[S3E2] Norrøna: sustainability and the adventure mindset with Jørgen Jørgensen

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Are you interested in finding out how an adventure mindset can help you in business and vice versa? Do you want to discover how you can be more creative and innovative in your life? Or maybe you’re keen to understand one of the key mindset techniques that will help you achieve more success and happiness in your life?

If this resonates with you, you’ll really enjoy my podcast interview with Jørgen Jørgensen, the CEO of Norrøna. Jørgen shares with us the story of Norrøna and how they’re making it a zero footprint company - weaving in their innovative and creative process, the importance of being present, and how nature is at the centre of everything he and Norrøna does! 

{Click on the player above to listen to the podcast episode and/or read on for a detailed overview}

About Jørgen Jørgensen

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Jørgen Jørgensen is the CEO of Norrøna, a company that creates the world’s greatest products as clean as possible for people with an active lifestyle. Jorgen is the great-grandson of the founder of Norrøna, which was established on the 29th April in 1929. 

Jørgen’s great-grandfather brought the first core element to Norrøna, which was producing the best quality outdoor products, his father brought the second: producing the best functional products, and Jørgen has brought the third and fourth element: the best designed and sustainable products. 

He is involved with all of the departments and leaders at Norrøna, and is on a mission to inspire people to get out into nature and have an amazing time. Jørgen lives and breathes Norrøna’s mission and values, regularly embarking on epic adventures and getting outside to ski, hunt, wind surf, hike, camp and trail run. 


Behind the scenes of Norrøna: Welcome To Nature

This year marks the 90th Anniversary of Norrøna, Jørgen’s great-grandfather established Norrøna way back on the 29th April 1929. A true craftsman at heart, he was originally trained as a saddle maker and his love for the outdoors and adventure transformed into a passion to produce the highest quality outdoor products. 

Unhappy with the quality of products being produced by a company he and a friend established a few years earlier, lucky for us, he decided to branch out on his own and Norrøna was created.

Norrøna began with some backpacks, gators, tents and then started producing clothing.

Jørgen’s great-grandfather unexpectedly died in 1971 and his father, who wasn’t that interested in the company, wondered what he should do. Fortunately, Jørgen’s father made the courageous and important decision to take Norrøna to the next level.

Jørgen’s father was passionate about creating the best quality and functional clothing. With this in mind, he embarked on an extreme user tested product development process. He knew that if he could make the best athletes and adventurers happy, everyone else would be happy.

During the 70’s Norrøna developed many high end products with their ambassadors including 100% cotton anorak that could go to the Arctic and Europe’s first gore-tex jacket. 

But it wasn’t until the 1990’s that the brand really exploded in Norway with a shift in the outdoors mindset and the Olympics. 

Towards the end of the 90’s competition was starting to increase and that’s when Jørgen really became involved with Norrøna and started working on product development. Jørgen is passionate about design and Norrøna is now known for high quality, sustainable gear that’s not just highly functional, but very fashionable with bright colours.

In 2005 Jørgen became the CEO and has been the driving force behind developing Norrøna’s world-class team-orientated innovative product development system and in the brand becoming a zero footprint company.

How Norrøna is changing the outdoors industry

It’s not about winning the race, it’s about changing the industry.
— Jørgen Jørgensen

With the threat of climate change since 2000, sustainability has become a cornerstone of the Norrøna brand.

Although sustainability is a recent core element of Norrøna, you can map it back to Jørgen’s great-grandfather. Jørgen feels that when you spend a lot time and energy on producing a high quality product, that you’re really proud of, you want it to last - you don’t want it to break down after a single season and your customers having to buy a replacement.

For this reason, Norrøna has been repairing its products since 1929. They also found that people were emotionally attached to their Norrøna garments and products, and they didn’t want to lose them (which is something I think we can all relate too!)! This is why their repair service is so popular today and when I visited, they were repairing a jacket from the 70’s which was still going strong!

If nature dies, we have nothing. As an outdoor brand we live by nature and I think it’s hard to imagine for all of us, what the climate crisis will cause further down the line and there is not a lot of time, so we just must do it.
— Jørgen Jørgensen

At first, Norrøna started working only using organic cotton and trying to use as much recycled polyester as possible. However, they realised they needed more clear, ambitious goals to match the fast-paced climate change, as we don’t have much time to change the direction we’re heading in.

