The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia (CCIS) has carried out numerous activities related to the green transformation of the Serbian economy. First and foremost, the focus is on training and education of company representatives in the areas related to circular economy, carbon accounting, Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), industrial symbiosis, decarbonization, as well as energy efficiency, industrial waste treatment and green construction. The 10-point Declaration on the Green Transformation of the Serbian Economy – a strategic document whose goal is to encourage and support companies in the process of transitioning to a circular business model while maintaining competitiveness and efficiency – was written exclusively by the Chamber’s staff. It is also available online at https://api.pks.rs/storage/assets/Deklaracija,%20final%20 3.12.2022.%201.pdf
The first regional Circular Economy of the Western Balkans Summit and visits to companies in Serbia were organized in June to encourage the transition to new business models. Various activities will continue because awareness in companies about the importance and comprehensiveness of changes in this area has increased, but it is still at an insufficient level.
Radman Šelmić, green and circular economy adviser to the President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia (CCIS), spoke with Energy Portal Magazine about the obligations that exporters will have to fulfil come next year, training and education in the Chamber of Commerce, various support programs, as well as the best practices from the European Union that we can apply to speed up green transformation.
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Q: For years, the Chamber has been holding training sessions related to circular economy. What area are you focusing on now? What topics are companies most interested in and how many have completed the training?
A: In the last few years, we have organized training and educational sessions related to the circular economy through various programs. In the beginning, these were general training sessions to familiarize company representatives with the concept of the circular economy, understand the necessity of changing business processes and models and recognize the possibilities for concrete application. We are now focused on designing and implementing more advanced and concrete circular economy education programs specific to individual industries, such as construction or food. Hundreds of company representatives completed the training, and, in this way, we have significantly contributed to the faster implementation of the circular economy in Serbia with the concrete transfer of knowledge. The training changed its format to fit companies’ needs and the market’s digitalization. Regardless of the format, the participants learned about using circular economy tools (waste management, eco-design, product life cycle, recycling, domestic and EU legislation, etc.) over several weeks of training. Special training sessions are now being held for all these areas.
Q: Could you rate the dynamics of applying new knowledge related to the circular economy in practice and how it can be improved? What have companies proposed to improve the transformation of the green transition in the coming period?
A: In the last year, there has been a noticeable shift in the ever-growing awareness of companies about the importance and necessity of implementing concrete solutions in this domain.
However, this is still far from satisfactory. We could group the most significant challenges into four segments: the first is insufficient technological and economic knowledge in companies that could accelerate the transition to circular solutions, the second is legal regulations that do not favor the status of by-products in specific industries and ending the status of waste, which is a necessary prerequisite for industrial symbiosis between the two companies, and the third is difficult access to bank funding for investments or insufficient subsidies. The fourth is the constricted knowledge of domestic experts in this area.
Q: What are the plans of the Chamber’s Circular Economy Centre to prepare the Serbian economy for a comprehensive green transition?
A: We want our circular economy platform to be a central hub for industrial symbiosis in Serbia. Thanks to a pilot project, we have already listed all types of industrial waste in the Pirot industrial zone, under the auspices of cooperation with the Ministry of Economy. This is an important first step.
We are planning soon to implement the next stages of education for specific industries in the domain of the circular economy, as well as for areas such as carbon accounting, energy efficiency, decarbonization of business processes and others. Together with our colleagues from the Chamber’s Green Team, we are planning to visit the regional chambers and in direct contact with companies, convey messages about the necessity and importance of the circular economy.
Q: Could you tell us about the implementation of a three-year support program for the development of the circular economy, which was launched in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy of Serbia? What is the CCIS’ role in this?
A: The Circular Economy Development Support Programme (2021– 2023) is part of the Action Plan for the implementation of the Industrial Policy Strategy of the Republic of Serbia from 2021 to 2030, in which the CCIS is listed as an implementation unit of the Ministry of Economy. The Strategy’s overall goal is to boost the competitiveness of the Serbian industry. Five specific goals should be accomplished in six intervention areas – human resources empowerment, digitalization, innovation, investments, international dimension and circular economy. The concrete measure titled ‘Promoting the Circular Economy and Educating Business Entities’ is entrusted to the CCIS.
Q: What activities are envisaged in the program and how much should the program contribute to expediting the development of the circular economy?
A: The program was implemented at the right and very delicate time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic put the green transformation in stand-by mode, yet we, who operate in that segment, knew that the transition would not stop. On the contrary, as soon as the pandemic subsided and in parallel with the global energy and economic crisis, issues stemming from the green agenda gained momentum in the EU and the USA. The initial goal of the activities carried out by the Chamber was to define the position of the term circular economy in Serbia and present the circular economy tools to as many businesses as possible. The initial position was that 60 per cent of the respondents identified the circular economy as recycling, which practically meant that we were starting from a very modest amount of general knowledge and information because recycling is the last stop of the circular economy if we exclude the waste-to-energy processes (energy consumption) from circularity. We have successfully implemented training sessions covering general knowledge about circular economy tools, non-financial accounting, by-products and end-of-waste status, wastewater management and the CBAM. We have published guides on circularity in agriculture, concrete waste management and reuse, chemical management in the circular economy, etc. Our focus in the last year has been on industrial symbiosis. Circularity’s essence is the circulation of raw materials, whether they are defined as by-products or as the end-of-waste status. We have expedited processes and procedures and are removing waste or raw materials from the waste circulation administration.
Interviewed by: Mirjana Vujadinović Tomevski
Read the story in the new issue of the Energy portal Magazine CIRCULAR ECONOMY