03 May 2023

Western Balkans ESG Summit: Driving Sustainable Growth

The Western Balkans ESG Summit, the first regional event on this hot topic, successfully concluded last week after two days of insightful discussions and informative sessions on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues.  The conference, which gathered 450 participants and 150 companies from the region, was held to promote sustainable development and drive positive change for businesses and society in the area.

The Western Balkans ESG Summit brought together industry experts, business leaders, policymakers, and representatives from civil society to discuss the importance of ESG issues for the region.  The event featured keynote speeches, panel discussions, and interactive workshops that explored various topics related to ESG, such as climate change, sustainability, social responsibility, gender equality, and corporate governance.

As the first independent law firm in the region to launch a dedicated ESG legal practice, Gecić Law was represented by Hristina Kosec, partner and co-head of the firm’s ESG practice, and Branko Gabrić, counsel and expert in ESG regulation.  They both spoke about the regulatory aspects of ESG and how it will likely influence businesses in the region.  Hristina gave a well-received interview for the Conference website, explaining how ESG and sustainability are increasingly becoming a vital part of regulation across the globe, most notably in the European Union.  Although the law in the region is lagging, businesses need to be aware and adapt to standards that may already be affecting them indirectly.

Branko took part in the central panel on the first day of the conference, which tackled the regulatory aspects of ESG.  He was joined by esteemed experts in the field, including Robert Spano, Partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and former President of the European Court of Human Rights; Olindo Shehu, Managing Partner of Deloitte CE South; Lulzim Rafuna, President of the WB6 CIF Management Board, and Aleksandra Njagulj, Founding Partner of Sustineri Partners.  Branko’s discussion focused on the recently adopted EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), a revolutionary piece of legislation, part of EU’s Fit for 55 legislative package, set to introduce a significant change in international trade, as an example of how regulation is already affecting the region.  One of the key takeaways from the discussion was that ESG regulations do not affect only EU member states but have a broader reach, impacting supply chains and financial systems globally.  Western Balkans companies, as partners of EU economies, must proactively prepare for compliance with new ESG rules, a large part of the region’s economic activity being with the EU, which accounts for more than 80% of the region’s exports.

Sustineri Partners organized the event with the Government of Montenegro and Bloomberg Adria.  Speakers and panelists were among the distinguished guests who shared their insights and expertise with the audience.  The event also provided an excellent networking opportunity for participants to connect, exchange ideas, and explore potential partnerships and collaborations.  The Summit highlighted the growing interest in ESG issues in the Western Balkans region and the need for businesses and organizations to embrace sustainable practices to drive growth and positively impact society and the environment.