Interview: Festa – miðstöð um samfélagsábyrgð

FESTA_logoInterview date: 14 August 2014
Interviewed by: Tanja



The story:

“FESTA is an association of companies, established in 2011 by 6 Icelandic companies. Previously those 6 companies, and 2 or 3 more other companies, had been a supporting member of an association called Ethicos which was a joint venture of the law department of the Reykjavik University. They started a center of CSR in 2008 and then the companies came in as supporters. This didn’t seem to work out but the companies wanted to do something with the idea. So they decided check if there was a need for a platform for establishing their own center, independent from the government and not belonging to a certain university. The founding companies took 2 years to define FESTA it and in late 2011 they hired a manager who formerly established the association. They continued to define the mission and vision.

 It’s been open for membership since early 2013, for companies, institutions, associations and even individuals. Currently FESTA has 40 members.”

Research Questionnaire

1. Name: Ketill B. Magnússon

2. Email address: ketill [at] csriceland.is

3. Phone number: +354 599 6600

4. Your title in the company: Managing Director

5. Company Name: Festa – miðstöð um samfélagsábyrgð / www.csriceland.is / Kt 711011-0210

6. Industry: Cross industry network / education

7. Company years in operation: 2011

8. Type of company: sjálfstætt félag með sjálfstæðan fjárhag / Association non-profit

9. How many employees does your company have: 1 full-time and a part time employee (20%)

10. Annual turnover:

2013: 10-15M ISK

Annual fees of membership (income).

No grants.

11. Description of company:

“The company has 2 main goals:

  • Inform people, the general public, and companies on the notion and meaning of CSR
  • Support companies who want to integrate CSR tools, techniques and strategies.

We define ourselves as a platform where we encourage people to collaborate around CSR: it’s about attitude, processes, policies. We try to work very closely with all the stakeholders that matter: the companies, the public, media, consultancy companies, other NGOs or associations, the government and universities.

Festa does not rely on any single method or model on CSR, but we use the ISO26000 standard as a definition, and we promote a lot of other tools, techniques and definitions.

“We have a program of conferences, lectures, workshops where we are providing many topics on CSR for both companies that are established in CSR or are new to it. We have a network-meetings for members where they can communicate and learn from each other. Also, importantly we have informal partners with international organizations as many of them are quite ahead with CSR in their respective areas.

In Iceland, we work very closely with other organizations that work on issues related to CSR, for example like SA-Business Iceland and UN Women. We think of ourselves as facilitators, with as many groups as possible within our resource capabilities.

We are also establishing FESTA Forum which is aimed for young CSR professionals. We want to help them network and encourage them to work on their ideas and start something, where they may be a bit more proactive in incentivising companies to incorporate CSR with full integrity.”

12. Company Mission:

(Source: http://festasamfelagsabyrgd.is/node/8)

  • Be a knowledge center for CSR in Iceland.
  • Promotes discussion on CSR in Iceland.
  • Supports companies in implementing CSR strategies.
  • Provides a network of companies who want to implement CSR.
  • Cooperates with universities by promoting research and teaching of CSR.
  • Cooperates with international CSR centers.

13. Description of social / environmental mission: Same as 12.

14. Would you call yourself a social entrepreneur or social enterprise?

“I was thinking about that. I’m not sure, probably it is.”

15. How do you interpret the concept of social enterprises?

“The goal is to improve society, there is no personal gain. There is a co-operation of many together to create something.

We measure our value to society in terms of non-financial measurements.”

Questions related to the definition

16. Does your company have a clear social and/or environmental mission set out in their governing documents?

Yes, it’s in the founding documents.

17. Does your company generate the majority of their income through trade? (51% and above). If not, how much?

Yes all income is from membership fees.

18. Does your company reinvest the majority of its profits back into the social and/or environmental mission? (51% and above), if not, how much? 100%

19. Is your company autonomous of state?

Fully autonomous. “We communicate that very clearly as we think it’s important. We could collaborate with the state in projects in the future. It’s important to keep the objectivity, independence.”

