Pauline is driven by the desire to make a difference
Pauline Ström Gunnér had enough of the fashion industry's unsustainable consumerism and after studying the Programme in Environmental Social Science she became Head of Sustainable Business at the Swedish Fashion Council. She has now taken on the next sustainability challenge in a new industry, as Quality and Sustainability Developer at Coop Butiker & Stormarknader.
The great interest in environmental and sustainability issues came when Pauline studied marketing in Barcelona, with a special focus on the fashion industry. In addition, she worked extra at an agency helping clients with expansion strategies and marketing.
- The education then was always about selling, to make consumers increase their consumption. The cornerstone itself felt unsustainable. Is this what my life is about? Helping companies sell things in an unsustainable way? What is the point of that?
It was after she started to ask herself these questions that Pauline found the Programme in Environmental Social Science at the School of Business, Economics and Law in Gothenburg.
- I was looking for a programme that focused on environmental and sustainability issues. But at the same time I wanted something broader that also took in the economy aspect of things, which this programme did. Simply put: it was marketing and business, but with an environmental aspect to it. This really felt like something for me!
To finally being able to work with sustainability
After graduating, she had the opportunity to make a real impact on an industry in great need of change, as Head of Sustainable Business at the Swedish Fashion Council.
- The role extended over a number of areas, such as producing sustainability reports, identifying where the greatest impact could be made and developing strategies adapted for the individual companies. I also gave lectures and held workshops on sustainability in general. For example, regarding Agenda 2030 and the global goals or other specific topics requested by the client.
Since November 2020, Pauline has shifted from fashion to the food industry, where she works with quality and sustainability development at Coop Butiker & Stormarknader.
- About half of the time I work as a quality developer where I ensure that everyone delivers according to the standard requirements. The other half I spend working with sustainability as a whole, with everything from food waste projects to plastic reduction. It is a new position that has not existed before, so it is still in the process of being created.
Coop Butiker & Stormarknader AB operates approximately 310 of Coop's stores, with a geographical spread from Malmö to Uppsala. Within the association, both large and small stores can be accommodated, and the amount and variation of units means that it is quite the challenge.
- Everyone has different prerequisites for working with sustainability. A big challenge is the size of the association, which consists of many different stores. It is important to find projects and activities that engage as many as possible.
Pauline's driving force is to make a difference
There are also challenges in the larger societal perspective when it comes to sustainability, where many want to shift responsibility almost entirely to the companies, without seeing their own part in the situation.
- Customers have a high expectation that brands should be sustainable. However, one is not willing to change one's own behaviour. A lot of responsibility is placed on companies. That is why it is important to continue educating both consumers and companies. It is about making it easy for the customer to do the right thing. When you are a big company, you need to take responsibility for doing just that.
I feel motivated when seeing change and development on this issue. I embarked on this path in order to make a change
The biggest driving force for Pauline is the feeling of making a difference, and it is noticeable that sustainability is an issue she is very passionate about.
- I feel motivated when seeing change and development on this issue. I embarked on this path in order to make a change. We need to make a shift in how we look at sustainability and treat the planet, there is no other alternative.
The School as a meeting place
Pauline has taken a lot of important experiences with her from her time at the School, not least all the people she met there.
- You meet a selection of people who are so interesting, people who are now driving social change for real. It is cool to see your classmates deliver in real life, just like we talked about during our studies.
Out of many interesting memories from the School, writing the Bachelor's thesis stands out the most.
- I think that the most fun and interesting thing was writing the Bachelor’s thesis, to be able to apply theoretical knowledge in practice. It was difficult but also very rewarding. We did an empirical study with interesting results on how nudging can affect customers in a more vegetarian direction.
When it comes to the best part of the education in general, there are two things that stand out: the programme's adaptation to real problems and the interdisciplinary perspective that provides a good foundation to stand on.
- What I liked best at the School of Business, Economics and Law was how theory was connected to real-world situations. Therefore, it was great that we were offered a combination of an interdisciplinary programme and the opportunity to connect with the business community, through certain courses in my programme. And to be able to do it with a focus on the environment and sustainability as well.
Choose a subject you are interested in
What advice would you give to someone about to choose what to study?
- It is important that there is a genuine interest in the subject. Don't do something just for "the sake of it", as you will regret it in the future. For me, it was the environmental issue, find out what it is for you and go for that.