Our latest challenge is about increasing our own climate-positive handprint - in other words, 'taking others along for the way'. We also take a look at our financial footprint, at what our savings can do and why sustainable investments can protect the climate. In this regard, we spoke to Matti Rönkkö, founder of the German-Finnish startup Cooler Future. Capitalism vs. sustainability? Read for yourself.
Dear Matti, how important is climate protection for your life?
Coming from Finland I think nature has always had a special meaning to me. Why I bring up nature in the start in general is that to me, I connect climate change strongly with my relationship with nature and spending time outdoors which has always been important to me. Seeing the changes first hand in nature, makes me very sad and worried and I find it extremely frightening to see that many things are already changed forever. That is why I am trying to do as much as possible to educate myself and therefore make better choices every day to become better in climate protection.
Personally, as I am sure for most, some things are very easy, other things harder. Changing my diet to cut off meat has been easy for me, same goes for not buying things as I really don’t like shopping or owning many physical goods. I used to fly a lot due to my work and due to living internationally but that I managed to cut down fair amount and then COVID did the rest. I actually believe that with basic smart daily choices many climate friendly actions also improve ones life quality a lot.
I will be honest, during the years there has been times where climate change has not been on my mind, but I guess with age and the urgency of things, it has become a bigger and bigger worry for me again in the last years and I feel the same type of effect is happening around me as well. Of course, there is a lot more that I and everyone else could have done also in the past, but the main important thing is that we act now!
End of 2019 you founded “Cooler Future”. Your company’s main claim is “investing is like voting for or against the planet”. What does that mean and how does it work?
Our idea is ultimately based on thinking about the actions that we – as individuals – can take to fight climate change. Actions related to our consumption and general day to day lifestyle are known by most people at this stage, but we also know that just changing our diet, or means of transportation won’t be enough. We need to do more and also give people easy ways to increase their positive actions and reduce their footprint.
That’s where we started thinking about the impact of our finances: Money in our bank account or in investments actually has a huge footprint. If we think for instance of Germany, people have saved a massive amount of money on their bank accounts. What many people don’t know however, is that most banks use this money to finance projects and companies that harm the environment, instead of helping to save this planet. Same goes for our investments.
Many people use their values and take sustainability into consideration when shopping and spending money, but not in their investment & saving decisions. This is a huge problem but one that creates also a huge opportunity to be turned into big positive impact. We think people need to take control of where their money is being invested into and make sure it aligns with their values. We need to give people education and easy ways to support companies and projects that are taking actions to reduce emissions.
The more people that use their money to vote for this planet, the bigger the action power we all have to drive necessary change and the transition across all the industries towards a greener economy. If you just look at last few weeks and the big company annual general meetings (such as for Shell and Exxon), there are great examples of this power already being implemented in practice, but it needs the big amount of people to drive the change!
Who is your main target group? Can everyone invest sustainably and receive fair financial returns?
What we ultimately want to achieve is, so to say, to "democratize impact investing" by making it as easy and accessible as possible for everyone to invest sustainably, in a high quality portfolio of carefully selected companies. The message we want to bring across is: you do not need to be an investment professional with longstanding experience, you can start today even if you don't have hundreds of euros in your bank account. To achieve this change of mindset, part of what we do is to educate people on the topic of sustainable investing. There is a fair amount of education to be done, but we believe that through this we can help people move the money from their bank account or investments towards more sustainable investment products.
Having said that, we do believe sustainable finance in general should attract also climate change sceptics. Anyone who follows the world in general or even only looks at the financial side of it, should understand by now that climate change poses a huge risk for many companies and industries in general. Therefore many smart investors are making changes on their portfolio based on that. So hopefully sustainable finance can turn sceptics first to invest sustainably simply because of risk mitigation and then turn them into taking other positive action as well?
Why are you so convinced, that capitalism and sustainability can come together?
Well I guess we need to find that balance. We so far don’t really have another system as a plan B, so if we do not try to change capitalism a bit to make a change, then we need to come up with a new system entirely. And if we think we are now late with the climate protection, then we will be very badly late.
I don’t think these two can be separated. We need to make them work together if we want to save the planet. I mean; we are, on a daily basis, highlighting companies whose products we use in our daily consumption who fight climate change through innovation and new products. These companies are built on capitalism and if we buy things (which we will have to continue to do), then shouldn’t we at least make sure to put our money into these companies as well?
Do you have a vision for the future of your company and the whole investment sector?
We would like to make everyone in the world become a climate activist investor. We know this requires education, ease of access and the right products together with transparent reporting and that is what we are working towards. When we make this happen, we believe we can drive a huge change in how companies are being run and where the money is going.
The industry change is in a way part of that, but I want to highlight a particular issue. We believe there is lack of standardised metrics and transparency towards sustainability and specifically climate change in the investment world. We would like to change that and we believe that in order to do so, we need a standardised climate factor or climate score as part of the overall investment decision. So back in the 60's, risk was brought into equation next to return in investment thinking. We believe it is now time to add a 3rd layer to that, which is climate impact
What is your personal and most effective way to become socially and politically active?
This is a tricky one for me as I would consider myself as an introvert and I am not socially or politically active on the “modern channels”. I guess I am trying to do the right things and show to people in my circle how easy making the changes is. I don’t do it by pointing fingers or preaching, but I live my life and I have seen that this approach seems to work around me. Why this is also an interesting question is that, when I decided to leave my previous role I was thinking of how I could do more good. I then decided that maybe I have learned something in building companies (I am an entrepreneur after all) and bringing that skill to use, might be the biggest impact I can personally make. So what I try to encourage people to do, is to find their own way that makes it possible for them, personally, to make an impact.
Dear Matti, thank you very much for this really inspiring interview! We find your personal approach very strong and agree that it is about making the impossible possible with individual strengths. Even with your own investment: whether saving money and protecting the climate or avoiding the next ton of CO2 and thus filling the financing deltas of climate protection projects - together we can make such a difference by making the right investment decisions!
Jacqueline & Andrea
For all of you who don't know much about the Climate Bet yet: We want to win 1 million people by the next climate negotiations in Glasgow this fall to raise their voice with us for better climate protection. With one ton of CO2 saved in real terms (worth 25 euros), you're in! We want to show: Climate protection is really important to us! Whether from your bank account, on the streets or in Glasgow. Join us and celebrate a good climate-friendly life!