The environmental roadmap Norrøna created is visible to others and they hope to motivate competitors to create change too. They don’t care about winning the race of being the most sustainable company, they care about changing the outdoor industry for the better.

With clear environmental goals, such as being 100% recycled polyester by 2020, their vendors also understand that in order to do business with Norrøna they must be sustainable too. 

If a developing product doesn’t hit all of Norrøna’s environmental goals, then they’ll work with the vendors to push the limits of innovation and sustainability to come up with a solution.

If I didn’t see all the solutions that are coming out, all the new technologies which are being developed, I’d be pretty scared.
— Jørgen Jørgensen

However, it’s not just externally that we can see Norrøna becoming more sustainable, but it’s weaved into the very fabric of its culture. 

Norrøna believes that everyone has a role in sustainability at the company - not just the  sustainable expert. Their goal was to have everyone commute in a environmentally friendly way by 31st Dec 2017. In December they were at 98.5%. 

They even moved Norrøna HQ to a location near a major transpiration hub so it’s easier for members to commute sustainably.

Currently Norrøna is working very hard to connect the UN’s 17 goals to its operations, which is a massive challenge they’re rising magnificently to. By 2029, 100 years after Norrøna was founded, they aim to be a zero footprint company.

Why you should get outside into nature

If you have a challenging job, you have to do some physical activity to balance it, or else it’s going to be very, very challenging.
— Jøregn Jørgensen

Jørgen’s life has always been intrinsically linked to the outdoor lifestyle and how you can live close to nature. His passion for the outdoors and being CEO of Nørrona therefore go hand in hand.

Whether you’re a CEO, scientist, process technician or run your own business, your work demands a lot of time, energy and focus. It’s therefore important to be passionate about the work you do, or if you don’t have that luxury yet, be in the process of working it out.

By immersing yourself in the outdoors on a regular basis, whether it’s through training, walking or big and small adventures, is crucial for:

  • Happiness

  • Detoxing from the stressors of technology and always being ‘on’

  • Refreshing your mind

  • Enhancing your creativity

  • Being present and relaxing

  • Boosting your energy levels

  • And more!

It’s especially important to get outside when you’re going through a tough period, because nature is really able to help you:

  • Detach from any negative feelings

  • Provide you with the break you need

  • Increase those feel good hormones

  • Enhance your relaxation

  • And of course, much more!

Jørgen finds great adventures the perfect vehicle for taking a step back and thinking about strategy and product development.

By being outside, you also inspire others to get outside into nature, to see all of the great places you can explore, all of the cool activities you can do and all of the fantastic people you can meet.


How to be innovative and creative

If you want to be innovated you need time to play and if you want good quality, you need time to test.
— Jørgen Jørgensen

Innovation and creativity is at the heart of Norrøna and they’re very successful at it too. When faced with a problem or challenge, they don’t create excuses for why they can’t achieve it or find a solution. Rather they look in the mirror and ask: How can we solve this?

In 2007 they experienced growing pains and as a result, Norrøna designed and created a strong 3-year product development process. The timeline has a clear start and end, and details who is doing what, who is responsibly at that time and there’s 13 quality checkpoints that all products must pass.

If they want to do something new, they have a risk quality check, because innovation and creativity don’t always go hand in hand with premium quality.

The process and methods involved are not fixed and are adjusted as Norrøna learns. As my friend and celebrity branding expert Phil Pallen says, you have to draw the lines of your sandbox so you can play in the sand with maximum creativity, which is just what Norrøna has done.

Team work and working with the best people and best ambassadors are also what makes Norrøna great, and has been a focus for Norrøna since the beginning and especially since Jørgen’s father took over in 1971.

[Surrounding yourself with and working with the best is also something that Jamie Parker highlighted, you can listen to his interview : How to push through your limits in sport and business with Jamie Parker]

If you’re looking to be more creative and innovative in your life and/or business, my questions to you are this:

  • How can you draw the lines of your sandbox? What process do you need to design that will allow you to maintain the quality of your work, but let your creative juices flow?

  • Is there a checklist you can develop to ensure you hit the most important elements of your work?

  • How can you surround yourself and work with the best people? Who would that be?