Henriette Weber is a Denmark-based +SocialGood connector and corporate activist. As part of our SDGs on the Ground series, she takes us through some of the recent investments that the Nordic countries have made in the SDGs, with a focus on climate and environmental sustainability.
It is summer here and the Nordics are starting to open up slowly after COVID-19 — it feels like a breath of fresh air to everybody. Just the notion of not having to wear masks in public makes everybody giddy. It feels like a huge relief and a lot of gratitude that we somewhat have the virus under control in this country. On the other hand, a lot of good progress has been made on the SDGs while we were all remotely connected in front of our screens. The Nordic countries, in particular, have been leading SDG progress, with Finland ranking highest on the list, followed by Sweden and Denmark.
In my native Denmark, the national COVID-19 recovery plan is built on a foundation of stimulating the economy, as well as frontloading investments in the green transition. In 2021, Denmark submitted its second voluntary national review with an emphasis on reaching our ambitious climate target of lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent in 2030.
We’ve also seen the impact of this focus on SDGs as consumers on the ground. For example, car taxes have changed dramatically, benefiting those who have electric cars. Registration taxes will also factor in CO2 emissions of the car. Other incentives are offered by companies that are working on charging stations for electric cars or offshore wind farms.
Transitioning Denmark even further away from fossil fuels will benefit all of the country. Sustainability is high on the country’s political agenda, and we can also see the shift in technological development and investments. There have been many incentives in the startup and venture capital world, including an increase of investments in impact startups. In 2020, such investments in the Nordics skyrocketed to EUR 1.6B — largely driven by Sweden. From a venture capital perspective, the Nordics are heavily investing in green growth, with investments into impact startups twice as high as they were in2019 and 12 times higher than 2016.
From a consumer point of view, research shows that one of the best things you can do for a more sustainable world is to invest in sustainability. Workers’ pension funds in Denmark have the same sum as roughly 50% of our GDP, and many people are starting to dig deeper into what they are investing in, with an increased interest in ‘green’ products that are based on Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG). For example, I have all of my pension fund invested in climate solutions through a climate product recently introduced by my pension company.
Lastly, I would say that one of the things I am personally really proud of is that the Danish government has decided to end all of its oil and gas exploration in our section of the North Sea by 2050, putting pressure on other oil-producing countries.
That’s what the state of the SDGs looks like from my chair — a lot of progress, but we’ve still got a long way to go.