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Focus on Festa

Monday, March 16, 2015

Focus on Festa: CSR Europe's Icelandic National Partner Ogranisation

CSR Europe asked Ketill B. Magnússon, Managing Director of Festa, our Icelandic National Partner, to describe his organisation in five phrases using its own name. Here's what he thought:

Foundation for an open dialogue between companies and society

Ethical way of doing business

Sustainable use of natural resources

Together we create shared value

Addressing issues with honesty and integrity

Here is the interview in full:

Festa was founded in 2011 by six companies and is a young and growing organisation. What were the reasons behind founding Festa?

Founding Festa was kind of a natural next step for the six companies since they had been supporting and participating in a dialogue on CSR matters in Iceland since 2008 with people from Reykjavik University. At that point, the CEOs of these companies thought it was important that Icelandic companies actively and independently discuss and learn about best practices, opportunities and challenges that businesses face in relation to CSR, as well as about the effects businesses have on society and the environment. So, that is why Festa – Icelandic Center for CSR was founded by companies, not the public sector, academics or NGOs.

You are CSR Europe’s first National Partner from Iceland; could you tell us the top three CSR issues and trends in Iceland and the main actors addressing these issues?

Environmental issues are an important element of doing business in Iceland. The three largest industries are greatly dependent on and affect nature: fishing, tourism, and hydro powered industry (e.g. aluminium smelting). How we and the next generations use these natural resources is an issue much discussed in politics, the media and in the public debate.

The financial crisis in 2008 largely affected Iceland. The nation is recovering fast and is dealing with and learning from many of the issues, such as corporate governance.

Other important issues involve the increased demand for transparency and doing business in an ethical manner.

If you were a company wanting to set up business in and around the Arctic, what would be the challenges and opportunities to consider?

Setting up a company around the Arctic usually means that companies want to utilise natural resources. Thus, having an effective and responsible environmental policy is vital for doing business in the Arctic. That is the case with the extracting industry, using resources in the Arctic Ocean, enabling people to enjoy the untouched nature in the region or establishing a transcontinental route of transportation. 

Societies in the Arctic are often small, fragile and rich in cultural heritage. Companies that enter the Arctic often greatly affect these communities and should consider the long term effects they have before starting their business there.

What are the main initiatives and/or activities for 2015 that you would encourage our readers to follow?

The EU directive on non-financial reporting will greatly affect how companies measure their success. We will continue to see changes in reporting and more companies will integrate environmental, social and governance factors (ESG) into their annual reports. The best companies will be using real time ESG data for their managers to make decisions in their day to day operations.

We will see companies react to climate change with more concreate measures. Scientific knowledge will increase and we will see a drastic move from vague and abstract rhetoric to hard decisions on policy level as well as corporate decisions.

As the newest National Partner of CSR Europe, what are your expectations from the network?

Adapting to the demand for responsible business is vital for Icelandic companies. Although sustainability is key to the success of many Icelandic companies, e.g. in fishing and renewable energy, in many ways Iceland is years behind the leading European countries in the practice of CSR.

As members of CSR Europe we hope to be able to learn from others and bring best practices on CSR and sustainability from the leading companies in Europe to our member companies in Iceland.

We want to be a part of the CSR dialogue in Europe and hopefully we can contribute in some fields.