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Responsible Governance is Crucial

By drawing on its unique regional insight and global sustainability expertise, Sustineri Partners hosts the ESG Adria Summit – an essential platform for companies to share green transition best practices

The European Union’s six-billion-euro Growth Plan for the Western Balkans holds immense potential for the region, possibly doubling its economy over the next decade and fostering closer economic ties with the EU. Economic convergence is crucial to the Western Balkans advancing along the path to EU accession. Standing at around 35% of the average EU level, the current lack of convergence remains a major challenge for the region. The EU’s Growth Plan seeks to address this by accelerating the economic integration of the region and aligning it with the European Single Market.

Biljana Braithwaite, as CEO and Founding Partner of Sustineri Partners and Founder of the ESG Adria Summit, sees the importance of the plan in the fact that it also aims to further the region’s transition to more sustainable, inclusive economies and to create a stable investment environment. “In the realm of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance), it offers opportunities to accelerate the green transition, in line with the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans. It also aims to integrate the Western Balkans’ energy market with that of the EU, focusing in particular on renewable energy, facilitating the transition to a decarbonised, climate-neutral, climate- resilient and circular economy,” explains our interlocutor.

Braithwaite notes that this provides significant opportunities for innovation and investment, especially for SMEs, while promoting social dialogue and gender equality. At least 37% of grants from the Growth Plan will be directed towards climate objectives. Moreover, the plan targets the integrating of the Western Balkans into European industrial supply chains, fostering strategic partnerships around sustainable raw materials and securing supplies of critical medicines.

This also creates immense potential for the Western Balkans to align the operations of local companies with ESG principles.

The ESG movement has translated into concrete legislative action, imposing binding obligations on corporate stakeholders for human rights and environmental standards

“It is of utmost importance for governments, as policymakers, to effectively implement and operationalise ESG-related policies to have an impact and incentivise companies and organisations to meet the UN SDGs, towards net-zero targets, and in building a better, more just and sustainable future for all,” notes Braithwaite. “Additionally, businesses should rely on professional associations and expert companies specialising in sustainability and providing guidance and support to companies in the region”.

“Contextual knowledge of the region, alongside deep expertise in European and global standards, is as crucial as it is rare. Recognising this growing need, we have not only formed Sustineri Partners to provide sustainability strategy advice to companies, but have also established the ESG Adria Summit. This is now a leading regional event dedicated to green transition, sustainable development and responsible corporate governance, where companies can connect and share best practices,” explains Braithwaite.

ESG standards were viewed for years as being “nice to have”, but optional for businesses, while they’re now recognised as a “table stakes” item.

“Greater awareness and engagement concerning these standards will be essential to increase trade, reduce unemployment and enable participation in the global and EU economies. Businesses that take into account ESG standards are also more likely to identify and mitigate risks associated with environmental, social and governance issues, as well as innovate and develop new products and services to address these concerns. Over 80% of investors today consider ESG when investing,” concludes our interviewee.

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