"Per develops and coordinates sustainability initiatives in two of SEB’s divisions"
Per Georgzén’s interest in sustainability was stirred at an early age when he accompanied his dad to various developing countries. Today Per develops and coordinates sustainability initiatives in two of SEB’s divisions: the division for private and corporate customers and the one for pension operations.
Per Georgzén realised early on that he wanted to work in some way with sustainability.
“I thought that studying economics would open many doors and also took additional courses in sustainability. Later, when I started SEB’s trainee programme, I saw this more as good experience but did not expect to be able to develop my interest in sustainability at a bank.
“But it soon became clear that I was wrong. When I started at SEB it was mainly within investment management that the bank had well-developed sustainability work. In contrast, today I am part of a central sustainability organisation – Sustainable Banking – which works on a broad front to ensure that the concept is included in all parts of our operations such as business planning, development, follow-up and sales. Our goal is to make SEB the leader in sustainability issues within the financial sector.”
Per explains that when he was seven he was able to see how investments and a sustainable approach could make a difference.
“I accompanied my dad to different countries in Asia where he worked with investments that could improve conditions for the inhabitants in countries such as India, Bhutan, Cambodia and China.
“One trip was to India and Bhutan where the aim was to improve conditions for the milk supply chain from producer to consumer by developing the processes, packaging and infrastructure. The problem was that the milk went off before it reached the villages in the hard-to-reach countryside up in the Himalayas. Seeing at first hand how investments could make a difference and solve challenges stirred my interest in social sustainability.”
Being able to make a difference is still one of Per’s guiding stars and since 2016 he has been responsible for sustainability work in SEB’s life insurance and pension operations. Recently Per also started to work with sustainability in the Corporate & Private Customers division.
“We work with sustainability on a broad front as well as with social and climate-related issues. The work includes developing clear processes for making sustainability a natural part of our operations. We also help customers revise their business plans and operations so that these too will be more sustainable.”
One example of social sustainability is that SEB is the only bank in Sweden to offer microfinance funds which are used to create employment and growth in developing countries. Microloans reach 25 million private individuals and entrepreneurs in developing countries through microfinance institutions. Without these loans they would not have been able to start or develop their businesses.
“The average amount of these loans varies from country to country. In India, the figure is around 200 US dollars, no more is needed for borrowers to get their business going and hopefully rise out of poverty. The microfinance institutions also help teach them how to approach their business and identify potential risks.
“But mainly I work with climate-related sustainability where the aim is that SEB, our private customers and companies change their behaviour and operations in accordance with the Paris Agreement. Private individuals can influence the world in a good direction by putting money into funds and other investments which in turn work for a world where climate and sustainability are in focus. And here it is our job to ensure that there are good products for savers to invest in.
“As regard companies, it is critical that they adapt to existing regulations and demands for sustainability, which will become even more important in the future. Here it is our job to help them adjust their business so that they can continue to be profitable in the long term.
“The best thing about my job is that I am able to influence and make a difference – what I do means something. And since SEB’s senior management and board have realised how important this is, my colleagues and I have the prerequisites to make a difference.”
About Per Georgzén
Title: Deputy Head of Sustainability at Corporate & Private Customers and at Life.
Education: Bachelors and Masters in Business Economics from Uppsala University prior to entering SEB’s trainee programme.
Interesting facts: During his time at university, Per studied for a term in Greece. “It was when Greece was struggling most during the financial crisis. I thought then, and I still think, that you learn most when you see the problems at first hand.”