Ingrid Lundestad_ Alumna Spotlight_ square.jpg

Motivate, Mobilize, Innovate for the Planet's Future

Former BCGer Ingrid Lundestad is now the Head of Strategic Analysis at SINTEF and leads the SINTEF Global Climate Fund. She recently sat down with BCG to discuss what motivated her to pursue a career in strategy and sustainability, the technology that excites her, and making sustainability a part of every business.

What made you want to focus on funding in sustainability? Where does the passion you have for this space come from?

I believe the climate crisis and responsibly taking care of nature are the biggest challenges out there. Yet society is underinvesting in the solutions needed for the future of our planet. We need to look at ways to mobilize and make sure we create solutions that can help us tackle these fundamental challenges. We need innovation and impact, and we need it now. That's what makes it motivating to work on these topics and to try to attract more funding.

More broadly, working on sustainability is key to my role in developing strategy and supporting the group management team of SINTEF—Norway's biggest, and one of Europe's largest, independent research institutes, with the vision "technology for a better society."

Integrating sustainability into companies' strategies and business understanding started when I worked at BCG, and included the work we did to co-author the report "What Companies Can Learn from World Leaders in Societal Impact." It explored the performance and practices of leading Nordic companies with respect to creating positive societal impact.

The SINTEF Global Climate Fund finances research for high-potential technologies and solutions which result in the net removal of greenhouse gases from the air and oceans. Could you walk us through the initiative?

The SINTEF Global Climate Fund was created to finance early-stage research into solutions that can remove greenhouse gases from the air and oceans. We know that countries, companies, and individuals need to reduce their emissions. But that's not enough. All IPCC scenarios that can take the world to max 1.5 temperature rise require solutions for greenhouse gas removal, in addition to reductions. Yet the technology is not yet there, and research and innovation are needed.

We launched the climate fund at COP26 in Glasgow last year, and we see increasing interest in the need for greenhouse gas removal worldwide. The fund is mobilizing to attract contributors—businesses, organizations, or philanthropists who would like to be part of this effort—to bring about new technologies to tackle a key problem for the world's future wellbeing. The market for new solutions, implemented and scaled up, will be huge, but there is still too little early knowledge and we need more ideas on the table to make sure we have enough greenhouse gas removal by 2050 and beyond. And the slower everyone is to reduce emissions, the more removal will be needed.

What are the latest technologies that SINTEF is investing in to fast track C&S solutions globally? Which are the emerging technologies you are most excited about?

Currently SINTEF Global Climate Fund, with funding from SINTEF and a founding investor, is financing research into how the oceans, using seaweed, can provide greenhouse gas removal and storage. Another project is exploring how even more potent greenhouse gases than CO2, like methane, can be removed from the atmosphere. There are several others as well, and with more funding we will finance additional projects that look for new solutions. Creativity and expertise are key. We need to find relevant and effective ways to remove historical and future emissions that also "do no harm" to the environment and respect social standards.

Are there any experiences or lessons that you took with you from your time at BCG that continue to influence how you operate and lead your team today? How do you leverage your BCG skill set in your role today?

I learned a lot from working in different industries and on types of projects with BCG about how to tackle diverse and complex challenges and be open-minded about what your skills and previous experience can help you do. Also, I think the general "tool box" of project execution and management, to prioritize across challenging tasks and work streams, and in general, to take the customer perspective, has been very helpful.

Climate and sustainability are now critical global topics. Do you have any advice for fellow alumni looking to follow a similar career path?

I hope lots of people will want to go for a career supporting sustainable development for our planet, promoting the social wellbeing of people around the world, as well as responsible businesses and governments. And more and more talents are going in that direction.

I think the key advice, however, is to not think of it as a separate career path. I think all jobs need to factor in and take action based on some fundamental knowledge of what is needed for the world. This holds if you work on procurement for a big or small enterprise; construct homes; work in the energy sector, in finance, as a teacher, or at the local grocery store. Small and big decisions are made every day that will impact the planet and the people who live here.

That being said, for jobs and roles more dedicated to sustainability I think an important perspective is to not only look at it from the downside—the risks, the challenges, the problems for a firm, organization, or the world; but also take the other perspective—to acknowledge that the solutions needed will bring business opportunities, can make us work smarter, and can bring people or countries out of poverty.