Written by Dr. Olga Hawn.
In May a group of 23 lucky MBA students travelled to Iceland with Professor Olga Hawn for the Global Immersion Elective course focused on Sustainability. The program started with a visit to the local KPMG Sustainability Practice: overlooking the harbor, we had an induction into the services that are in high demand all around, including ESG strategy and value creation, climate risk and decarbonization, sustainable finance, ESG reporting, due diligence and assurance and the circular economy. Next, exploring Iceland’s key industry, we had several visits with professionals and entrepreneurs in the broadly defined fish industry: Iceland is proud to use 100% of the fish caught sustainably off its coast – from collagen pills and even drinks, to snacks, cosmetics and even fish skin leather products – nothing goes to waste. Their zero waste policy apparently goes back to the Vikings.
A visit to Fossar Markets, a leading securities firm, responsible for the first social bond and several green bond issuances in Iceland, left us even more excited about the growth and professionalization of sustainability as an industry. For example, I will never forget their quote that “when they discuss bonds now, they don’t even call them green anymore – green is implied.” Next, we met with the Minister of Culture, Tourism and Business Affairs who walked us through Iceland’s history and how it is reflected in its culture and norms today; she also highlighted the tradeoffs Iceland faces as a result of its growing tourism industry and plans how to encourage more sustainable tourism.
Perhaps the highlight of our program (at least for me) was the visit to ON Orca geothermal plant and meeting with Carbfix executives. Carbfix is a 2.5 year-old start-up with 15 years of R&D that literally turns carbon into stone in less than two years. They managed to speed up the mother nature’s process by gently injecting carbon with water into the ground where basalt and other reactive rock formations help turn it into rock, which provides a natural and most importantly, permanent solution to the climate crisis. Add to this a glacier walk, a visit to the oldest eco-village, a tomato greenhouse that serves not only tomato soup but also tomato ice cream and cheesecake as well as green and red tomato beer (I know – zero waste again!) and finally, a National Geographic unique lodge known to the world for its sustainability and authenticity. Pour some of that Icelandic water, waterfalls, geysers and lagoons on top, and I would never want to go back home!
Thanks so much to our hosts for making this a tremendous learning opportunity. We hope Carbfix will scale fast, saving the planet!