Working with Albanian companies to drive sustainability

UNDP Albania

January 10, 2024
SDG Business Pioneers Award in Albania

If you had to think about businesses and their work, it is very likely that the first thing that crossed your mind was not cantered around social impact or environment protection. Rather, it may have revolved around aspects such as finance products and services or even waste and environmental damage. However, the good news is that the private sector and businesses are increasingly becoming a force for good. There are countless examples to support this statement. 

The work of UNDP Albania over the last 18 months has illuminated the potential for businesses to leverage the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to enhance their positive impact on society and the environment while increasingly boosting their competitiveness and market reach.

Furthermore, all these efforts are undertaken with the aim of aligning businesses with European Union (EU) standards, as the country strives towards EU accession. 

The 1st edition of the SDG Business Pioneers Award in Albania

Following the example of UNDP Bosnia & Herzegovina, in the framework of the project “Business Partnerships & Solutions for SDGs”, UNDP Albania launched the SDG Business Pioneers Award.

Why this award? Firstly, eligibility for participation was extended to all companies, irrespective of size or industry, operating within Albania. The application form drew inspiration from both the UN Global Compact application and the standards set by the Global Reporting Initiatives. 

Applicants detailed their sustainability practices and presented measurable results, offering a comprehensive overview of their contributions toward a sustainable future for both their business and community.

The call for applications was launched during the Business #2030 Conference on June 1st, 2023. The winners of the inaugural edition of the SDG Business Pioneers Award were honoured on UN Day, October 24th.

The nominees, finalists, and winners underwent a comprehensive evaluation and were acknowledged for their significant contributions to sustainable development in Albania.

The classification of businesses included Micro Enterprises, Small Enterprises, Medium Enterprises, Large Enterprises, and International Enterprises. Winners spanned various industries, encompassing banks, travel agencies, and cement production companies, amongst others.

UNDP announced the winners and finalists at a Gala Night on UN Day. The ceremony was attended by the Swedish Ambassador in Tirana, Mr. Niklas Ström, along with government representatives, UN agencies, development partners, and all the applicants.

Looking back: What we learned from this

Although Albanian businesses’ sustainability journey has started quite recently, the quality of applications and the commitment shown have been impressive. Their considerable number is evidence of the awareness of the private sector in the country and about the importance of sustainable business.  

What we have discovered is that sustainable business leaders are not those who have a perfect business but those who have learned to think critically about their challenges and are open to improve their practices both in small and big ways.

The SDG Business Pioneers Award serves as a platform for these companies to showcase their efforts, both on a local and international stage and it is imperative that the initiative continues. 

Winning the Award represents a strong advantage in terms of visibility and reputation for companies, but it also represents a responsibility: as the finalists and winners become a model for other companies, they will contribute to push forward the SDGs and drive conversation about sustainability in Albania. 

Sustainable practices are set to become a vital element for Albanian companies, playing a crucial role in shaping their future success. While the current initiative has identified businesses that are leading the way, the overarching message is that every company possesses the potential to evolve into an SDG Pioneer and Champion in the near future!

What lies ahead?

These initiatives mark the initial milestones on the path toward fostering a flourishing community of sustainable businesses in Albania. UNDP is dedicated to not only acknowledging but also celebrating and supporting the efforts of these inspiring business leaders. The second phase of the project “Business Partnerships & Solutions for SDGs” will provide the opportunity to continue the conversation and provide additional technical support for businesses. 

One of the priorities will be to enhance the involvement of women and young people, and to extend outreach to businesses beyond the central economic hubs of Tirana and Durrës.

Moreover, efforts will be made to strengthen the connections with Swedish and international businesses, leveraging their expertise to provide Albanian companies with the necessary resources, knowledge, and opportunities to enhance sustainability, while improving their financial standing and market position.

Concerning the SDG Business Pioneers Award, UNDP Albania is already in the process of developing the next edition and planning additional related activities. The aim is to create and nurture a community of role models, alumni and newcomers mentoring and supporting each other in their sustainability journey.

Our gratitude goes to all the businesses that applied to the SDG Business Pioneers Award and that have been actively engaged in the SDGs4Business project. Your enthusiasm and commitment have been remarkable, and we are confident that your efforts will play a significant role in transforming the landscape of Albania, bringing about positive changes in its society and environment in the years ahead.