowledge from various disciplines and fields. Accordingly, Mistra’s remit is more important than ever, and we are now planning initiatives in, above all, an equitable climate transition and energy system, an improved marine environment, and biodiversity. As a foundation with a relatively independent role, we bear particular responsibility for driving development and maintaining our long-term initiatives that bring researchers and users together to reorient our society towards sustainability.
Fund managers contacted Mistra to find out more about current research on plastic. During the year, interest in more sustainable use of plastics led to several meetings among investors and Mistra researchers.
An international expert group recommended funding the Mistra Resource-Efficient and Effective Solutions (REES) initiative for another four years. Greater knowledge of the circular economy is the focus, but the research will now also undertake financial analysis.
Can EU trade reduce emissions from fossil-heavy industries? Are border taxes with a climate focus necessary? These two questions were discussed by Mistra and other stakeholders at a seminar on energy and trade at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), a think tank in Brussels.
After Mistra’s funding stopped in 2019, this research centre for sustainable urban development is getting a new lease of life within the scope of two new initiatives, both within the Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development (GMV).
Mistra opened a call for proposals for a new research programme. The goal is to find solutions for developing a sustainable, competitive, profitable and innovative Swedish food system by 2030.
Influence: good, bad or ugly? Themes at this year’s Forum for Science Communication, which Mistra joined in arranging, included disinformation and how it can be addressed.
Can digitisation contribute to a society that is sustainable and offers equal opportunities? This was the theme when Mistra held a workshop ahead of a new research programme on social structures and planning in a digital era.
How do Swedish candidates intend to act as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in the forthcoming period to meet environmental challenges? Politicians had a chance to reply during a seminar that Mistra helped to organise.
The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) is to lead a new research programme on environmental communication. Mistra wants to develop the area and obtain in-depth knowledge of how and under what conditions environmental communication can contribute to sustainable adaptation.
IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute is to be responsible for a new research programme on reduced exposure to hazardous chemicals. In what will be Mistra’s largest programme to date, its contribution amounts to SEK 70 million over four years.
Jointly with Sweden’s Permanent Representation to the EU, Mistra held a seminar in Brussels on how the transition to a fossil-free economy in Europe will be achieved. Its starting point was the European Commission’s long-term strategy for net zero carbon emissions.
Several of Mistra’s programmes held seminars and discussions during Almedalen Week in Visby, Gotland. Topics debated included the polarisation between urban and rural areas, new geopolitical risks and whether GM really can be green.
Mistra’s new initiative, a programme on sport, friluftsliv (‘open-air life’ or outdoor activities) and the environment, was assigned to a consortium in which Mid Sweden University is the main contractor. Mistra’s funding for the research will amount to SEK 56 million over four years.
During the year, new members were appointed to Mistra’s Board. Areas such as economics, microbial ecology and social sciences are now represented among the members, and the Board now has a sustainability expert from Sweco as well.
Is there scope for a research programme on the clean-energy transition and the new industrial society? Mistra explored this by inviting experts from government agencies, industry and academia to a workshop.
Mistra is one of the research foundations that were formed when the wage-earner funds were discontinued in 1994. This was celebrated with a joint seminar and also with a 25th-anniversary report on the successful investment.
Mistra Innovation was an initiative that succeeded in stimulating environmental innovations in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Mistra renewed the programme and, following an initial call for proposals, five new projects jointly received funding of SEK 25 million.
What is happening in the areas of climate and the environment, and how can researchers contribute knowledge for legislation and decision-making? These were the themes of a dialogue meeting at Mistra.
Mistra was praised for its organisation and the fact that the Foundation’s assets are growing despite large investments. These comments were made in an international report that examined support for environmental and sustainability research.
Mistra’s Board has appointed Anna Jöborn as its new CEO. Currently Director of the Science Affairs Department at the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, she is succeeding Åke Iverfeldt, who retired at year-end.
Over the past five years, Misum has become a key agent and catalyst for environmental and sustainability issues. The Center’s initiative at the Stockholm School of Economics is receiving another SEK 65 million over the next five years.
Mistra held meetings for EU stakeholders on the circular economy and climate — areas identified as key to implementing the European Commission’s New Green Deal.
Total to Swedish recipients, SEK m 0Total to foreign recipients, SEK m 0
Disbursements in SEK m, by recipient
Disbursements in SEK m to the five largest recipients
0Five largest recipients’ share of total funds disbursed.
Five questions to Märtha Josefsson, Chair of Mistra’s Asset Management Committee
The year 2019 brought a superb return on Mistra’s assets. We’ve seldom seen such a strong year on the stock market. For the whole year, Mistra´s return on capital was 17.6 percent — several percentage points above our benchmark index. That made 2019 a unique year, and it should be seen in the light of the sharp market decline in late 2018.
No, our thinking is long-term. The aim is for Mistra´s asset management to help ensure that our research grants are stable over time. That’s why it’s important to look at return over a long period. In the past five years, the average annual return has been 8.4 per cent. That’s a good rate, but going forward we have to expect the return to decrease.
During the year, we continued to increase our investment in green bonds, which impact companies more directly than share investments do. Green bonds are used to fund green measures, and that calls for businesses and municipalities to take the right actions.
The Swedish market has taken great strides in a positive direction, especially in the last five years. These days, most banks and fund managers are good at including sustainability criteria in their management. But Mistra wants to keep trying to influence the market and set a good example to other investors. When Al Gore visited Stockholm recently, we invited the major institutional investors in Sweden — pension and insurance companies, and the Swedish National Pension Funds — to an informal meeting with him. There was enormous interest in attending, and the big question they’re all wondering about is how their asset management can help to boost sustainability even more. Everyone wants to help, and that’s extremely pleasing.
Mistra’s portfolio is in a really good place: all the capital has been invested according to sustainability criteria for more than ten years now. In the Asset Management Committee, we’re constantly pondering how to take the next step and what we should prioritise. Maintaining our good return will, for the time being, remain the overarching challenge in a situation of low interest rates, while Mistra keeps up its active contributions to a more sustainable society. The continuous dialogue with the fund managers engaged by Mistra is totally crucial to our success. Åsa Moberg at Mistra’s secretariat has been in charge of ongoing liaison with the managers for the past couple of years, and the Asset Management Committee supports her in these contacts. The purpose of our asset management is not just to put ticks in the margin of a fine report. We want to join in genuinely exerting influence on society!
Acting Chief Executive, Programmes Director
Phone: +46 8 791 10 28
Mobile: +46 70 732 25 91
Christopher Folkeson Welch
Phone: +46 8 791 10 26
Mobile: +46 70 732 30 74
Birgitta Jonsson Palmgren
Chief Financial Officer
Phone: +46 8 791 34 80
Mobile: +46 70 344 54 66
Phone: +46 8 791 10 22
Mobile: +46 70 629 88 12
Phone: +46 8 791 10 27
Mobile: +46 76 112 37 00
Phone: +46 8 791 10 21
Mobile: +46 70 732 46 02
Phone: +46 8 791 10 23
Mobile: +46 70 659 09 60
Phone: +46 8 791 10 25
Mobile: +46 70 732 25 92
Mobile: +46 70 732 00 29