Sustainable Business and Application of the ESG Criteria – a Pledge for the Future

October 12, 2023


Belgrade, October 12, 2023 – Sustainability and social responsibility are not merely trends but rather a necessity when it comes to the future of business. The “Promotion of Sustainable Investment” project, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Government of the Republic of Serbia, has emphasised the potential and capacities of Serbia in the field of sustainable business as well as sustainable investments – those that bring profit while simultaneously taking care of the protection of natural resources, people, and the local community.

Within this project, UNDP, in cooperation with the Development Agency of Serbia (DAS) and Smart Collective, organised the training programme titled ESG Practitioner, which was participated in by representatives of 12 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). They were selected among more than 110 applications. The aim of these trainings was for the SMEs to acquire knowledge on how to integrate the ESG criteria into their daily business decisions, policies, and strategies. By harmonising their operations with the ESG criteria, SMEs become more attractive to investors, clients, and partners.

Speaking at the event organised to celebrate the conclusion of the “ESG Practitioner” training and “Promotion of Sustainable Investment” project, Assistant to the General Secretary of the Serbian Government Danijel Nikolić said that this was one of the most important initiatives that were jointly realised by the Government of the Republic of Serbia and UNDP.

“This project involved making the Map of Investment Opportunities for the Republic of Serbia in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and this is a huge achievement since Serbia is now one of the 32 countries in the world that have such a map,” said Nikolić. This project, and especially the map, support the improvement of the investment climate in Serbia in line with the principles of economic, social, and ecological sustainability. “A particularly important aspect is that of contributing to the development of the local community and local sustainable economic development,” emphasised Nikolić.

In other news, after Belgrade, the Map of Investment Opportunities in Serbia was also presented at the high-level Political Forum at the United Nations’ Headquarters in New York. The map was also presented at the China International Fair of Investment and Trade (CIFIT) and the Investment Forum organised as a part of that fair in Xiamen, China, as one of the four priority projects of the Serbian Government, along with the BIO4 Campus, EXPO 2027, and Innovation District in Kragujevac.

The ESG criteria and sustainability experts from the Smart Collective, Milica Mišković and Svetlana Damjanović, awarded the certificates to the small and medium enterprises whose employees had attended the training for implementation of the ESG criteria. Jelena Cvijanović, Director of the SME Support Department in the DAS, emphasised the importance of these trainings and other programmes of support intended for small and medium enterprises.   

“Within the Programme of Support for business entities to enter the supply chains of multinational companies, the Development Agency of Serbia, inter alia, provides support to companies by introducing the rules, procedures, and reporting related to the ESG factors. The beneficiaries may be refunded up to 70% of the value of justifiable costs. It is planned for the next public call to be published in late October, while all the information will be available at the DAS website,” said Cvijanović.

UNDP Portfolio Manager for Sustainable Investment Goran Simunović thanked the government and DAS for their cooperation in realising the “Promotion of Sustainable Investment” project. “Designing the Map, as certainly the most important result of this project, highlighted the importance of sustainability in business and what the Sustainable Development Goals mean in practice,” said Simunović.

The “Promotion of Sustainable Investment” project was implemented with the support of the United Nations Peace and Development Trust Fund (UNPDF) and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.