Interview • Ismar Ćeremida

 Interview • Ismar Ćeremida

Interview • Ismar Ćeremida @ Balkans Go Circular

Impressions from the previous BGC 2022 conference?

This small team did for the promotion of the circular economy in the Western Balkans. The program was varied and rich, furthermore, different speakers from Europe and the region offered practical examples for the implementation of the
circular economy. It was particularly interesting to see what different institutions from the countries of the Western Balkans do regarding the circular economy, and how they create a suitable business environment for companies to embark on such a major transformation journey. Moreover, the presence of a significant number of companies from the region have enriched BGC through real examples of how they are applying the circular economy principles in their businesses. I think that encouraging discussions
allowed participants to get a different view of the CE application possibilities in different industries.

In your opinion, what are the main topics in the circular economy this year?

Well, in general, CE is a complex topic in itself, so perhaps one topic cannot be singled out, because it is a systemic approach that penetrates into all spheres of society and business. If I had to single out areas that I consider to be somewhat neglected, and which are important in terms of the transition to a circular economy, I would mention access to green financial instruments, and the impact on change of consumers’ lifestyles and habits. The current challenge is how to provide companies with access to green financial instruments that are not based on the classic parameters of banking operations. In other words, projects that have an obvious positive impact on the environment and are based on circular economy principles have the same or very often less favorable conditions than projects that have a negative impact on the environment. This situation is unsustainable in the long term, if we want to encourage new investments for the transition to a circular economy. New investments entail the creation of new, future-oriented jobs, which can be especially interesting for young people. On the other hand, consumer awareness of circular products is quite low in all countries of the Western Balkans. Consumers are a key factor in the success of this immense transformation, so it is important that consumers themselves understand the impact they make by consuming certain products and how they as individuals can exert positive pressure on manufacturers and authorities to change the current situation. This process will certainly take a long time, but through the partnerships of various actors, a lot can be achieved in a short period of time. That is why the key to success is that we all work together on the implementation of the circular economy. I think that the purpose of BGC is exactly that, to bring different actors together in one place.

What do you recognize as the biggest challenge for the further implementation of the circular economy in the Balkans?

To some extent, I have already referred to the challenges in the previous question, but I would also like to add here, the time for implementation, it is passing unstoppably. The consequences of inactivity will be felt by all citizens, therefore it is important to start implementing the circular economy immediately.

How much will the new non-financial reporting Directive change the Balkan economy?

The market standards and mechanisms imposed by the EU will have a huge impact on the economy of the Western Balkans. If you take into account the German Supply Chain Law, it is quite clear that most export-oriented companies from the region will have certain problems to harmonize their operations with those legal regulations. The law itself is not problematic, but its implementation is because our companies do not have a developed reporting system to comply with the new legal solutions. It is very important to help companies today so they can meet the required conditions in the future. This work cannot be done overnight, and time to act is limited if companies do not want to disappear from the existing markets.

Single out the most significant news from the circular economy for you in the past year or the most successful example from the practice?

There are plenty of good examples or news that dominated the discussion in 2023. Perhaps I would single out some really interesting events when it comes to carbontech and the development of products that contain CO2 and thus serve as a storage for greenhouse gasses. This year we have seen interesting
products that use this technology, everything, from soap, different fuels to vodka. Carbon storage technology is advancing every day and it will be interesting to follow the innovations of new products made by using this technology.

What are the current largest UNDP support programs for Bosnia and Herzegovina in the area of circular economy?

UNDP in BiH is currently implementing several projects aimed at supporting the transition to a circular economy. It is, first of all, the creation of a roadmap for the circular economy. We are currently working on the development of industrial strategies in which we want to integrate the principles of circularity, and thus create a better strategic framework in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We are also working on a pilot project where we use waste as a resource for
the production of various products. The most interesting activity is perhaps the creation of a tool for the companies’ circularity self-assessment. Currently, we are developing this tool for the marketplace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but we plan to make it available in the entire region. And finally, we are currently supporting 45 investments in circular business models with EUR 1.5 million.

Last year, as a keynote speaker at the BGC conference, you spoke about the challenges we are currently facing, namely: how to reduce poverty in all its forms and dimensions, how to accelerate structural changes, build crisis-resistant systems - do you see progress in that multi-year and multidimensional process in the region?

Progress is evident, but everything is going very slowly in the Balkans. The impact of current efforts to change and make things better would be significantly stronger if activities were implemented more quickly and efficiently.

You mentioned that the most important thing in the region is to change the awareness of the general public about the importance of the circular economy. In your opinion, how far did we arrive in this?

This is one of the most important areas that we should all be dealing with. There are good trends, but in order to change awareness we still have a lot of work to do, both as institutions and as individuals. I think it is important to understand that each of us individually can positively influence the necessary changes. When we understand that, then the progress itself will be much better and more visible.