Inspirational Woman: Fredrika Klarén | Head of Sustainability, Polestar

Fredrika KlarénFredrika is a firm believer in the role of business as a catalyst for sustainable development and has held sustainability positions over the past decade at IKEA and Swedish fashion retailer KappAhl.

She studied Civil Engineering with a focus on Environmental Systems Analysis at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. Fredrika joined Polestar in April 2020 to drive the company’s sustainability ambitions forward on issues such as climate-neutrality, circularity, transparency and inclusion. Fredrika is chair of the board for Agenda 2030 West, an organisation enabling partnership between academia, business, civil society and public sector for the 17 SDGs.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’ve worked with sustainability for over ten years within the furniture and fashion industry – and now I get to work with something that I’ve been a passionate user of for many years – EVs! And not any EV but the one that I find is backed by the most ambitious vision in terms of design, performance and sustainability. Namely Polestar. My job is to turn that vision into action and drive the sustainability agenda forward in a way that makes us create real impact.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I do like plans. But not for my career – I approach that in a very intuitive way. A big driver for me in working with sustainability, apart from doing something to bring about the change that I so desperately want for this world, is to keep growing as a human and learning new things. So instead of planning too much I try to be open to new challenges and perspectives. For example, I can highly recommend taking on a new industry – it’s a good opportunity for growth and gives you a lot of new ideas to contribute with.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I certainly have, for example finding truly sustainable solutions or changing norms is challenging, but I think that’s also why I like what I do so much. I get energy from challenge. But I don’t want to sugar coat anything – as a female leader trying to bring about more sustainable ways of working, it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. I’ve had to reassert myself from time to time and really go back to my why and motivation to not get discouraged by the many people who thought sustainability was not important or compatible with profit. I’m so grateful to see the amazing change in people’s perception. Everyone I work with today is completely onboard that it is a business imperative. Things have changed so much!

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I’ve had some great experiences when I felt like we made a change and had a measurable impact, and it has always come about through collaboration. I find that the most successful sustainable solutions are created in partnerships with external partners – suppliers, researchers, other brands. I’m not good at looking back at achievements, though. My mind keeps focusing in on what needs to be done. I want to be around when we reach net zero on carbon emissions globally, when extreme poverty is eradicated, when we no longer have gender pay gaps. The big ones.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Being free to make my own choices, to build self-reliance and to be able to pursue what I find meaningful. And much of that comes from simply being born and living in a country like Sweden, as well as having the supportive family that I do. This is not the case for most women around the world today, I try not to forget that.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I have a couple of people in my life that I keep coming back to for advice and guidance. I’ve also had a few mentees that I’ve coached. I tend to opt for a less structured way to go about it, but I do see the important role mentor programs can have in promoting inclusion and equal opportunity. For example, I was involved in a mentor program for immigrants in my local community and it gave me a lot of insights that I take with me.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

The fact that hundreds of millions of kids around the world doesn’t have access to education. In countries like Bangladesh, that I’ve had the opportunity to work with, girls are still being forced into child marriage on a large scale. With all the progress we are making on gender equality in countries like Sweden, the fact that this is still going on overshadows everything. The power of education as a tool to build equality, has proven time and time again. We need to make continue the great work that is being done on this matter, we’re not finished.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

It might sound strange, but I don’t think I would. Like everyone else, I have been through highs and lows. But that young girl needed to learn things for herself. That’s kind of how I always wanted it (and yes, that can be really frustrating for people around me, I know). I think it’s important to accept that it’s a part of the experience to be in doubt, to not have all the answers, and to struggle.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Tapping into the great potential of Polestar as a guiding star for sustainability within the automotive industry, together with my amazing colleagues. We’re a start-up with a lot of creative energy – and I can’t wait to see the impact we can have going forward.

WeAreTheCity has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Cherie Blair, Paula Radcliffe MBE, Caprice Bourret, Anna Williamson and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here

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