Financing options for green investments are increasing in Romania and are supported by the private sector as well as by regional, national and European programmes. However, in order to increase access to finance support, entrepreneurs need visibility over more information and fast and flexible solutions.
These were the main conclusions of the Green Investments for SMEs round table, organised by BCR and the ECOTECA Association, during which representatives of public institutions, SMEs and business organisations analysed the options through which local businesses can secure sustainable growth areas.
During the event, participants explored financing options, possible challenges in accessing these green investments and ways in which they can be encouraged. The event aimed primarily at analysing the local context and the investment and support opportunities accessible to SMEs in Romania, as more and more financing options are available on the market and support from regional, national and European institutions is increasing.
“At BCR, we want to be more open to ‘sustainable finance’ as a new way of banking, but also as a new way of thinking. Sustainable financing means a change in the way we assess our clients and how we look at different projects and this goes hand in hand with our own development. We started our journey to sustainability a few years ago with our business, our products, and education programs among our employees and customers. We want to keep an open platform of communication with the SME community, the business community and public institutions, because it is a journey where we learn together and make progress together, and we believe that supporting a green economy should be our common goal. ” said Ilinka Kajgana, Executive Vice President Risk and Member of the BCR Executive Committee.
During the round table, Banca Comercială Română presented its sustainable financing programmes and support and advisory initiatives for SMEs, such as the Ada virtual assistant for financing programmes. For its part, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development detailed its programmes for SMEs, through which it has supported the reduction of annual pollution by 3.67 million tonnes of CO2 since 2006. The Bucharest Ilfov Regional Development Agency also presented the options available for SMEs under Priority 1, with a total budget of over €149 million, which include support for innovation, for sustainable growth and modernisation through green technologies and for skills development for innovation, technological modernisation or circular economy.
These programmes are complemented by new funding opportunities for green investments, both from the banking sector and through regional, national and European programmes, such as the NRRP, EU cohesion policy funds or the modernisation fund, which has brought record investments of almost €1.4 million to modernise energy systems and reduce emissions.
In the context of rich funding opportunities, there is a need for dialogue and feedback on both sides so that businesses are properly informed and funding institutions tailor their available programmes to the needs of entrepreneurs to support the sustainable development of the sector.
“It is necessary to further build dialogue between the parties and a common language on sustainability. There are both opportunities and know-how in the market today, but we need to invent new tools to increase access to this funding, including for companies with limited resources. Once SMEs are more transparent and connected to the topic, they will have the motivation and confidence to access green investment funding programmes that fit their plans,” said Raul Pop, Programme Manager at ECOTECA and moderator of the event.
During the discussion, participants also identified a number of challenges, both on the part of funders and on the part of businesses. Among the challenges identified in the discussion were time pressure, as well as the need for flexibility, sustainability standards and accelerating innovation.
Business representatives noted that funding is becoming less accessible because of long waiting times. Boosted by a quick need for financial solutions, SMEs also need more flexibility in accessing solutions. According to the representatives of the SME sector and the funding institutions present, there is a need for more than just the existence of these funding schemes, but a mentoring relationship, a contact with experts in the field, so that entrepreneurs are aware not only of the funding programmes, but also of how their businesses can become eligible for these funds.
In addition to the need to reduce time and increase flexibility in identifying and implementing solutions, SME representatives pointed to the need for clear sustainability standards that would allow the impact of green investments to be assessed in an efficient and transparent way. Added to this is the need for greater innovation to accelerate sustainable development, especially at local level.
Beyond the general challenges, the current energy crisis was also raised, increasing the need for companies to access green solutions to reduce costs, increase energy efficiency and maintain competitiveness.
Despite the challenges, interest in the transition to sustainability is growing, both from the SME environment and from financing institutions. Sustainability is seen as an education process that all institutions need to go through. Dialogue and information initiatives were seen as necessary to be able to respond to the needs of entrepreneurs and funders so that funding opportunities are clear, accessible, and used to support sustainable development.
The round table “Green investments for SMEs”, which took place on November 7th, was the second meeting in the “Investing in the future” series of events, which aim to debate the topic of sustainability, both as a responsibility of companies and public institutions, and of society.
Alongside representatives of BCR and ECOTECA, the round table was attended by representatives of the Bucharest Ilfov Regional Development Agency, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the National Confederation for Women’s Entrepreneurship, the Romanian Farmers’ Club as well as representatives of KPMG, MB Eurofinance, and SMEs such as Autonom Services, RADIC STAR, ROMSIR, Nexte Renewable and Simtel.
The BCR Investing in the Future series of events aims to shape directions for new activities, business practices and legislative initiatives with the goal of bringing real change to society. The programme follows on from the sustainable initiatives through which BCR integrates ESG principles into its business strategy and product portfolio for individuals, institutions or companies, such as the Casa mea NaturA green home mortgage programme, green bond issues, the Electric Up programme for SMEs or the Energy Efficiency Loan for companies and public institutions.