How a Serbian Company Conquered the International Market by Implementing ESG Criteria
October 6, 2023
Sustainable business and awareness of social and ecological issues have become principles adhered to by all international companies. Simultaneously, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) increasingly understand the importance of these issues as well as the benefits that implementation of the ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) criteria may bring. One of these companies is the family packaging production company from Valjevo named Bosis, classified among the 1% of global companies serving as role models in sustainable business.
In this interview with Marija Pantelić, sustainability manager at the Bosis company, we examine how they overcame the challenges of implementing the ESG criteria and thus improved their reputation with investors.
In Bosis, family values were the foundation for building the ESG model of operation. The company was founded in 1982. It has been manufacturing printed and laminated carton packaging and blister cartons, ranging from consumer goods packaging (biscuits, chocolate, coffee, and tea) to boxes for shoes, the car industry, home cleaning and cosmetic products, toys, textiles, etc. The company currently has more than 120 employees, 80% of whom started their careers in Bosis. The company is included in the supplier chains of large companies such as Henkel, Atlantic Group, Bambi, Heineken, Geox, and many others across Europe and the region. The packaging produced by Bosis is exclusively made of ecological materials and is 100% recyclable.
When and why did Bosis start integrating the ESG criteria into its operation processes?
From the very beginning, the company has been based on family and family values. Once you base your attitude towards business and community on these values, this means that you responsibly manage your finances and obligations, that you are responsible towards your employees, and that you are a good neighbour in the local community. This has been our core, with the ESG concept being an upgrade of it. It all began top-down, i.e., from the owner and his family members, as an example of responsible behaviour, which has been transferred to the entire organisation as a model, together with growth and development. There is no responsibility without sustainability, or sustainability without responsibility. The company was continuously growing, and it has managed from a small garage workshop to become a leader on the market. This is actually a story about sustainable business.
How did you endure the challenges and costs of implementing the ESG policy?
It was a challenge to monitor the market, trends, and risk management. We have worked for years on multiple fronts: increasing energy efficiency, digital transformation, transferring from an entrepreneurial to a corporate model of organisation and management, introducing the circular business model - these are but a few activities that we had implemented even before the ESG topic became a trend in our country. When we talk about the costs, nothing is cheap, but we have always planned on a long game, and every investment in business transformation has earned us multiple amounts in profit, especially those concerning the ESG. The ESG criteria are not simply some nice data in our reports, but indeed our strategic orientation, something integral to our organisation that is evident in our culture, and also something that is implemented by people.
What specific strategies and initiatives did you implement in order to actively engage your employees and the local community in the process of the ESG criteria implementation, and in what ways did you perceive this engagement having an impact on the perception of your company among the investors?
A company’s success depends on every individual involved. In practice, we refer to this as "MRIT—My Role in This", where everyone should benefit from everything we do but also have responsibility for it. The main part of our business is still the production of sustainable packaging (made of ecological materials and 100% recyclable), while another major portion is aimed at goal-based operation, implemented through programmes: Bosis ART (a programme of support for creativity and art), Bosis Eco (projects and activities that concern environmental management, responsible use of energy and natural resources, as well as responsible waste and emission management), Bosis Knowledge (permanent education, progress, and development of professional staff), as well as Bosis Family and Bosis Babies — all the activities of support for our employees, their families, and their children. In addition to company values that refer to our main activity, Bosis organisational culture also includes responsibility and sustainability. Sustainability represents the most important issue for us, as well as our story of “soulful packaging”, as it primarily concerns the Bosis Babies and the generations that would come after us.
Where is Bosis today, and what economic and social benefits did the company achieve due to the application of the ESG criteria?
In addition to packaging for everything that we may define as consumer goods, Bosis is primarily associated with responsibility and sustainability. Bosis is a pioneer in the field of socially responsible and sustainable business in Serbia and an example of good practice for other SMEs. Due to our sustainable business, we are known as a desirable and responsible employer and partner for our clients. We demonstrate responsibility in the entire supply chain, which is evidenced by the EcoVadis Platinum award, classifying us among the top 1% of global companies in all categories that fulfil the demanding requirements of social responsibility. The ESG application also opens new business opportunities since many investors and banks assess enterprises using these exact criteria.
What advice could you give to small and medium enterprises who wish to implement the ESG criteria, and what steps do you believe to be crucial in achieving success in this domain?
The steps are quite simple; start with the G from the top, i.e., responsible management and strategic orientation. Additionally, it is highly important to care for your employees, invest in them, and work on their development and that of their families, since this is the only way to have the people ready to play for your team. The company's future is also a better future for its employees and their families, and this is beneficial for the local community and the entire society. By implementing the ESG criteria, we make a difference in our micro-environment and, step by step, work on being better. The ESG is not reserved only for big corporations; it should become an obligatory element in all SMEs’ operations.
In order to support small and medium enterprises in Serbia to advance their operations, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has organised trainings entitled “ESG Practitioner” in partnership with the Development Agency of Serbia and the Smart Collective. These trainings are implemented as a part of the project “Promotion of Sustainable Investment”, which UNDP implements in partnership with the Government of the Republic of Serbia and with the support of the United Nations Peace and Development Trust Fund (UNPDF) and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.