Women entrepreneurs in North Macedonia embrace circular economy

May 14, 2024

 

Mirjana Josifovska inherited her love of garments from her grandmother, who worked as a textile worker in Tetovo, North Macedonia. Now she is a 24-year-old entrepreneur that runs her own business in the city, producing hats from leftover textiles, in line with the principles of the circular economy.

Part of an increasing number of people who are worried about our impact on nature and the planet, Mirjana believes that there is too much waste in the textile industry. She points out that anywhere between 15 to 50 percent of the material that is unused after sewing a garment can end up as waste. This amounts to a lot of waste coming from the textile industry in North Macedonia each year. 

“The reason why I wanted to take action myself, regardless of how small it may seem, is that I became aware of the alarming impact of the fashion industry on the environment, both on a global scale and in our country. In addition, to making our hats from textile leftovers, we also focus on not letting anything go to waste. We use our own leftovers for creating other useful items, such as hairbands. Our whole approach is intended to promote sustainability,” says Mirjana.

 

Mirjana is always looking for opportunities to further improve her business while minimizing its environmental footprint. She and her colleagues are now using computers and tablets to create technical drawings and 3D schematics to minimize waste and increase productivity.

Recently, she joined one of the trainings on circular economy, green energy and sustainable production that UNDP has organized in seven cities throughout North Macedonia, in partnership with the Network of Women Entrepreneurs and the Chamber of Commerce

More than 320 women entrepreneurs have joined these trainings to learn about green solutions that can accelerate their businesses, while helping the country implement its national climate pledges under the Paris Agreement, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

 

Another entrepreneur that took part in the training was 50-year-old Blagica Velkova. Blagica owns a pastry and cake shop in Kavadarci, called Sweet Art. During the COVID-19 pandemic, her once successful and thriving bakery faced enormous challenges and she had to close it down. She joined the training looking for sustainable solutions to make her business profitable again as she faces new obstacles, such as the rising cost of energy.

“I had recently switched to using gas and pellets. While this helped reduce my electricity bill and the production cost of my products, it was not enough,” Blagica recalls. “After the training, I’m focused on switching to renewable energy. I live in a city which is blessed by a lot of sunny and warm months, so why not try to use the benefits provided by solar energy.” 

 

Blagica has also started incorporating other circular economy principles in her day-to-day operations. She realized that the leftovers from her production process don’t have to be thrown away in the bin, since they can be composted.

“It’s no secret that in our sweet business we are left with a lot of eggshells. During the training I learned that they contain a lot of beneficial nutrients which makes them an excellent fertilizer for the soil. Like many of my friends, I love my garden, so this is something I am very interested in doing,” Blagica says.  

 

But it’s not only small and medium enterprises that are transitioning to renewable energy sources and starting to promote and adopt circular economy approaches. 

Amphenol Technology Macedonia is one of the largest companies in the country. Operating in Kochani for more than a decade, it employs more than 3,000 people to manufacture cables and equipment for the automotive industry, as well as antennas for telecommunications equipment.

Valentina Zafirovska is a 45-year-old specialist working on environmental, social and governance issues at Amphenol Technology Macedonia. She participated in the training to learn about green solutions that she can incorporate in the company’s activities. 

 

“We are a big company which is always actively looking to implement measures to strengthen our sustainability and protect the environment. We have two photovoltaic plants with more than 1828 solar panels which we use to secure our energy needs. We also sell some of the energy produced to other institutions,” Valentina says.

Circular economy is also an integral part of the company’s business strategy, which is now focused on recycling and reusing products and materials.

“We are consistently selecting all kinds of waste – whether its plastic, paper, textile, wood or metal – and we are handing them over to waste management and recycling companies. We also supported the construction of a football stand for the local elementary school, made from recycled materials,“ she adds.  

Valentina believes that it’s always good for a business to be ahead of the curve. She compares her company’s efforts to the growing of bamboo, which grows inside the earth for three years and later it surfaces. In a similar way, she believes that the commitments her company is undertaking now will bear fruit in the years ahead.

 

The purpose of UNDP’s trainings for women entrepreneurs in North Macedonia is rooted in the same belief. By providing new and established businesses with the tools, resources, and know-how to transition to sustainable modes of production, the initiative contributes to the implementation of the country’s NDC and by building political commitment and national ownership for the acceleration of climate action.

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The workshops for women entrepreneurs were organized under UNDP’s Climate Promise initiative, with funding from the Government of Sweden.

To date, UNDP’s flagship Climate Promise initiative is the world’s largest offer of support to developing countries on NDC enhancement and implementation. Under the last revision cycle, it supported more than 80 percent of all developing countries on their NDC submissions. 

In 2021, UNDP launched the second phase of Climate Promise – From Pledge to Impact – aimed at translating NDC targets into concrete action.