Green transformation is high on the agenda for many small businesses. Whereas some companies are still trying to understand and navigate the new environment, others are already well on their way to making the transition.
Serbian company Papir Print is a case in point. With the support of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Union, the company, which produces flexible packaging for the food and pharmaceutical industries, among others, has invested in a thermal oxidation plant which allows it to convert waste gases into heating and cooling energy.
“Most of our employees live in Gornji Milanovac, where the company is located. Our motivation to invest in this equipment was not only to align with green standards and achieve energy savings; we also want to be a responsible company which cares about the environment, clean air and the health of its people,” explains company owner Petar Obradović.
In addition, the company also recently invested in a rooftop solar power plant. The two investments combined now allow it to cover a quarter of its energy needs from renewable sources.
“This alignment with the EU’s green standards helps us in our business development too. Our clients are large international brands such as Coca-Cola and Nestlé, and these companies choose to work with suppliers who share the same environmental standards,” adds Miloš Marić, Production Manager.
The new equipment will also help the company reduce its operational costs and boost its competitiveness.
“Lower operational costs give us more flexibility when it comes to adjusting our prices and offering more competitive conditions to our existing and prospective clients,” explains Marić. “We already export our products to neighboring countries, but our goal is to expand our services to western Europe, which would allow us to increase our profits significantly. With our high quality standards and competitive conditions, we hope to be able to achieve this.”
In addition to the above-mentioned investments, the EBRD and the EU also helped Papir Print finance new printing machines. These improve the quality of printing and provide additional security during the production process by detecting errors and delays, for example. This allows the company to reduce or completely eliminate the occurrence of any scrap in the production process.
The two investments were financed under the SME Competitiveness Programme, which provides EBRD loans and EU grants to local firms, in cooperation with local commercial banks. To date, the programme has supported investments by over 350 businesses in Serbia. 74 percent of those investments contribute to improving energy efficiency and reducing CO2 emission.
Papir Print also benefited from the business advisory programme offered by the EBRD in partnership with the EU. This helped the company improve its financial management, human resources practices and other areas.
“Improving access to finance and helping SMEs to grow their businesses is one of the EBRD’s key priorities in Serbia. Together with the EU and local partner banks, we are financing investments that strengthen access to export markets and speed up the transition to a greener, more sustainable economy,” says Matteo Colangeli, EBRD Director for Western Balkans and Head of Serbia.