On Tuesday May 27th, the second GreenEcoNet Annual Conferece with the title: ‘Growing a sustainable EU economy through SMEs: Boosting jobs, growth and entrepreneurship’ was hold at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels. As job creation and economic growth are two of the top priorities of the European Commission under President Juncker, the conference aimed at discussing the impact of SMEs to growing a sustainable EU economy, addressing issues such as the contribution of SMEs to developing green jobs as well as the growth and job opportunities arising from a more efficient use of resources.
After a short introductory part, hold by Vasileios Rizos, Researcher at the Centre for European Policy Studies, Kurt Vandenberghe, Director DG Research & Innovation, European Commission, was asked to make the point about SMEs and ‘green-growth’ in Europe.
Greening is happening even in spite of policy-making. Europe is already a leader in green know-how technologies but further efforts are needed in order to boost economic growth and well being through eco-sustainable or eco-efficient measures.
The question for policy-making regulators these days is not how to promote green growth but how do we accelerate ‘green-growth’ in Europe?
We need a transformative agenda, we’re currently making progress but we could do much more. Indeed what we need to do is to give a reasonable perspective of a return in investment. This is our objective in Horizon 2020 and should also be a message to public authorities.
We will pay a lot of attention to the future of SMEs not just because prescribed in the horizon 2020 procedure but because we are convinced that SMEs are the drivers of innovation.
Greening and growing go together and will even go more together in the future
What do SMEs need, to create more jobs?
Patrice Liauzu, Adviser, European Investment bank:
First of all our macroeconomic environment is still slowly recovering from the
Economical crisis and there are still some issues concerning bank leverage.
Moreover, what we also witness is that there is still a high level of market
fragmentation in Europe. Indeed in a few countries, as Germany and Austria for
example the conditions for SMEs are better if compared to the southern part of
Europe. Last but not least, the supply chain is a bit weak therefore we do need to
propose a solution on the policy side. In order to create more jobs, we need to promote investments and liquidity flows into the market.
The problems we are facing in this context, is that the big banks institutes often do not foster SMEs investment projects because they are judged as too small.
Banks should start considering the proposed projects not just in terms of financial return but also in social and environmental terms.
My message today is the following one: we need to try to provide tools and instruments in order to incentive banks to finance also small projects. Equity is also something we need to promote further, and in order to reach these objectives we will closely cooperate with the European Commission.
How can research and innovation boost growth and green jobs for SMEs in Europe?
Peter Czaga, Policy Officer, DG Environment, European Commission:
The progress made concerning the promotion of green economy initiatives in the last period was good but we need to continue our work in this direction. In order to boost economical growth and employment rates we need to step our efforts for concrete policy measures, with a specific focus on SME’s.
Our intention is to develop a circular economy package in the near future focusing on environment, access to raw materials, societal pressures, innovation and growth potential. Just considering waste, there are and would be lots of opportunities for SMEs to go greener.
The areas of intervention will be, and need to be the following ones:
– Extraction and production processes, rendering them ‘greener’;
– Product design, enhancing consumer awareness;
– Distribution and consumption;
– Waste, some countries are doing very well, others are lacking behind.
– More and better harmonization.
How can SMEs contribute to a sustainable EU economy?
Franz Brudl, Advisor, Austrian economic chamber, presented the Austrian perspective:
A green business is: a business that develops, produces and sells environmental technology to become “greener” in a wider sense.
In Austria most of our companies are SMEs. To be precise 99,6% of the Austrian companies are SME’s, employing 1,7 million people and training other 65.000 a year. This green sector took off in Austria about the 1990, and was strong even during the years of the crisis (turnover increased by 8% every year).
Concerning the European green companies sector, Germany is in the lead, closely followed by Sweden and Austria.
In terms of contribution to a sustainable economy, ‘green’ SMEs in Austria contributed to a reduction in terms of gas emissions and waste volume for 953.000 MWh last year, comparable to 38 million Euros. Moreover investing in SME’s contributes to upgrade your brand image allowing you to sell your products to a higher price.
What kind of impacts do green business models and practices have on growth and job creation?
Daniel Coulon, Managing Director, Techniwood International, presents the point of view for the SMEs:
Higher efficient products warrant performance. In order to develop these products investments in research and development are needed which often require a huge amount of money.
The problem SME’s are facing nowadays is quite simple: the time amount needed from the development of a new market product, to its market implementation takes too much time resulting in an increase of expenditures. With the amount of current regulations, if a company decides to change and innovate also just a minimum aspect in the creation of a product, the path to undertake in order to obtain a patent is extremely long, varying from country to country. Moreover standards also vary from country to country. A higher level of harmonization of the internal market is needed; in fact there is no Single Market yet.