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Director and environmentalist
As the director of Oslo’s climate agency, Heidi Sørensen thinks she has more than 673 469 reasons to perform.
Position: Director of Oslo’s climate agency
Employer: City of Oslo
What is constraining us is not technology, but rather our ability to organise change.
She inherited her grandfather’s commitment to the environment, after he brought her along to meetings and events. As a five-year-old, hearing about plans to construct a cement factory at the very spot where she and her family used to pick flowers, made a lasting impression on her. Predictably, such things lead you to become a conservationist.
‒ I fundamentally believe that any problems created by humans, are also problems that we have the ability and power to solve, says Sørensen.
When the city of Oslo required someone to lead its newly-formed climate agency in 2017, they opted for the Trøndelag native with her background from Nature and Youth, the Ministry of Environment and WWF.
Before immersing herself in her new duties, Sørensen said she was looking forward to the task of making sure Oslo takes charge and dares to make the decisions needed to reach its climate goals. A year and a half later, she says «so far, so good», but emphasizes that they are still far from reaching their ultimate goals.
Recognition from the EU
‒ Obviously, some tough decisions and difficult issues remain, but so far things have been moving faster than what we anticipated. One year ago, I did not believe that we would be here talking about how 50 percent of the first quarter’s new car sales are electric.
Recently, the European Commission also named Oslo as Europe’s Green Capital for 2019. «A great honour», Sørensen says, while promising to ensure that Oslo will show the world how the city is gearing up for a green shift.
‒ We see how cities set the pace for progress. In the future, cities will become even more strategically important in regards to the environmental work we do. Today, two thirds of the European population live in cities. In 2050, scientists believe that number will rise to 80 percent.
Considering the vastness of some of their tasks, it is important for Sørensen to make sure her colleagues remain motivated and passionate.
‒ Having motivated co-workers is completely essential. I believe people who are having fun and really believe in what they do, also perform better at work.
For Sørensen, the climate issue is not merely a question of technology, but also one about leadership in a green restructuring process.
‒ Scientists have pointed out that what is constraining us is not technology, but rather our ability to organise change. That is a challenge that motivates me in my work leading the green shift in a city of almost 700 000 inhabitants.
The climate director thinks many leaders could benefit from taking a break to evaluate their own leadership. Before she begun working in her current job, she completed her Executive Master of Management at BI. Regarding her own education, Sørensen says she «started because she thought it was smart, but kept on with it because it was fun».
‒ I have held various leadership positions, but the education taught me how to reflect, absorb and learn from my past experiences. That made my own experiences even more valuable.