Investing in a Sustainable Future

– Interview with Karin Askelöf at Handelsbanken

By Green Week

Karin Askelof

Deputy Head of Sustainable Investments, Handelsbanken

Following the goal of Green Week, to inspire the students about corporate sustainability, we have decided to ask our first partner, Handelsbanken, to give us their input about their philosophy regarding corporate sustainability. Therefore, we have met Karin Askelöf, acting Head of Responsible Investments at Handelsbanken, to find out how banks and especially Handelsbanken integrate sustainability into its operations. This is the second and final article that will lead the way towards Green Week.

As an asset manager, how does Handelsbanken Fonder incorporate sustainability into your investment practices?

Sustainability at Handelsbanken is about understanding our role in the community, acting responsibly and with a long-term perspective. Our focus is on the areas that we can directly or indirectly influence through our operations. Handelsbanken’s view is that responsible actions are the foundation for long-term value creation. Low risk-taking, cost-awareness and long-term business relationships are cornerstones of Handelsbanken’s business culture.


The bank’s sustainability policy sets out the direction and the ambitions for the bank’s approach to sustainability.  This serves as the framework for our, Handelsbanken Fonder’s Policy for Responsible Investments that governs our investment activities. Our way of working with sustainability is to integrate sustainability in the investment process. Portfolio Managers are responsible for integrating sustainability into the investments analysis.


As a signatory to Global Compact, Handelsbanken has committed to work with and promote human rights, labor rights conditions, anti-corruption and the environment. With this commitment follows that we screen our investment portfolios semiannually to make sure that they do not contain any companies that violates international conventions and norms. According to our policy we exclude certain companies from our investment universes, companies involved with forbidden weapons, nuclear weapons and coal companies. Long-term thinking and sustainability go hand in hand. This has always been core of our corporate values and corporate culture.

Do you see a trend where people and companies will have a greater interest in sustainability in the future?

Absolutely. We see that the interest for sustainability is growing continuously. Our customers, both retail and institutional investors, are getting more and more interested in that we invest responsible in companies that take sustainability seriously. We have a strong focus on investing in companies that provide solutions to global challenges, as defined in Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable development Goals. , It is about investing in companies that deliver returns in all three dimensions – financially, socially and environmentally. We are not only asset managers; we have vision to be planetary keepers. Our investments should relieve and not be a burden to the planet. It is about investing in the future.

Could you describe to us how you see that financial sustainability is interlinked with environmental and social sustainability?

It is widely accepted that ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) issues have an impact on companies’ financial sustainability. Corporate governance is key – companies with good corporate governance also manage social and environmental issues well. So all of these aspects are interlinked. Some companies do take shortcuts, which might create value in the short term. Considering that we are a long term investor, we want to invest in companies that generate long term value. Therefore we integrate environmental and social aspects into our investment analysis in order to make better investment decisions. Shifting away from short termism to a long term perspective is the key when investing responsible.   

“In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 goals for a better world by 2030. These goals have the power to end poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change. Guided by the goals, it is now up to all of us, governments, businesses, civil society and the general public to work together to build a better future for everyone.” (Source:

How will Handelsbanken Fonder develop their work with sustainability in the near future?

Generally for Handelsbanken, it is about continuing to integrate sustainability in everything we do, across different business areas like lending, investments etc. What the bank did last year, for example,  was to update procedures for assessing sustainability risks within the credit granting process for companies. Green loans were also launched for buildings meeting specific environmental and climate-related criteria. Within Handelsbanken Fonder, we will continue to focus on investing in companies that contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. We see Agenda 2030 as the world’s largest purchase orders and are convinced it will guide us to interesting growth opportunities, investments opportunities and long term value creation. During 2017 we developed a tool to measure our investments contribution to the SDGs and we will continue to analyze our portfolios impact. We will also continue to focus on actively engaging with the companies that we own, influencing them to become more sustainable and to have positive impact on sustainable development.

Do you want to meet Karin and the rest of Handelsbanken team in person and learn more what they work with? Join us for a lunch lecture and mingle on May 2.

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Authors: Michael Johansson, Jonas Rechreche and Adam Engström

©2018 THS Future



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