BIologist Looking Eastward

Her dream of becoming a marine biologist fell through, but Monique Wannding doesn’t seem too sad about it. Today she works at the Government Offices with international environmental technology cooperation. Her job is to lead Swedish companies into the huge markets in China, India and Russia.

We’re at the top floor of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The view of Stockholm City Hall and Old Town is fantastic. This is Wannding’s home court – actually, it’s one of them. Her project also falls under the ministries of enterprise and the environment. And even if she and her family are settled in Stockholm, she will always be a Gothenburg girl at heart.
‘My heart belongs on the west coast. You know, having grown up with the salty water, it’s hard to appreciate the brackish.’

Wannding’S JOB is to stimulate Sweden’s cooperation with China, India and Russia in the area of environmental technology. Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt visited China in 2008 and returned home with an agreement between the two countries regarding environment technology cooperation. The Government soon appointed a project group for the agreement reached, and this is where Wannding entered the picture. In 2011, similar contacts were made with India and Russia.

‘All three ministries are involved,’ she says. ‘We try to contribute to a better environment, to Swedish exports and employment creation and to good Swedish relations with the different countries. Besides their political importance, they are huge markets.’

TO MAKE WAY for Swedish businesses in these markets, part of the work consists of hosting foreign delegations and travelling around the world to bring attention to Swedish competence within environmental technology. Waste management, sustainable urban development, district heating, air purification – the focus of the trips varies, but the underlying idea is always the same.

‘We tell other countries about the Swedish transformation from being the world’s most oil-dependent country in the 1970s to where we are today. We tell them about environmental legislation, control measures and climate taxes. Most people we talk to are very interested in hearing about our development. But they also point out that it took us 40 years and that we have to accept that it is a slow process.’

IT WAS HER STRONG environmental interest and dreams of becoming a marine biologist that made Wannding apply to the programme in mathematics and natural sciences offered by the University of Gothenburg in the early 1990s. But as time passed, she started realising that the demand for marine biologists was low. She considered a career in more lab-based research, but finally decided to top off her studies with a year of environmental law and community planning. This led to her first job: as an environmental administrator at the County Administrative Board of Västra Götaland. After that, she worked at the national development agency Nutek with environmental aspects in product development, and then she landed a position as environmental director at the environmental technology company Econova.
‘The move to Econova was a great experience. It was a complete change in roles – suddenly my job was to comply with all the environmental regulations.’

When Econova closed its Stockholm office, she was hired by the Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications as a sustainability coordinator, working for example with European environmental legislation. Eventually, she was recruited for her current project.

WANNDING SAYS THAT although she has never had a strategic career plan, she has always wanted to learn more and broaden her perspective. This desire has repeatedly taken her to new areas of environmental work: from process issues to product issues, from control to enterprise to legislation, from national to EU to global level.
‘Working internationally with environment technology has been an eye-opener,’ she says. ‘The role of China and India in the world economy and in relation to the climate issue will continue to grow. Admittedly, both countries are facing major environment problems, but they also have a strong interest in sustainable development. Especially China already has high goals in place.

Monique Wannding

Age: 41
Title: Deputy Director, Government Offices of Sweden, International Environmental Technology Cooperation
Education: Master of Science (M.Sc.), Biology/Environment, University of Gothenburg
Family: Married with two sons
Interests: The outdoors, sailing, exercise. Favourite jogging route around Södermalm in Stockholm.