Annual general meeting, 2015

Annual general meeting of the Sustainability Initiative, 2015

Fáskrúðsfjörður education center, May 6 2015 14:00 - 18:00

The fifth annual meeting of the Landsvirkjun and Alcoa Fjarðaál Sustainability Initiative was held in the Fáskrúðsfjörður education center on Wednesday, May 6 2015, from 14:00 to 18:00.

Ársfundur 2015

The special themes of this meeting were economic affairs and the Sustainability Initiative's economic indicators.

Agenda

Meeting chair:  Gunnar Jónsson, Fjarðabyggð municipal secretary

14:00    Opening, Geir Sigurpáll Hlöðversson, Alcoa Fjarðaál

14:10    Results of the Sustainability Initiative's 2014 monitoring - economic indicators: Georg Þór Pálsson
             Landsvirkjun;  Ágústa Björnsdóttir, Alcoa Fjarðaál; Guðrún Á. Jónsdóttir and Sigrún Víglundsdóttir,
             Austurbrú

14:30    The economic metrics of local authorities, Guðlaugur Sæbjörnsson, Director of Finance,
              Fljótsdalshérað

14:50    Development and the main economic variables of society - what criteria gauge success? Ásta Kristín
             Sigurjónsdóttir
, director of the Fjarðabyggð employment and development affairs programme

15:10    Coffee break

15:40    Capital and sustainability - a new direction for sustainability indicators, Jón Skafti Gestsson,
             economist at the engineering office Verkfræðistofa Jóhanns Indriðasonar

16:10    Discussion

16:20    Group work

  1.    What characterises good economic indicators?
  2.    Are economic indicators lacking in the Sustainability Initiative? Which ones?
  3.    Review of the Initiative's economic indicators: 
    1.  3.1  Tourism
    2.  3.2  Fjarðaál exports
    3.  3.3  Economic gain for the gross national product
  4.    Review of the Initiative's economic indicators:
    1.  3.4  Quantity of goods and services produced in Iceland
    2.  3.5  The financial standing of local authorities

  

16:50    Presentation of group work conclusions

17:15
    Some outstanding results of the Initiative's 2014 measurements

  • Moving the mouth of the Lagarfljót and the Jökla, Helgi Jóhannesson, Landsvirkjun
  • Results of fluoride measurements in grass; relations with the community, Dagný Björk Reynisdóttir and Dagmar Ýr Stefánsdóttir, Alcoa Fjarðaál

17:40    Amendments to indicators - comments and annual meeting approval of amendments

17:50    Summary / discussion

 Summary

Meeting chair: Gunnar Jónsson, Fjarðabyggð municipal secretary

Opening: The meeting was opened by Geir Sigurpáll Hlöðversson; in his address, he touched on the history of the Sustainability Initiative, which was founded in 2004. The 2015 meeting today is the fifth one, with such annual general meetings providing a forum for amending Initiative metrics and linking the community with the program.

Georg Þór Pálsson described Landsvirkjun's monitoring of the economic indicators during 2014, as well as mentioning the 2014 decision not to run a visitor center at Végarður, as had been done ever since 2004. Instead, a guide was stationed twice a week at Kárahnjúkar Dam in order to receive visitors. Georg showed traffic figures from the Road and Coastal Administration's counter at Desjará Dam and compared them to those from other East Iceland routes.

Alcoa Fjarðaál's 2014 monitoring of economic indicators was addressed by Ágústa Björnsdóttir, who pointed out how the monitoring plan for Indicator 3.2, Fjarðaál exports, refers to net exportation, without that quantity having ever been explained, so that she proposed the amendment of this indicator. As for Indicator 3.4, Amounts of goods and services produced in Iceland, she proposed that that indicator be cancelled, because such estimates are so unreliable that it is imprudent to draw conclusions from them.

Sigrún Víglundsdóttir discussed Austurbrú's monitoring of economic indicators, observing that Indicator 3.1a, on employment percentages in the hotel and restaurant industry, is no longer in effect, since Statistics Iceland stopped publishing the relevant data in 2005. 

The finance director of Fljótsdalshérað, Guðlaugur Sæbjörnsson, presented data on East Iceland population trends and employment numbers. Furthermore, he explained trends in tax revenues, as well as the tax base of local income tax. In regard to local authority margins, he noted that they should amount to some 15% in order for municipalities to be fully capable of operating and of fulfilling their obligations.   

Ásta Kristín Sigurjónsdóttir reported interesting social metrics, in addition to a possible connection between the Sustainability Initiative and ideas about an East Iceland statistics office.

Several definitions of sustainability were introduced by Jón Skafti Gestsson, who noted that even if the meaning of the term is unclear, this in no way means it is useless. He continued by describing the distinction between strong and weak sustainability and between flow and stock indicators. Ordinary flow indicators like the national product or fish catch figures are risky, because they do not portray the underlying status of the capital which upholds them. It would make more sense to take note of stocks instead, for instance of the size of fish stocks or of public debt and assets. In closing, he presented examples of possible economic indicators for the Sustainability Initiative.

