Is the economy ready to accept the green agenda?

According to the latest WWF Report, the population of wild animals – mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish – has recorded a devastating decline of 69% since 1970, and in order to preserve the environment and confront the global crisis caused by climate change, the economy needs to change the way they are doing business. The situation in the Western Balkans and the readiness of the private sector to accept the green agenda was the concluding topic of the Core days conference.

“This topic is crucial, we live in demanding times and it is necessary to apply the standards that have already been developed in the European Union to this region.” The economic and financial plan is to help countries of the Western Balkans to start implementing the green agenda. I will be very specific – we have a whole series of instruments that we have developed which are applied in the public sector, and we want to shift them to the private sector as well,” said Richard Masha, head of the Investment Framework for the Western Balkans sector of the European Commission, in an interview from Brussels.

Regulation is the major driver and motivator when it comes to implementing ESG practices. Especially after the Paris Agreement, the set of regulatory requirements that followed is coming in waves and is very intensive for companies to follow promptly, understand what is expected from them and by when. For WB countries this is even more challenging, since by signing the Sofia Declaration these countries committed that they would achieve some very concrete objectives and contribute to Europe becoming the first carbon neutral continent by 2050, and more importantly before that to cut emissions at least by 55% by 2030 as an intermediate objective.

„ESG as a concept was much needed and we believe that it will push our economies and societies in the direction that has the possibility to secure sustainable future. I must stress out that it is not something completely new – we were walking the long way from corporate philanthropy, CSR, environmental protection, sustainability in order to finally have all this terms and approaches under one roof with clear description of what it means and why is it important to have it all (the E the S and the G), because having only one piece doesn’t make you the sustainability leader anymore“, said Vladislav Cvetković, director in PwC Serbia and president of NALED Managing Board.

Nevertheless, Sašo Matas, the director of the Office for Public Procurement in Slovenia, emphasizes that it was crucial to pass a -law that obliged people to carry out green public procurements.

“Today, we have 22 subjects with mandatory application of green criteria, while it is visible that clients use them in other areas as well.” Now, green purchases make up a quarter of all purchases, and most often these criteria are used in the procurement of food, most often in the catering industry, but also in the construction of roads, procurement of cleaning products, office materials, etc. The key is that, along with setting the obligation, we emphasized recommendations on how to realize green goals and helped the economy along the way,” Matas concluded.

Zoran Obradović, director of WPD Adria, emphasized that in implementing green projects, it is very important to get the support of local communities.

“However, an additional challenge is the duration of the projects we implement. Our projects are developed for five to eight years or more. The mandates of most of the power holders are shorter and they are looking for faster results that they can be proud of, therefore it is necessary to design simpler and more efficient projects, which would take less time”, said Obradović.

There are big challenges facing local governments in terms of environmental protection, and the first task in the Western Balkans is the responsible management of various waste streams.

“During the previous decade, Elbasan recorded a negative impact on the environment, because business operations were not in accordance with the regulations, only a part of the waste was collected. Ten years ago, 50% of waste was not collected in the city, and in the past four years, 50% of rural areas were not involved in garbage collection. Five years ago, a landfill was built near Elbasan that complies with all EU standards and where more than 100 tons of garbage from Elbasan and other municipalities are processed per day. Part of our strategy is to improve the lives of citizens in the future,” said Veca Liço, deputy mayor of Elbasan.