For the current issue of the eMove360° magazine, Sabine Metzger spoke to Fredrika Klarén, Head of Sustainability at Polestar. Fredrika joined Polestar in April 2020 to drive the company’s sustainability ambitions on topics such as carbon neutrality, circularity, transparency and inclusion. An example of this is the Polestar 0 project, which aims to build the first truly carbon-neutral car by 2030.
If we are informed correctly, you were not always active in the car industry. You came to the automotive industry via stations in the clothing and furniture industry. Why did you choose Polestar in 2020? What did you want to move?
Frederika Klarén: Right, I previously worked in sustainability at Ikea and the Swedish fashion company KappAhl. For the last 13 years I have dedicated all my time to sustainability. When I joined Polestar in April 2020, I was excited about the task of channeling the energy and ideas that existed at Polestar and developing a strategy that could have a big impact. For example, to ensure Polestar addresses climate change at a time of climate crisis, because electric cars are already an amazing solution.
We focus on four key factors for sustainability: carbon neutrality, circular economy, transparency and inclusion. Last year we launched our Polestar 0 project, which aims to develop a truly sustainable car, eliminating the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of a car. I believe that we can be a company that inspires people and makes them want to develop a lifestyle that is focused on sustainability. Being a part of this movement is a role that is as important as it is exciting.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Klarén: A big drive for me is seeing the amazing value that sustainability can bring to a company and to everyone who contributes. I’m thrilled to be able to work in a company that doesn’t want to compromise between sustainability and other aspects. Sustainability is part of every decision made at Polestar – and it’s because of the real commitment of everyone who works here. When I started at Polestar, I was very impressed that everyone in the company is motivated to make a difference. We don’t just want to sit and talk – we act and make bold decisions. That gives me a lot of energy. The best thing about my job is that there are new challenges every day because I want to see progress and solve problems.
With the Polestar 0 project you want to take a close look at the entire development process – the climate-neutral production – from the suppliers to the trade. How can this goal be achieved?
Klarén: The Polestar 0 project is extraordinarily ambitious because we want to exploit the full potential of electric vehicles – to offer a path to climate-neutral mobility. Even if electric vehicles already offer a solution to the problems caused by climate change, we are not satisfied with just “better”. We must die, change the way we make cars to build a sustainable society. With this goal, we want to instill a sense of urgency among our engineers, designers and buyers, but also throughout the industry, that it is up to us to find and create solutions. And that we need to break the curve this decade. This means that compensation, such as planting trees, is off the table.
Of course we are aware that this is very ambitious and that we are facing a major challenge with this project. It’s a real moonshot goal for us. We know Polestar is far from having all the answers today. We’re just a small company in a big industry. That’s why we call on other car manufacturers to get involved and how we make life cycle assessment data, methods and disclosures about the challenges we face transparent to our customers. Together we can and must reinvent our industry. Collaboration and full transparency are the only conceivable way forward.
How do you integrate sustainability into your private life? What personal sustainability goals do you have?
Klarén: A few years ago we created a climate action plan for our family. It is important to me to show my children that we are making the necessary changes and that they and we as a family have to bear and take responsibility. One of our most important changes is that we have been driving exclusively electric cars and using only renewable energy for almost ten years.
I think everyone should follow the advice of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and focus on five areas: how to get around, how to eat, how to power your home, how to shop and investing money. These are the areas where you have the most influence. When shopping, I ask myself a lot of questions, for example, what is the carbon footprint of this product? What about the commitment to human rights? And if I don’t get satisfactory answers, I’ll vote with my wallet. This is perhaps the most effective measure that can be taken.
I wish every individual would realize that creating a sustainable society is really up to them. Governments and companies listen to what voters and buyers tell them. The responsibility really lies with each individual. It is time to become aware of this fact.
Why are there so few women in tech? What hurdles do women still have to overcome today?
Klarén: I am fortunate to work in a company that acts in an exemplary and progressive manner. There are a lot of women working at Polestar, but we still have a long way to go before we can say that we are truly equal or diverse. I think everyone agrees on equality and the value and need for inclusion and diversity in business. But we are fighting years of oppression and systematic barriers. Prejudice is real and we all suffer from it.
We ran a simple training session for hiring managers at Polestar to counteract bias and the percentage of women hired increased by 10 percent just from this one activity. Things will not change fast enough if we sit back and wait, we need to be proactive and develop new approaches. And a very simple thing would be the use of gender language, the auto industry is still struggling here. This is a simple but powerful action we can all take for equality.
Are there people who have influenced you? Do you have role models?
Klarén: Oh yes, there are many. And they all come up at certain points in my life when I really need their specific approach or idea. I was raised by a strong, loving single father who inspires me every day. At the moment, my most important contacts are the engineers and my team members at Polestar. I’m very honest about the fact that I still have a lot to learn about car production – and for that I have the best, most passionate people around me!
Are you taking part in the Global Female Leaders Summit in Berlin? What are your expectations for Berlin in May?
Klarén: I’m going to Berlin to find like-minded people for the goal of getting as many car manufacturers as possible to agree on the goal of “True Zero”, set common standards and work together openly – and do it now. Sustainability should not be a competition. If we act together, we can achieve much more. I think the Global Female Leaders Summit will provide a great platform for that.
Can you name a trend that is currently shaping the area in which you work?
Klarén: There are currently many interesting developments in the area of sustainability. The connection between digitization and sustainability, for example. We can start using tracking to increase transparency and have a greater impact on sustainability in value chains. This will have a significant impact on the sustainability of our supply chains and ensure we can measure what we value.
Another trend is that of “exponential technology”. This is the theory that technological development is happening at such a pace that it will create possibilities in the near future that we may not yet have imagined. Polestar aims to capitalize on this and prepare for the future by applying exponential thinking to the climate crisis and other sustainability challenges. If we continue to think linearly, as it still seems to be the norm in business, we will not make the right decisions. Right now everyone is trying to figure out how we can go carbon neutral in time to stop the 1.5 degree rise in temperature. Here I hope that the exponential technology will have an influence on this.
Then there is the transition from conventional to new and innovative materials. Materials are basically at the core of the various sustainability impacts that we have. Be it environmental pollution and energy consumption or the social impact on workers’ rights and safety issues, particularly related to the extraction and processing of raw materials. We move from using a few selected materials (like conventional polyester or steel) to testing new innovative and circular materials in small series. We don’t have to find a one-size-fits-all solution; we can work with a variety of solutions.
What job would you like to do if you didn’t have it?
Klarén: Oceanographer. Before I started my studies, I had to decide whether I wanted to study environmental sciences or oceanography. I come from an island off Gothenburg and many of my family work at sea. My father is even a captain. I love the sea and outdoor life. That’s the only downside of my job, so to speak: I’m often indoors, although I would really like to spend time outside.
You can find this and other articles on the subject of mobility 4.0 electrically-connected-autonomously in the current eMove360° magazine in german language. You can order the print version in our shop or download the german digital version here for free.