Róbert Guðfinnsson was chosen Businessperson of the Year by Frjáls verslun (‘Free Enterprise’), Iceland Review’s sister publication. The choice is a bit unusual. Róbert’s investments in Siglufjörður have the flair of the shared value policy presented at Harvard University several years ago. His investments in the small fishing village, out at the extreme sea close to the Arctic Circle, are certainly not finished, despite already amounting to almost ISK 4 billion (USD 32 million, EUR 26 million).
These investments were mostly carried out with his private funds, which he has brought to the country, and is the result of his overseas operations in fisheries and aquaculture, mainly in Mexico. The crates in Siglufjörður have not yet been counted, as it is sometimes said in Icelandic about the success of investment. He is however deserving of the award. The formulation of his thoughts on the Siglufjörður community is exemplary, his initiative and enterprise unique, as is his boldness in long-term investment which returns will possibly not be seen until in the coming generations. He doesn’t look at this as something charitable but rather that the returns are acceptable; it’s certainly not a short-term investment with super returns.
Robert believes in a Siglufjörður with a diverse economy; fisheries, museums, thriving tourism, biotechnology and various pastimes among locals and guests. He wants more breadth in society in terms of the economy, knowledge and culture. He says that it is important that jobs requiring advanced education increase. When these shared values work together, they turn into a magnet, attracting more people and new investors. His idea of putting money into both his own business operations as well as society in Siglufjörður had been with him for a long time but he didn’t take action and lay out his investment plan until it was clear that the Héðinsfjörður tunnel would be constructed and locals had taken the initiative to build two impressive museums: The Herring Era Museum of Iceland and The Icelandic Folk Music Center. This was before Harvard’s economists had shaped their theories of shared value and social responsibility, which have since become popular. Róbert himself has not associated his policy with academic theory; he is an entrepreneur who gets involved with his projects and then lets them speak for themselves.
(Based on the leader in the latest issue of Frjáls verslun by editor Jón G. Hauksson, translated to English by Zoë Robert and Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.)