What makes a sustainable business leader? Meet Bakkafrost CEO Regin Jacobsen

With the entry deadline for edie's 2022 Sustainability Leaders Awards on Friday (1 October), this series showcases the achievements of previous winners. Up next: Winner of our 'Sustainable Business Leader of the Year' award, Regin Jacobsen.

What makes a sustainable business leader? Meet Bakkafrost CEO Regin Jacobsen

Ready to follow in Regin's footsteps? Entries for the 2022 Awards close on 1 October 2021


As well as being the driving force behind sustainability at Bakkafrost, Regin Jacobsen has been a key player in the transformation of the aquaculture sector. He has been working to improve sustainability standards through international platforms; making investments into innovative technology to support the circular economy and into asset upgrades which will enable the company to double production whilst halving carbon emissions.

Taking over from his father as chief executive in 1989, Regin has since led the company to become listed on the Oslo Bors. Bakkafrost was named among the best performers in the 2019 and 2020 Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index and is participating in the Ocean Disclosure Project, providing value chain transparency.

Regin put forward an ambitious goal to the board in 2013 to become 100% Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified by 2020 and Bakkafrost was the first GSI (Global Salmon Initiative) producer to achieve this. He was also the first in the Faroes to invest in a dedicated sustainability resource and to publish a sustainability strategy and report (in 2018). This resulted in Bakkafrost becoming one of the best performers in the 2019 and 2020 Coller FAIRR Protein Index – which ranks the world’s largest listed producers on sustainability.

He has direct responsibility for sustainability and is actively involved in shaping the agenda in the Faroes – home to 5% of the world’s farmed salmon. Regin’s colleagues describe him as a visionary and innovative leader, investing DKK 100 million into the Faroe Islands’ first biogas plant, processing waste from salmon and dairy farmers, providing enough renewable heat for 2% and electricity for 9% of homes in the capital. It will save CO2 and produce a bioavailable liquid fertiliser for farmers – reducing pollution into fjords. He is also ambitious, becoming one of the first salmon farming CEOs to sign up to the GSI in 2013 – driving sustainability in the industry.

As well as investing in decarbonisation, Regin is capitalising on the value created through circular economy solutions, for example the investment into a new processing plant using offcuts from Bakkafrost salmon to be sold as salmon oil.

Furthermore, his objective to double in size while halving carbon emissions demonstrates his understanding that growth needs to be decoupled from environmental impact for sustainable commercial success.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Regin acted rapidly to make all locations safe working environments and invested DKK 2 million into a testing research programme in collaboration with a leading Faroese medic. All employees in the Faroes have been offered triweekly tests since April 2020.

The sustainability agenda remains a key focus at all board meetings and Regin gives the management team responsibility for incorporating sustainability into their functions. For example, the director of farming service vessels has worked with Regin on a multi-million investment into one of world’s largest wellboats which will be hybrid. He also inspired and financially supported the former sustainability lead to set up an industry sustainability initiative to drive change at a larger scale.

Regin is also using his influencing skills to drive a vision of a more sustainable future outside of Bakkafrost’s operations.  In 2020, Regin became co-chair of the GSI and is using his position to influence the integration of climate change adaptation and mitigation into the objectives addressed by the thirteen companies in the group. Also in 2020, he used his Bakkafrost position to influence Faroese politicians on the regulatory challenges faced by businesses trying to transitionto low-carbon technologies.

Additionally, he is financing the start-up of the Faroese Sustainable Business Initiative, launching in 2021 with the aim of addressing climate change through collaboration in the business sector. As part of his membership of the Faroese Sustainable Business Initiative, Regin will share his journey to inspire other Faroese companies to advance their sustainability agenda

Regin’s qualities and approach to radical transparency have made Bakkafrost stand out among investors and customers. In 2020, Regin was a key speaker at the North Atlantic Seafood Forum in Norway, where he was invited to share Bakkafrost’s recipe for commercial and sustainability success in front of 730 top executives from more than 300 companies.

edie’s judges said: “Regin has worked tirelessly to transform a sector that really needed changing. He has innovated and gone well beyond improving his own company; he has also entered the political debate, taking action to drive long-lasting change through a number of wide-ranging activities.”

Are you our next winner?

After a tough and extraordinary year, edie’s RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards are back for 2022, bigger and better than ever – celebrating the incredible people, projects and partnerships that are accelerating climate action and transforming business, for good. 

Entries are now OPEN. The submission deadline for the 2022 Sustainability Leaders Awards is Friday 1 October 2021. The Awards is then set to take place as a live ceremony on the night of Wednesday 2 February 2022 at the Park Plaza London, Westminster. 

Our ‘Sustainability Leader of the Year’ category is among the 23 categories to choose from. Make sure you get the recognition you, and your team, deserve. ENTER THE SUSTAINABILITY LEADERS AWARDS 2022 HERE.

edie Staff

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