21. mars 2024

Highlights from Business Iceland's 2024 annual meeting


Business Iceland's annual meeting, held at Gróska on March 20, had a packed audience. The topic for 2024 was Iceland as a brand, its perception, and its future as a resilient nation of safety and strength.

Bjarni Benediktsson, Minister of Foreign Affairs (now Prime Minister of Iceland), opened the conference with remarks highlighting Iceland's strong image abroad. He mentioned the numerous opportunities in Iceland and the thriving economy across various industries: "Iceland boasts high economic growth, low unemployment, and is a young, well-educated nation. Innovation is flourishing, and alongside it, sustainable industries are emerging. Here, large international companies are establishing with exciting potential."

Hildur Árnadóttir, Chairwoman of the Board of Business Iceland, delivered a speech emphasizing the importance of actions over words when shaping a nation's image. She stated, "What matters most is what we do—not just what we say we do. What is our real contribution to the world?" Iceland certainly has a good story regarding democratic values, equality, and justice. 

Pétur Þ. Óskarsson, CEO of Business Iceland, reflected on the organization's activities in 2023. He discussed the export services and highlighted how the staff had facilitated connections between 841 Icelandic companies and clients in 26 countries through 82 events. Pétur also shared the results of consumer surveys on key aspects of Iceland that reveal a strong position in sustainability, consistently ranking in the top 10 over the past few years. However, there is room for improvement in Iceland's perceived business environment, innovation, and modernizing society.

Addressing one of the biggest questions, "Is Iceland a safe country?" Pétur pointed out that Iceland has consistently scored very highly. Despite seismic and volcanic activity, subsequent research confirmed that Iceland's image in this regard remains unchanged. Iceland is still considered a safe and desirable destination for travelers.

Guest speaker Simon Anholt, an expert in national image and founder of "The Good Country Index," was a keynote speaker at the meeting. He emphasized the vital role of a nation's image in international business success. According to The Good Country Index, there is a strong correlation between a country's global revenue and a positive image. Iceland, Finland, and New Zealand stand out.

Simon noted that a nation's image is fluid and evolving. However, changing people's perceptions of other countries typically takes substantial effort. The Good Country Index measures how "good" countries are and their global contribution. Iceland ranks 20th out of 170 countries, which is considered very good. Particularly noteworthy is Iceland's high score in sustainability and climate issues, areas that Iceland could further leverage in the country's marketing efforts, possibly positioning Iceland as an ambassador of sustainability.

In a video interview with Max Gredinger, representative of Icelandic musician Laufey Lín Jónsdóttir, it was highlighted that Laufey draws heavily on her Icelandic heritage in her music. She proudly identifies as Icelandic and often mentions her roots in interviews.

In conclusion, Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir, Head of Export and Investment at Business Iceland, led the panel discussion with representatives from several export companies, including Icelandair, Kerecis, Fisheries Iceland (SFS), Blue Lagoon, and 66°North. The panel agreed that Iceland's brand is exceptionally well-known abroad, and they use Iceland's image in marketing their businesses, emphasizing the role of nature, culture, and history. While natural disasters like volcanic eruptions may not have immediate positive effects on Iceland's image, they could strengthen awareness and discourse about Iceland in the long run.

See photos from the event below

Highlights from Business Iceland's 2024 annual meeting

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