On May 30th, 2023, the American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria initiated the start of its ESG Working Group. Following its Annual Priorities, as well as implementing a key item of its Events Calendar 2023, the team organized the first of potentially many meetings on this subject. The event was hosted at the American Spaces in Sofia (a.k.a. The American Corner at the Sofia City Library), and welcomed 30 experts from its membership.
The event had two parts. The main presentation was delivered by the undisputed subject matter expert – Boyan Rashev, Managing Partner, denkstatt Bulgaria (AmCham member). Before two dozen business representatives, he explained the meaning of the ESG processes and how they can be integrated in the companies. He also presented the essence, the goals, and the consequences of the introduction of the EU Corporate Sustainable Reporting Directive, as well as the full spectrum of internationally recognized standards, sustainability measurement tools, and environment impact assessment. Key moment of his overview was the need of large-scale transformation of business because the requirements now impact more and more companies and their production facilities aiming their main processes, along with their reporting on carbon footprint, social impact, and good governance. Boyan commented the need of adequate and time-wise transposing of this directive into the Bulgarian legislation. This is a must because all affected companies should deliver their initial reports based on the directive’s requirements in 2025.
“With the introduction of EU CSRD, the companies in Europe get additional pressure from Brussels to improve their performance in line with the philosophy of the EU Green Deal. These requirements are very serious, thus companies need more time to integrate these changes into their processes. Our understanding is that ESG introduction should not jeopardize the success of any company – it will be successful when it is done in support of the existing processes, applied with reason and serves concrete needs, and to be another tick-box administrative exercise, “explained Boyan Rashev, managing partner, denkstatt Bulgaria.
In his opening remarks Ivan Mihaylov, CEO, AmCham Bulgaria, shared that the need of presenting this topic before our membership was part of his professional priorities since he stepped into his current position in the Fall of 2022.
“With this topic we want to measure the attitude of all of our members and to evaluate the importance of ESG for every one of them, engaging big corporations, the SMEs as well as the micro-firms too. If this topic is recognized, there is enough expertise for sharing experience, for analyzing one or another regulation – current or upcoming from the EU. If so, then if it is worth it – to join efforts towards improvement of investment environment in which there are rules and standards, but none of them are against the competitiveness of Bulgaria and the price for their introduction is unbearable neither for the business nor for the society,” stated Ivan Mihaylov.
Examples of Dundee Precious Metals, Kamenitza, UniCredit Bulbank
The second part of the event included concrete examples of the work of some of the leading companies in sustainability at AmCham, in Bulgaria and globally: Dundee Precious Metals Bulgaria, Kamenitza (a Molson Coors Beverage Company), and UniCredit Bulbank.
“As we prepare sustainability reports and we report in a transparent way our impact, we at Dundee Precious Metals Bulgaria don’t full in data. With our consecutive information gathering about our Health and Safety performance, environment protection, and investments in the communities, we have in-depth view on the overall performance with regard important economic indicators, social aspects, and responsible governance of our companies at Chelopech and at Krumovgrad. This helps us to set more ambitious goals each year, and to work more effectively for the sustainability of the company, as well as for the long-term prosperity of the regions where are operations are.” This was part of the testimonial of Gergana Todorova, Supervisor Communications for Dundee Precious Metals in Bulgaria
“We are engaged to share benefits with our stakeholders and to invest in development of the skills of our employees, in knowledge via the private foreign language high school at Chelopech, in new businesses through the funds for support of micro, small-size and mid-size businesses in both Krumovgrad and the Srednogorie regions. We develop plans for achieving zero emissions in 2050, and we believe that with the efforts of everyone we grow and improve the environment we live in,” she said in conclusion.
“Create a world to celebrate together” – this is one of the main pillars of our company’s business strategy, which is also an expression of our strategy for sustainable development. For that to happen, we first need to make sure we have people to celebrate with and a world to celebrate in. That is why our efforts are dedicated to three main areas: caring for people – by which we mean all stakeholders such as our employees, customers, consumers, partners, suppliers, communities; care for the environment and our planet, and last, but not least in importance – promotion of responsible alcohol consumption. Companies and businesses need to be examples in society in support of important causes and topics. We believe that only when we work together – business, institutions, organizations, society – we can achieve real change. This was shared by Steliyana Mitreva, Corporate Affairs Manager, Kamenitza AD.
The sustainable development topic is not the responsibility of one professional, but of the whole team of UniCredit Bulbank. Therefore, at the banks are implementing many and various initiatives simultaneously with that regard. On one hand, we change our organization with the development of digital tools and reduction of the usage of single use plastics, and we optimize our ad billboards so that we can reduce electricity consumption. In parallel, the bank invests in our colleagues’ training. As a result, each of our colleagues has passed at least one ESG training course in 2022. The impact on society goes through us over a million clients and the green products that we have developed for them,” explained the view of UniCredit Bulbank, Ekaterina Ancheva, Director, Public Relations and Communications there.
The AmCham Bulgaria team addresses to whole membership for their feedback how and in which direction this new working groups should be structured and build-up. It is important which experts will take its management and coordination too.
Boyan Rashev’s presentation rationale
Establishing a sustainable business is no longer solely driven by desire and reputation; it is now mandated by European directives, banking funding requirements, and business relationships. The upcoming European legislation, effective from 2024, imposes an obligation on companies to disclose information pertaining to ESG topics. The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the Taxonomy serve as the primary guidelines that companies must adhere to in their operations. To comply, businesses need to integrate data collection and reporting on their environmental impacts into their processes. This encompasses a wide range of internal and external activities, including resource management, emissions resulting from various operations, selection of partners and suppliers, sourcing of raw materials, waste generation and disposal, packaging practices, stakeholder engagement, and more.
During the kick-off meeting of the ESG Committee of AmCham, we explored and discussed the following key topics:
- The origins of ESG and its influence on the business landscape.
- Strategies for integrating the ESG process within companies. What approaches are recommended for incorporating ESG into company operations?
- Identification of specific activities within a company that relate to environmental impacts (E), social aspects (S), or governance (G).
- Insights gained from companies extensive experience
Furthermore, as the most experienced advisory firm in ESG matters, denkstatt is well-equipped to provide valuable guidance and support to companies in navigating these discussions and implementing effective ESG strategies.