From Sydney to Stockholm: Reflections from the inaugural European Climate Leaders Forum
Sara Nyberg | Mar 8th 2019

In December 2018, renowned naturalist and broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough, opened the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC – or COP24 – with the following words:

Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change.

There’s no denying that anthropogenic climate change poses a range of threats – but at South Pole, we prefer to think of them as challenges to be solved.

An inclusive and interactive workshop, the Climate Leaders Forum is a space where attendees can tap into their collective experiences and knowledge to accelerate learning and tackle our climate challenges head on. The forums are designed to equip attendees with the right tools, insights and ideas to do so.

Last year, South Pole organised the first Climate Leaders Forum in Australia. After two successful events Down Under, the series had its European launch in Stockholm.

The event honed in on three major concepts that are key to instigating climate action: inclusivity & collaboration, increasing transparency, and simplifying the message. These were presented by keynote speaker, Jessica Cederberg Wodmar, a well-known Swedish sustainability and communications expert and author of numerous books.

Jessica foregrounded some of the ways to simplify climate messages and enhance transparency, such as companies disclosing emissions openly. She also emphasised the need for cross-corporate cooperation, and the importance of including all stakeholders in climate-related decision-making.

Inclusivity & Collaboration

To meet ambitious sustainability goals, companies need to engage with customers and suppliers. This was a major point stressed by Agneta Wannerström, presenting her organisation, construction and development company Skanska Sweden’s target of climate neutrality by 2050.

As well as engaging with customers and suppliers, Agneta highlighted the need for industry-wide collaboration and cooperation between companies, touching on plans developed by Skanska and 70 other construction companies to decarbonise the sector by 2045.

The challenge? Getting customers on board for the climate transition journey.

Audience discussions brought forth a number of ideas to address this issue, including increasing customer knowledge, formulating tenders with sustainability add-ons, and creating example lists of demands for consumers to present to companies.

Increasing Transparency

Cooperative housing association, HSB, is another corporate with an ambitious sustainability target of having close to net-zero emissions in 2030. In line with this goal, the organisation is working to reduce emissions from the construction and energy use of their buildings – supporting energy efficiency initiatives, such as solar panels, and collaborating with district heating producers.

HSB’s Environmental Manager, Magnus Ulaner, presented his organisation’s challenge: How do we strengthen collaboration with upstream suppliers, and present reliable information about the environmental impact of building products?

The need for greater transparency regarding the environmental impacts of housing is crystal clear, but how to get there? Forum participants had suggestions, including passing EU legislation requiring that the environmental impact of building materials be openly reported.

Simplifying the Message

At the centre of solving global climate challenges is the need for new norms and behavioural change amongst the general public. We know that one the best ways for an individual to make a difference is through simple behavioural changes – like eating less meat, buying items second-hand, or renting and sharing products. But how can we encourage these changes?

This was the question raised by IBM’s EU and Business Development Executive, Lars Wiigh. Along with raising awareness and spreading knowledge about the issue of climate change in the first place, Lars presented the challenge: How can we promote more sustainable and climate-friendly attitudes and behaviours?

The ideas shared by the forum participants ranged from introducing a social tax on unsustainable living, to providing incentives aimed at encouraging consumers to adopt environmentally friendly practices.

One idea that stood out was the need to share stories and inspiring examples of behavioural change far and wide. By telling stories about everyday people, like you and me, who are making a difference through simple actions, could we inspire climate-conscious decision-making on a broader scale?

Collaboration – upstream with suppliers, downstream with customers, and across sectors – is key in finding solutions to our shared sustainability, climate and energy challenges. On a fundamental level, we must keep engaging in the conversation about climate change, and share positive stories that inspire us to make the necessary changes towards a more sustainable, low-carbon world.

From Australia to Europe, and no matter which continent we are on, this underlying message is at the heart of the Climate Leaders Forum series as we work together to create a better tomorrow, today.


In 2019, we’ll host a number of Climate Leaders Forums all over the world – including in Germany, Switzerland, the UK, US and Australia! Further information about these events will be released in the coming weeks, so follow South Pole on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date – or visit the Climate Leaders website for more information about the series.

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