Constructing a hiking trail in Eidavatn
Repairing the Geisli Rescue Squad facility
Iceland - 2009
Community Investments Help Improve Quality of Life in Iceland
Alcoa and Alcoa Foundation are building upon strong community engagement initiated during the construction of the company’s newest smelter, Alcoa Fjardaal, to improve the quality of life in the surrounding east Iceland communities and, more recently, help them weather the country’s financial crisis.
Opened in 2007, Alcoa Fjardaal—combined with the related hydroelectric power station and harbor facility—is one of the most extensive community development investments even undertaken in Iceland. Early on, an advisory group comprising more than 30 diverse stakeholders from Alcoa, Landsvirkjun (the developer of the hydroelectric facility), and the community developed indicators to measure the performance of the smelter and hydro facility against sustainability targets.
Alcoa Fjardaal also established a community advisory group to build community partnerships and meet local needs. Alcoa Foundation’s community investment strategy was devised in close consultation with this group to ensure the strategy aligned with local community needs.
Through the end of 2008, Alcoa and Alcoa Foundation had committed more than US$1.5 million in community projects to improve the quality of life in community neighborhoods. In late 2008, when the volatile global economic environment and domestic financial crisis deeply and rapidly impacted the Icelandic community, Alcoa Foundation adjusted its strategy and investments in the country to meet immediate basic needs and hopefully help communities come out of the crisis with greater resilience, workplace flexibility, and community capacity for the longer term.
The following are examples of Alcoa Foundation community investments in 2008:
- A US$70,000 grant over two years to the East Iceland Rehabilitation Center will assist the unemployed gain skills and adjust to the changing economy and marketplace.
- To support those hardest hit by the economic crisis, the foundation provided a US$50,000 grant to Icelandic Church Aid for the provision of vocational training and consultation and financial aid to help local families retain their homes.
- A US$21,300 grant to the Young Peoples Art Festival will support the group’s work with all schools in East Iceland to engage children and their families in creative and community building activities during stressful times.
- A collaborative project initiated by local labour unions and Nordurthing municipality in North Iceland received a US$30,000 two-year grant to assist immigrants and their families integrate into the community and workplace by providing training in language and workplace skills, knowledge of available government and social resources, and information about their legal rights.
“Getting established in a new community poses various problems, and it is our duty to assist new residents as much as possible,” said Adalsteinn A. Baldursson, chairman of the Framsyn Labour Union. “Immigrants have a lot of contact with government agencies, which can be difficult even for people born in Iceland who speak the language and are familiar with the system. It is absolutely key that immigrants be able to obtain needed assistance in one place, and the project has produced good results. More immigrants are now interested in settling here for a longer period, not least because we have succeeded in systematically helping them adapt to the community. We are very pleased that Alcoa Foundation decided to support the project so handsomely.”
Alcoa employees in Iceland also have committed their energy, time, and talent for community benefit. In only the second year the facility has been in operation, employee volunteerism reached 30%.
Volunteer achievements in 2008 included 252 employees, family members, and neighbors volunteering on community projects during the 2008 Alcoa Worldwide Month of Service. Seven ACTION events with local organizations strengthened community facilities that are relied upon even more heavily for social cohesion and community support during times of crisis. These projects included constructing a hiking trail leading to the Eider Cultural and Education Center for the use of children in Eidavatn; renovating training facilities, trails, and playground equipment at recreational facilities heavily used by families in East Iceland; and working with the Red Cross and the Hafdis, Geisli, and Gerpir rescue squads to repair local search and rescue facilities.
“The resque squads are immensely important in a small community like ours,” said Sigfús Heidar Jóhannsson, president of the Geisli Resque Squad, which consists entirely of volunteers. “Our members train vigorously under all kinds of weather conditions, on land and at sea. We are on call day and night, all year round, and we respond to every help request. It gives the residents of our small town a sense of safety to have a good rescue squad. What the Alcoa volunteers did for us—helping renovate our venue and equipment—helps us with recruiting, because it’s easier to get new volunteers if our facilities are in prime condition.”