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Industrial transitions

Virtually every industry will need to make an enormous transition to achieve the aims of both the Paris Agreement and the United Nations 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. The related issues now confronting the world’s businesses underscore a key point: the question of how to build a low-carbon, sustainable society is not merely a metaphorical one. Business, industry and society will need to decide how to physically and sustainably build the things that underpin modern life.

This is an urgent subject of debate for businesses engaged throughout market value chains – including the industries that provide needed raw materials; the manufacturers that use these materials to produce needed goods and to achieve needed technological progress; and the businesses that incorporate these products in developing more sustainable living and working conditions.

The Swedish steel industry

SEI is working with the steel industry to help it harness its innovative potential and to help it to become a global leader in the sustainability transformation. Stakeholder workshops examined constraints and opportunities created by national implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These workshops also analysed how the Swedish steel industry could use these goals to competitively contribute to a low-carbon global society.

SEI is helping the industry to develop a “societal value compass” – a methodology and toolbox to assess how a given actor, product, investment decision or other choice could influence the opportunity to deliver societal value. The methodology and toolbox may offer guidance for other sectors seeking to make a sustainability transition.

This work builds on a previous collaboration between SEI and Jernkontoret, which in 2016 delivered a strategy for the industry to reach its 2050 vision, “Steel Shapes a Better Future”.

The Swedish mining sector

The mining and minerals sector is in a challenging position when it comes to sustainable development. The transitions to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda will require large amounts of material resources; yet, at the same time, mining operations are associated with a range of sustainability issues related to pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and socioeconomic tensions.

This presents a dilemma for the mining sector itself and for society at large. The mining and mineral industry supplies materials needed for a necessary technological transformation of global energy systems; without this, for example, climate change becomes difficult to solve. At the same time, the industry wrestles with others sustainability challenges; current footprints and activities are in many respects far from being sustainable.

The Swedish mining and mineral industry and the value chains it supplies lie at the forefront of technological and innovative development in the field of industry technology, but a key question remains: how can the industry contribute to the transformation into a sustainable society?

SEI’s project with the mining sector used input from several stakeholder workshops to create  four scenarios that outline how society might evolve through 2050, and how different circumstances might affect the Swedish mining sector. The process generated a list of action points that were compiled into what could act as a draft sustainability roadmap for the Swedish mining sector.

The Swedish forestry sector

The forestry sector must cope with the negative effects of climate change on socio-ecological systems – and to find ways to take advantage of positive effects. These are challenging tasks. Forestry is sensitive to the ecological and economic impacts of climate change, and the adaptive decisions owners and managers make now play out over long periods of time.

SEI’s work with the forestry sector has used agent-based modelling to examine possible socio-economic and climate changes that could take place in coming decades. The work within the sector has also incorporated a participatory climate services project to examine climate change adaptation in the Swedish forestry sector. Research from the process identified enablers of and barriers to successful science-stakeholder collaboration in the industry. The findings suggest that more stakeholder-driven, participatory co-production processes could lead to more informed decision-making that would help the industry adapt to changes.

Swedish property management

The property industry has a vital role to play in creating sustainable societies and realizing the aims of the 2030 Agenda. The time when property developers were simply asked to construct a building is long gone. Developers are now expected to offer solutions that contribute to sustainability, and to minimize environmental impacts.

Property development is especially important in urban areas. The world’s cities have a huge and growing environmental footprint. By 2030, projections indicate, more than 60% of the world’s population will be urban.

A question facing city planners and the property development sector is how to make sure that cities can find and implement the most sustainable ways to provide residents with safe, decent homes and needed services.

SEI’s work with the Swedish property development and management company, Fabege, has sought to provide greater understanding of how the property development sector can contribute to sustainable cities. Workshops used explorative scenario methodologies and group discussions with stakeholders to explore possible futures and impacts of various urban development decisions.

SEI’s work with the industry aims to explore the property management industry’s unique role in  transition to a sustainable society, and the challenges that the industry faces. Sustainable development requires long-term planning. At the same time, geopolitical shifts and increasingly severe impacts of climate change make future planning more challenging.