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Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSC)

Sille Eva Bertelsen

Sille combines her passion for sustainable development with her skills as a designer and in stakeholder engagement to create innovations which have the potential to help tackle the climate crisis, we all face. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Design Engineering from Aalborg University in Copenhagen.

She joined Royal College of Art and Imperial College London for the jointly run double master Innovation Design Engineering. Her projects are centred around fostering a sustainable future. She’s an advocate for bringing nuance to the field of ‘sustainable design’.

For her solo project this year, Sille was deeply entangled in the financial world trying to solve our financial ties to fossil fuel. Read more about Pensions for Planet in the following sections. 

Besides continuing her work with Pensions for Planet, Sille is currently bringing two other projects from her time at IDE forward: shADe and The Waterless Washing Company. You can read more about them here: and

Worth mentioning

Fast Company's World Changing Ideas (2021, shADe)

Double finalist for Mayor of London’s Entrepreneur Award (2021, shADe & The Waterless Washing Company)

Regenerative List's 100 Pioneers (2021, shADe)

Dear reader, thank you for coming to my space at the Royal College of Art online show.

As previously mentioned, my background before coming to Innovation Design Engineering was in sustainable design – circular economy, planetary boundaries, life cycle analysis and all that jazz – and when you’ve absorbed yourself in a topic like the climate crisis, looking the other way is simply not an option. I usually describe it as having opened Pandora’s Box and now I can never close it again. 

In the last five months I have been deeply entangled in the financial world, trying to understand and solve our money’s involvement in the climate crisis. This is a rather complicated topic, but I have condensed the simplest and most important content in these following sections – please do reach out if you'd like to know more or get involved.

Thank you to everyone who was involved in bringing my final project to life.

(see bottom of the page for special thanks)

— While the global eye turns to this topic they are mainly focusing on how governments and regulators can make the financial institutions pledge to be more sustainable: like Net Zero goals and regulations on disclosure carbon investments.
— The links between your personal finances and the climate crisis are perhaps less intuitive than other examples like your meat consumption and plastic recycling. The cash in your bank account, pension savings and personal investments may not seem to be a direct cause of greenhouse gas emissions. However, the financial institutions you invest with could be having a big impact on the environment, both positive and negative.
— We will need to break our carbon dependency, to not be stuck with oil, coal, and gas when we should have solar, wind and hydro. The carbon-dependent pathway we are currently on will lead to a dead end, and the course correction will have to be fast, and it will be expensive.
— Financial institutions use your deposits to make loans and investments for all kinds of projects, and depending on the institution, your money could be funding anything from solar farms to small business loans to financing for coal mining. When I first learned this, I set out to see if I could solve my own financial ties to fossil fuels. It turned out to be impossible for my normal savings account – but surprisingly easy for my pension.

Cutting our ties to fossil fuel is crucial

Divesting from fossil fuel is a crucial part of our efforts against the climate crisis as the continuing financial investments in fossil fuel will prolong the escape from these energy forms.

— There is a sad trend right now of younger people choosing to opt out of their pensions because of the lack of understanding or lack of transparency. I found in my research and experiments that being young and planning for your retirement is basically experienced as planning for your own failure. When you are young, you want to hang on to the feeling of being immortal, free, and unstoppable, so planning for your retirement feels like planning your funeral.
— The younger generations are generally unaware of their pension schemes. The job-seeking period is also often related with stress and anxiety, so planning your pension is not a priority. When securing your first job it's very unlikely you will question the three or four lines in hiring contract about the pension scheme your new employer is providing. This results in an 'out of sight, out of mind' effect and most young people doesn't revisit their pension plan in the first many years of employment.

How can we enable the passive assets in our pensions fund to play an active role in fighting the climate crisis?

Even though this generation is more aware about the climate crisis, and definitely more accepting of the fact that humans had an effect on global warming, the idea that your finances can affect the climate is still not an intuitive connection. 

— Pensions for Planet is an audited rating system and integrated platform for trustworthy information about your pension. Pensions for Planet aims at helping the younger generation, just emerging to the job market, in understanding the value of their pensions and how to utilise their savings to actively work for sustainable development instead of harming the environment.
— Pensions for Planet follows three design criteria; 'Quick to find the information' making finding the information easy. ‘Easy to understand’ using appropriate, normal language, not using technical or financial terms. ‘Trustworthy information’ it is important to cite the sources and only use reliable sources.
— The key aspects of the platform are having tailored information based on your chosen provider, clear and understandable ratings, relevant criteria for the rating and direct actions. That means you through the platform would check your pensions ranking and get the option to change plan or provider straight through the platform. Changing your pension through the platform will ideally be as simple as changing your phone provider – everything is done for you.
— The effect of your money’s involvement in the climate crisis might not be as intuitive as cutting meat from your diet or flying less but moving your pension savings to sustainable funds is measured to be 27 times more efficient than other alternatives as shortening your showers, taking fewer international flights, prefer the train to the car and cut meat from your diet. Numbers from Nordea Bank shows that you are saving more than 2000 tonnes of CO2 emission by changing your pension to sustainable funds.

I would like to take this last section to thank everyone who has been involved in my final project.

At times, my idealistic view of the world and my complete trust in the possibility of systemic change has been overshadowing the rationale of the project – and I thank the whole IDE tutor team for not losing faith in me and my project.

Additionally, a massive thank you the visiting tutors Pierre Jusselme, Julian Melchiorri, Hazel Macmillan, Matt White, Eva Kirchberger and Matt Johnson for your encouragement, support, and continuing excitement for my topic.

Special thanks to Elena Dieckmann for getting me out of my research-rabbit hole and Audrey Gaulard for pushing me to perform at my best at the hardest times — and getting me to connect with Jordan Belfort on LinkedIn. 

Massive thank you to the danish funds that supported my journey coming to the UK for my masters: Knud Højgaards Fond, William Demant Fonden, Henry & Mary Skovs Fond, Reinholdt W. Jorck og Hustrus Fond, Dansk Tennis Fond, Direktør Ib Henriksens Fond, Marie og M.B Richters Fond and STARK Fonden.

My family, Kirsten, Søren, Stine, Adda, Sara, Nis, Las og Azeb, thank you so much for your continuing emotional and financial support. You are my rocks.

Emil - my personal cheer squad. I love you.

WHOA that was a lot of thanks. If you made it to the bottom, well done!

I hope to see you in the physical satellite show at The Royal College of Art - otherwise get in touch and let's have a chat.

Knud Højgaards Fond

William Demant Fonden