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Svetoslav Atanasov, General Manager at Coca-Cola HBC Serbia and Montenegro

We’re Continuing To Stride Towards Sustainability

Our attention is directed towards sustainability in all aspects of our operations, because we know that businesses only thrive in successful communities. This demands the acquiring of new knowledge, changing priorities and collaborating with partners to achieve desired changes

The legitimacy of a responsible company has long required more than merely successful financial results. Coca-Cola HBC Serbia and Montenegro is a company that has been devoted to harmonising its business goals with those of the community for many years.

We spoke with the company’s general manager, Svetoslav Atanasov, about the new responsibilities that such an approach places on company managers and the specific activities of Coca-Cola HBC Serbia and Montenegro in this domain.

Coca-Cola

“Technological development and digitalisation, macroeconomic changes and geopolitical events are shaping our economies and societies, and such changes also make operational changes unavoidable. Consumers expect environmental responsibility now more than ever before. Employees expect their company to have values with which they can identify. With the changing expectations of stakeholders, the management perspective is also undergoing change,” says Atanasov.

With an awareness that businesses can only be successful in successful communities, the Coca-Cola HBC Serbia and Montenegro spotlight is directed towards sustainability in all aspects of its operations.

In accordance with our Mission Sustainability 2025, the goals of which are aligned with the United Nations’ SDGs, over the last 15 years we’ve reduced water consumption by around 54% and energy use by 59% per litre of beverage produced

“This is a process that demands that we acquire new knowledge and skills, recalibrate our priorities and commit ourselves to initiate, together with our partners, the desired changes,” explains our interlocutor. “We are entering an era of empathetic and inspirational leaders who manage their teams by empowering them to learn and work together.”

In which ways does your company strive to achieve sustainable goals? At the level of the Coca-Cola HBC Group, we have our defined Mission Sustainability 2025, the goals of which are aligned with the United Nations’ SDGs. We view sustainability as an all-encompassing process in which changes start from the procurement of raw materials, via the production and packaging of products, through our operations, cooperation with customers and relations with employees, all the way to that which we communicate with end consumers. The established goals aren’t just a dead letter, but rather we regularly monitor their realisation and report on them transparently through our annual Sustainability Report.

We recently presented the jubilee 10th annual report, and I would like to highlight a few results: over the last 15 years, we have reduced water consumption by around 54% and energy use by 59% per litre of beverage produced in. We continued reducing CO2 emissions over the course of 2022, through various investments in production, projects and activities, with the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

I’m proud of the results achieved and the fact that – together with our customers, suppliers, the industry and community – we are moving in the same direction. We are aware that there’s still a long road ahead of us, but we are continuing to advance full steam ahead along the road to sustainability.

What would you identify as being crucial to achieving results and a sustainable future?

Partnerships play a key role in transforming towards a better society with improved prospects, particularly when we share responsibility for the common good.

We need innovative, alternative and courageous approaches to solving social problems, which we can only achieve with the strength of the collective.

Everything that we do to improve the sustainability of the planet is done for the sake of future generations. How does your company support young people and their desire to change the world for the better?

Young people are our greatest source of inspiration. They constantly challenge the status quo, and it is actually young people who have the power to change organisations from within, and we support them strongly on that road. We’ve just recently welcomed the 11th generation of interns to the unique Coke Summership summer internship programme. They always bring special energy to our company and I look forward greatly to this programme, because experience tells us that a significant number of interns will become part of our team following their internship.

To commemorate our 25 years of doing business in Serbia, we awarded valuable scholarships to a total of 25 talented youngsters nationwide. I had the pleasure of meeting them and believe me when I say that they are the generation that will change the world for the better!

With last year’s opening of the bottling plant for Rosa Homolje sparkling water in the municipality of Kučevo, we entered a new era of business and growth, strengthening the local character of our comprehensive 24/7 portfolio

Via the multiyear national “Coca-Cola Youth Empowered” programme, we have to date – through training and education – empowered over 10,000 young people in Serbia with knowledge and skills. We are continuing this initiative, which is recognised as one of the most enduring projects for the support of young people.

You opened a new bottling plant in the municipality of Kučevo last year, thereby creating new jobs in a municipality where every job means a lot. What is the place of this investment in your broader plans for market growth and development?

With last year’s opening of the bottling plant for Rosa Homolje sparkling water in the municipality of Kučevo, we entered a new era of business and growth, strengthening the local character of our comprehensive 24/7 portfolio. However, we didn’t just open a bottling plant. We also created some new prospects for the local community as a whole, with new jobs and new opportunities.

This investment was worth around five million euros in the first year, and more than 50 people were hired at the new bottling plant. We are proud when we have an opportunity to encourage the development of the domestic economy in this way. This is the Coca-Cola system’s fifth major investment in less than two decades. This shows that we are a reliable partner to the economy of Serbia, where we operate responsibly and with continuous investments in the community and the market.

To conclude, how do you see the future in the context of the challenge of inflation and the growth slowdown of previous years?

Despite the delicate economic environment, we – as the Coca-Cola system in Serbia and company Bambi – created 360 million euros of added value for the national economy in 2021, or 0.7% of Serbia’s national GDP. Through the taxes that we pay directly and the tax revenues that are generated through our value chain, we generated one per cent of Serbia’s total tax revenue. And all that comes from just one successful system.

In challenging times, we launched the Coke Academy, as our unique support programme for customers – both big and small, like small retail outlets. We share our knowledge and experience, because we want to successfully navigate – together with our customers – the waves of all the changes that are coming our way. I believe that investing in people – our employees, but also our associates and partners – together with investing in sustainable business, is the best response to all the scenarios that the future is bringing our way.

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