When Mistra (the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research) was formed in 1994, its endowment was SEK 2.5 billion. The mission was, by developing strategic environmental research, to help solve serious environmental problems while fostering Swedish competitiveness and sustainable development. The money was expected to last for 10 to 15 years.
The outcome is different.
Today, more than 20 years on, Mistra has more than SEK 3 billion to keep supporting and developing research to promote sustainable development. Yet since its inception the Foundation has invested over SEK 4.5bn in a long series of research initiatives that have often had manifest effects on society.
The explanation for Mistra’s ability ‘have our cake and eat it’ lies in the strategic selection of asset managers who, over the years, have made wise investments with ample returns. This has enabled funding of more environmental research than was originally planned or hoped. Mistra invests some SEK 200 million a year in various research programmes, and our own scenario analyses indicate that this will remain feasible for a long time to come.
The market and its stakeholders have key roles in the attainment of long-term sustainable development. As an asset owner, Mistra is a part of the market. It is also something of a pioneer, not least in having a clear investment policy with management goals that include not only making a good return but investing in ways that promote sustainable development.
Early on, Mistra also showed it was in earnest and believed strongly that a long-term, more sustainable approach to investing would yield a solid return. As the first institutional client of Generation Investment Management, founded in 2004 by Al Gore and David Blood, Mistra made a practical contribution to spreading the message that good returns can go hand in hand with sustainable development.
Shareholder activism is well in line with Mistra’s purpose, through research, of achieving sustainable development. We invest in companies that actively work to this end. They align their business with the global sustainability goals, developing and conducting their operations according to the Paris Agreement. Mistra is also a signatory to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI, https://www.unpri.org/), to which its work conforms. We follow up the sustainability focus of our current investments by systematically, regularly reviewing the investment portfolio and through our dialogue with asset managers. This is to ensure that the businesses are run and developed in line with sustainable development.
As an institutional asset owner and investor, Mistra aspires to be a model for others wishing to assume responsibility and work for sustainable development. Mistra attains this by conducting asset management that is profitable in the long term, and by being transparent and inspiring in its choices.