A growing number of European companies have already changed their mind-sets and, over and above the strictly business aspects, are now taking environmental and social aspects into consideration as well in their daily operations. To make the transition to a green economy a success, the EU needs to provide a level playing field for its companies, boosting competitiveness and investment. These are some of the conclusions of the conference on Business for Climate Neutral Europe – making the most of the SDGs and the Green Deal on 9 March in Split, Croatia.
"Business is not the problem but part of the solution when we are talking about achieving climate neutrality and implementing the SDGs", observed Jacek Krawczyk, president of the EESC Employers' Group, at the opening of the conference. The transition to a green economy would only succeed if companies delivered climate-friendly technologies and services.
Gordana Deranja, president of the Croatian Employers' Association, underlined that the starting point differed among the countries, and even the regions, in the EU, something that had to be taken into account in greening the economy. She pointed out that the scale of change meant that both private and public investments needed to be mobilised.
"Progress in aligning the European economy with the SDGs will advance at different rates in the different EU countries, but this is a turning point, especially for the smaller economies", remarked Tomislav Ćorić, Croatian Minister of Environmental Protection and Energy. He said that projects promoting sustainability would be given priority in the next long-term EU budget.
The first discussion panel focused on how businesses integrated the Sustainable Development Goals in their daily operations. Participants agreed that sustainability and environment issues were having a growing impact on customers' decisions. Only those companies that adjusted to the new mind-set and treated the SDGs as an indispensable part of their business model would succeed in the future. While "green" technologies and solutions were becoming increasingly available, the cost was still a challenge. Businesses often had to find a balance between the higher costs of "green" solutions and the long-term benefits, such as lower maintenance costs.
The second panel looked into the consequences of the European Green Deal for EU industry. Participants cited a number of practical examples of potential challenges facing businesses. Implementation of the European Green Deal had to go hand in hand with a level playing field for companies competing on the global markets. Otherwise, if international trade allowed unfair competition, the EU risked exporting its emissions, production, investments and jobs. As the investment needed to bring about the economic transition was substantial, no one industry could finance it on its own. Private capital had to be backed up by public funding at EU, national and regional level.
The conference was organised jointly by the Employers' Group, Croatian Employers' Association, UN Global Compact Network Croatia and the Faculty of Economics of the University of Split.