The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Sustainability Series: Icelandic Glacial

Sustainability Series: Icelandic Glacial


October 29, 2014

Icelandic Glacial™ is more than just a bottle of water – it is 100% pure and natural with spring water bottled straight from the naturally replenishing underground Ölfus Spring in Iceland. The pristine country of Iceland and the legendary Ölfus Spring are the essence and heart of the brand. Committed to assess CO2 emissions and reduce them wherever possible on an ongoing basis, Icelandic Glacial also has a net-zero carbon footprint. Their efforts have been recognized with international acknowledgment, including an award for Bottled Water World Design Awards for Best Sustainability Initiative. We talked to Icelandic Glacial Chairman and Co-Founder, Jon Olafsson, about the challenges of producing a pure product without sacrificing the environment.

How does your business define sustainability?

Icelandic Glacial™ works to define and embody sustainability from source to production to distribution. Forged during a massive volcanic eruption over 5,000 years ago, the Ölfus Spring is shielded by an impenetrable layer of lava rock and surrounded by a 128,000-acre exclusion zone set by the government. The Ölfus Spring is constantly replenished by a gradual filtration of rainfall and snowmelt over uninhabited and untouched lava fields making the spring self-sustaining, pure and untouched. Through this beauty of nature, it is Icelandic Glacial’s mission to continue to sustain the Ölfus Spring as a precious resource from beginning to end. This means that the Icelandic Glacial™ natural spring water has a perfect combination of environmental characteristics that also creates remarkably fresh, balanced water. 

How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your business?

As sustainability naturally defines our business, Icelandic Glacial takes our mission further by incorporating sustainable practices into every aspect of our business.

The water we collect from the Ölfus Spring flows directly into our state-of-the-art bottling plant, located right at the source in Hlidarendi, Iceland. The bottling plant is powered entirely by geothermal and hydroelectric energy. When it comes to shipping, we use otherwise empty cargo slots to move our product to the United States and Europe.

The Spring is naturally and constantly replenished from mountains in the north of Iceland, and Icelandic Glacial uses less than .1% of the Ölfus Spring’s overflow in its bottling operation. As a result, Zenith International, Europe’s leading food and drinks consultancy, has declared the Ölfus Spring to be certifiably sustainable.

Each bottle is made from recycled high grade PET-1, which is BPA-Free, and all Icelandic Glacial bottles and packaging are 100% recyclable with the outer box cases made from 50% recycled paper. As we aim to be the active leader in environmental sustainability, we work with The CarbonNeutral® Company, a leading carbon emissions consultant since 2007. We are proud to be recognized as the first bottled water to be certified 100% Carbon Neutral for both product and operations. 

What are your short term and long term goals?

We are striving to continually find new ways to reduce our environmental impact across all areas of our business. That includes reducing, reusing, and measuring across all areas of our business. As new credible technologies evolve, we want to be at the forefront of adoption. Our mission is to bring the world natural spring water that is clean and pure from the pristine country of Iceland without sacrificing or harming the environment. 

Where do you think you’ll have the biggest impact?

We were the first bottled water company to be certified carbon neutral, which paved the way for other beverage brands to follow suit. We have taken a leadership position in this regard and it has been incredibly rewarding to see the industry shift to more sustainable business practices. We want to continue to be a leader in the industry and inspire others to take on sustainable practices to save and protect our environment.

How do you measure your progress?

As the Icelandic Glacial brand continues to grow, through 360-degree initiatives, we utilize programs that include a variety of tactics to help monitor and reinforce the brand’s environmental credentials. We are always looking for ways to minimize our environmental impact and we value the independent verification through the constant measurement of third party partners like The CarbonNeutral Company. By implementing strong business practices that keep sustainability at the forefront of our operation, we continue to work to leave the smallest footprint possible.

How do retailers factor into your efforts?

As retailers respond to evolving consumer demand and environmental consciousness, our super premium natural spring water offers unsurpassed environmental credentials to discerning retailers and consumers who are seeking additional choices in natural spring waters. 

Why are sustainable business practices important to the food industry?

Research has found that utilizing sustainable business practices increases efficiency, in turn reducing costs of production and distribution. The beverage industry, and more generally consumer packaged goods, can be leaders for other industries to follow. By keeping a low carbon footprint, companies, like Icelandic Glacial, are able to improve their energy efficiency. 

Why are sustainable business practices important to the consumer?

Over the years, consumers have become more aware of sustainability and the impact of a company’s businesses practices on the environment. Recent research says that customers are 58% more likely to purchase products from brands that are mindful of their effects on the environment. Sustainability is not a fad, it is not going away. Through our ethical and transparent practices, Icelandic Glacial is not afraid to show consumers the heart of our business and business practices.