20. Is your company majority controlled in the interests of the social and or environmental mission?


21. Is your company accountable and transparent? (Transparency – corporate actions are observable by outsiders)


“Honesty is the official value. We share information on our website as much as possible. We encourage knowledge sharing, even with perceived competitors. We want others to openly share and collaborate.”

There website clearly includes there Articles of Association, with founding companies: http://festasamfelagsabyrgd.is/samthykktir-festu

22. Who are you clients / focus group?

Companies (established and start-ups) and institutions

23. What KPI’s (key performance indicators) or measurement tools, if any, do you use to access if you are meeting your social impact according to your mission? (E.g. Number of users, number of engaged users. Etc.)

  • Annual goals and objectives for the operation
  • Number of new members
  • Membership feedback: are they happy?
  • Budget/financial indicators
  • Annual program (manage by objectives)

24. As per 23, what type of social impact have you created through your products/services (e.g. assisted 1,000 people access to health care they won’t have otherwise).

  • New members. 2013: 6 to 30. 2014: goal of 49.
  • Perspective of CSR research:

Iceland general public: 48% positive, 25% unknown

Iceland companies: 69% positive, 18% unknown

EU: 52% positive, 7% unknown

  • Success of activities and actions of our annual goal of operations

Social enterprise sector

25. If a social enterprise umbrella body were formed, would you be interested to know more about it and possibly join as a member?

Would like to be informed and keep in contact.

As a future potential member: there are no funds at present for this, even though the causes are aligned. If and when we could be established to allow for that, it would be a question for the board.

26. What support do you personally need from such an umbrella body and/or what support do you think the social enterprise sector requires?

Providing practical ideas: tools and techniques

Practical examples of Icelandic companies

Support forum

Idea of the option of social enterprise compared to the traditional company model

Working with entrepreneurs of all ages targeting universities

27. How would you like to see social enterprise develop in Iceland?

Working with entrepreneurs, targeting universities. Enriching their perspective of what is possible.

Social investments: in Iceland, it’s currently quite limited.

 “I find it very difficult in Iceland, maybe because it’s a small community. The limited number of people who are willing to invest in social companies and social investments. And putting some money into a fund that would not create a financial return for them, or at least not immediately, or even not, just saying that “I want to be a part of this kind of social reform, that future generations will gain from.

This kind of thinking is very foreign for many Icelandic people. And I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a mix of our traditions of banks in the last 50-60 years or the politics with the very fast growing economy and how it changed people’s ideas of how things are done. It would be an important but difficult path to open people’s eyes for these possibilities.

 I think in Iceland the establishments of the government, the law, the institutions is very much geared either towards a private enterprise or a public enterprise owned by the government. We have a long history of volunteering in Iceland, in different forms. Many take part in the local rescue force, the women club (i. kvenfélag), sports clubs or other organization where you volunteer to work on a common, good cause. But I think Icelanders do not think they are “investing” by doing this. It is more being a part of a society and helping others. I guess that people think differently about actual monetary investments in social activities. Again, many support causes with donations, but that is not regarded as an investment in the minds of people. So, why would someone, a private person, want to invest a sum of their money for the society, if it’s not a personal gain? That’s something that not many people understand.

 I think even in the USA, where you have the idea of individually centred ideas of economy and society there you have a clear idea that people need also to do something for the society, without any person gain, on their own. Charitable giving and investing by individuals is much more common there than here. Maybe that’s part of the Nordic social welfare system, because we pay a lot of taxes, people think it’s ‘taken care of’. People say; ‘I want to do it, but I want to do it through my taxes, I want to establish the social infrastructure through that.’ And also you have people saying that this is the role of the government, this is what we pay those people to do.’

When you go to smaller communities in Iceland, you see how things work at its best in Iceland. There they have the blunt reality that they have to work together and people are involved in all kinds of social activities. With the understanding that the individual is part of the social structure.”

28. Can you recommend a company (NGO) that you may know of that has a social and/or environmental mission?

“There are many organizations in Iceland who focus on this. For information on this visit Almannaheill – association of the third sector: www.almannaheill.is

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