Group assignments and conclusions

Helgi Jóhannesson told about the relocation of the shared estuary of the Lagarfljót and the Jökla, as this measure was described at the 2014 annual meeting of the Initiative. After the first relocation attempt, the estuary immediately became closed again. Although plans then called for trying once more in the autumn, local people were concerned about spring floods, so a second attempt was made straight away in June 2014. This attempt succeeded, so that by January 2015 the old estuary was blocked off. The level of the groundwater table at Húsey dropped as soon as the estuary had been transferred.

Dagný Björk Reynisdóttir and Dagmar Ýr Stefánsdóttir went over the results of fluoride measurements as well as communications with the community about these measurements. The weather was discovered to have a major impact on fluoride concentrations. Subsequent to an equipment malfunction and the emission of too much fluorine into the atmosphere, the community felt worried, so that Alcoa Fjarðaál worked together with the Environment Agency and the Food and Veterinary Authority to pass on information to the community.

Indicator amendments

The Supervisory Board had submitted motions to the meeting for amending indicators. These proposals for amendments were approved with only minor changes in wording. 

Discussion

The Environment Association's representative on the Supervisory Board, Fríða Björg Eðvarðsdóttir, spoke at the end of the meeting. Reviewing the Association's involvement in the Sustainability Initiative, she told how it had had a representative on the Supervisory Board from the beginning, and had actively participated in the Advisory Group while the Initiative was taking shape. Not only had the Association's representatives put a lot of work into the Initiative, but were proud of having done so. During this time, the Association had been contemplating its participation in the program, and currently wants to recommend that the Initiative convene the Advisory Group in order to create a fresh vision for the program, as well as to open up discussion on the indicators and the program's future. The future of the Environment Association in the Supervisory Board needs to be discussed, along with whether some other body ought to take the Association's place. Fríða added that the Association officers are of one mind that ten years ago, they would have preferred the prospect of a future without the hydropower plant and aluminum smelter. However, their participation in shaping the Sustainability Initiative was meant to channel matters into their best possible course. In closing, she thanked Austurbrú for excellent, professional work, together with Alcoa and Landsvirkjun for the whole business of managing the Initiative; finally, she wished the program all the best.

The meeting ended with a summary by Gunnar Jónsson.

Speeches

Group work

Four questions were assigned to four groups - one to each group. Each group chose its own chair, as well as a spokesperson to report on the results.

Group 1: What characteristises a good statistical indicator?

  • It relates to developments in a particular stock or population
  • It measures (or is capable of estimating) whether a particular resource is being depleted
  • It registers long- as well as short-term developments
  • It reveals social developments and social structure
  • It provides for comparisons

Group 2: Sustainability and the economy. How might the economic aspect of the Sustainability Initiative be enhanced?

  • By comparing energy that is used in the region to that produced in the region
  • By linking indicators to regional businesses
  • By job increases -> gender glasses as a component of a social indicator
  • By involving more parties in the Initiative, such as an East Iceland statistics office, in order to increase the number of indicators
  • By showing the distribution of Fjarðaál employees (a social indicator)
  • By the number of new businesses (as a percentage of those currently operating)
  • By general statistics which fill out the picture
  • By comparing it with Iceland as a whole? With other regions of the country?
  • By relating an income indicator with influential factors, such as hours of work
  • By the economic growth of East Iceland - can it be measured?
  • By an East Iceland expectations index -> can expectations be measured?

Group 3: Review of the Initiative's economic indicators

                  

  • Indicator 3.1 - The tourist industry
  1. Percentage of jobs in hotel and restaurant operations in East Iceland, as well as in the whole country: Quit if no information can be obtained [A comment was voiced from the floor that this information was available from the Icelandic Tourism Board, but when a query was sent after the meeting to the Tourism Board, it referred to Statistics Iceland.]
  2. Annual number of overnight stays in East Iceland hotels/guest houses: Information should be added on the utilisation of accommodation facilities - what should be considered high or low?
  3. Number of air passengers to and from Egilsstaðir: Information should be added on utilisation in reference to stock indicators; comparisons should be made.
  4. Number of visits to Fjarðaál and to Fljótsdalur Power Station: This indicator says nothing about the number of tourists in the region. We need added information on this matter: what is it that we want to reveal? - Iceland as a whole, not just East Iceland
  • Indicator 3.2 - Fjarðaál exports

        

         Refer Ágústa's observations to the Supervisory Board, for instance concerning net exports. A comparison of Iceland's total export of goods with Alcoa Fjarðaál's exports could be useful if it were presented properly. Consider exports rather than net exports.

  • Indicator 3.3 - Economic gain for the gross national product

         An excellent indicator

Group 4: Review of the Initiative's economic indicators

                  

  • Indicator 3.4 - Quantity of goods and services produced in Iceland

       

A great deal of discussion occurred on this indicator, leading to the conclusion that the subject still needs measuring, even though the objection was voiced that it is considerably subjective. It is important to obtain more data from businesses and for Alcoa to crunch it further.

  • Indicator 3.5 - The financial standing of local authorities

        The group feels that while this indicator needs to be retained, local authority margins and debt burdens need to be added. A local authority's debt ratio is its medical certificate.

Indicator amendments

The Supervisory Board had laid motions before the meeting for amending several indicators. All of these motions were approved with only minor changes in wording.

Indicator amendments passed by the annual general meeting, 2015