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Dejan Šoškić, Professor Of The University Of Belgrade Faculty Of Economics

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News

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Iva Petrović, Executive Director Of The Nordic Business Alliance (NBA)

Working Towards A More Sustainable Future

In 2024, we’ll focus on the green agenda, healthcare, digitalisation and education. We’ll partner with embassies, Nordic experts and institutions to leverage their knowledge and experience

We spoke with Iva Petrović, Executive Director of the Nordic Business Alliance (NBA), about the key accomplishments and challenges that the NBA has achieved and encountered under her leadership, as well as her vision for the organisation’s future.

What are the key accomplishments made and challenges faced, and how have they impacted on your vision for the NBA’s future?

— Since our inception we’ve aimed to be a productive, relevant platform that drives positive change in the business environment and society at large. Our initiatives change from year to year, based on changing priorities and the external context, but our goal remains the same: promote unique Nordic values and business practices, while focusing on innovation, sustainability, transparency, the environment and responsible business.

We measure our performance across three pillars – membership, visibility, and project impact – which contribute equally to our success and shape the vision for the organisation’s future. We have grown from 20 members to 50, across a wide range of industries, and across all four Nordic countries. I am proud to note that our members also include Serbian companies who have or would like to extend their business interest in the Nordics, which is a testament to the fact that the NBA is indeed connecting business communities and enabling the transfer of knowledge and best practices between the countries.

Through our close and dynamic collaboration with the four Nordic embassies – Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden – we have become a Nordic knowledge hub in Serbia and the region, positioned as a credible partner not only to our members, but also to governments, international development organisations and other relevant stakeholders. As a result, our visibility and project impact have increased significantly. The Circular Economy and Nordic Green projects are great examples of that. We have witnessed the amplified impact of joint efforts and hope to continue with similar projects and joint initiatives in the future.

Personally, I am grateful to have a remarkable group of individuals in our NBA Board of Governors, whose hard work, support, mentorship and continued dedication to this organisation have made this success possible – and they all certainly keep me inspired when challenges arise.

It is sometimes difficult to convince Nordic investors to give Serbia a chance. On one hand, the usual suspects, such as the rule of law and corruption, are of course factors to consider before entering a new market. On the other, Serbia is still a very attractive country when it comes to human capital – smart, educated people with great language skills – which certainly, in my view, should be positioned as an asset.

As we approach 2024, what strategic priorities and initiatives do you believe will be crucial for the Nordic Business Alliance in further promoting business ties and cooperation between Nordic countries and Serbia?

— Our members are esteemed leaders in their industries, and synergistically, thorough our network, we aim to strengthen cooperation between Nordic countries and Serbia.

To this end, our strategic priorities for 2024 will continue to focus on the green agenda, healthcare, digitalisation and education. We intend to leverage the knowledge within our organisation and partner on projects with embassies, Nordic experts and institutions able to contribute with their valuable knowledge and experience.

We plan to kick off the year with Smart Cities in focus. We are already in talks with relevant partners and stakeholders, and our efforts have been fully endorsed by the Embassies. We are excited to embark on this journey together. Another important area where we plan to make a significant impact next year and beyond is healthcare. Nordic countries lead the way in Europe when it comes to screening programmes, early diagnosis and the implementation of AI solutions in healthcare. Enabling experience and knowledge sharing between Serbian and Nordic institutions will be one of our key priorities in 2024.

Given Nordic businesses’ emphasis on sustainability and green initiatives, what opportunities do you see for Serbian professionals and organisations to learn and adopt valuable green skills and practices from your members?

— “Greening the economy” is Serbia’s opportunity for growth. The EU and other export markets need green products. When viewed as a strategic growth opportunity, investment in the green economy comes with clear incentives and tangible financial benefits to make them worthwhile for the entire value chain, including the government. We see increased interest from Serbian companies in learning from Nordic green practices and replicating them where possible.

Could you elaborate on how Nordic value chains align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and how the Nordic Business Alliance is working to promote and integrate these values into business practices in Serbia and the region?

— The Sustainable Development Goals (SDSs) are the cornerstone of our organisation. