In the light of the economic crisis, the Danish Island of Bornholm has developed a Bright Green Island strategy to rethink economic prosperity and place the island on the map as a green and innovative economy.

The Bright Green Island (BGI) strategy was first developed in 2009, because of a sudden downturn in traditional industries on Bornholm, such as fisheries, farming and heavy industries, especially the production of metal and cement, which were no longer profitable in the face of new economic demands and environmental needs. At that time, 48 representatives from business, academia and politics took a crucial step in finding a new direction for the Island, which has developed into the concept of “Bright Green Island”.

Based on these grounds, BGI strategy aims to enhance business and living standards on the island by creating a platform for sustainable action and promoting it further afield. The vision of BGI is to achieve a 100% sustainable and renewable energy society, responsible in all its actions. For that reason, the BGI strategy also implies social aspects: sustainable business (local innovation), good living (sustainable society), smart island (green energy) and green destination (sustainable tourism). These four aspects embrace the combined Bright Green Island vision.

Bornholm has a lot of potential as a testing ground for new renewable energy technologies. It has an isolated location (in the Baltic Sea south of Sweden) and represents the “mini society” concept: around 1% of Denmark’s area, 1% of the Danish population and 1% of the country’s combined energy consumption.

Thus so far, the concept of Bright Green Island has been successfully developed. A public energy supplier has participated in the EU EcoGrid project to introduce how flexible consumption in Europe can manage over 50% wind power and related renewable sources. In this regard, Bornholm has been taking as a testing ground where two thousand households are integrated as intelligent energy consumers. Bornholm’s companies, working on clean-tech solutions, have joined forces to create a Bright Green Laundry Technology cluster. This cluster aims to launch a demonstration park on Bornholm for monitoring green laundry technologies in practice.

Furthermore, the construction sector is now placing Bornholm in the lead when it comes to green innovation. There are several examples of energy-efficient houses on the island. One of them is a certified energy-refurbished bright house, which optimizes the use of heat from the sun, geothermal heat pumps and energy-efficient windows. Another example is a summerhouse, which uses similar energy-efficient materials and solutions that can be managed by the user on a mobile phone.

Regarding public initiatives, the Green Building project is creating synergy between education, jobs and innovation in green constructions. Project initiators have joined forces with Campus Bornholm by offering a green training program. As a result, 25% of all constructors on Bornholm have completed this program. The continuation of this project is called the Green Solution House, which is a platform for local construction companies to demonstrate their newest sustainable products and services for the visitors.

Bornholm’s public waste treatment company, BOFA, holds one of the smartest solutions when it comes to waste management, including recycling and incineration processes. According to BOFA’s director: “The smoke emitted by the 75-metre-high chimney is so clean you could grill a sausage, even during peak operation of the incineration process” (Bright Green Island catalogue, pp. 32, 2013). BOFA has one of the highest recycling rates in Denmark with 69% of all waste being recycled and 24% incinerated. The latter provides heat for households in Rønne, the main town of the island. In addition, BOFA provides information and stimulates enthusiasm on sustainable waste management at the Waste Info Tower for schoolchildren and tourists.

Local Bornholm firms generally show great interest in green innovation solutions. For instance, one traditional farmer started to raise pigs in a sustainable manner two years ago to overcome economic constraints. He says that customers often come not just to buy meat but also to learn about sustainable handling of pigs. Another private enterprise, a local producer of organic wine gums (made from seaweed and handmade ingredients), has developed innovative ideas based on textbooks, recipes and enthusiasm to experiment.

Needless to say, the above-mentioned firms and representatives see the BGI strategy as a great opportunity to brand the island and local businesses in sustainable terms.

On the other side of the coin, not all firms have been as enthusiastic about the BGI strategy and some of them generally find green innovation as a challenge to their current business performance. They have thus not been willing to invest nor take risks. This can be explained by several factors, including low green capabilities within the firm, uncertainty about the future and weak network ties mainly caused by isolation of the island. In this regard, the local policy role could be strengthened in terms of green policy platforms and open-dialogue methods in bridging competences for green innovation to firms on Bornholm. One of the recent solutions of providing competences in innovation for local firms can be found under Bright Green Island Innovation Program. It is a platform for the companies and related public & private actors to create sustainable business development on Bornholm.

However, it is also evident that the BGI strategy implied a shift in mentality of many people in Bornholm and revealed the truth of the following: “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change” - Mary Shelley.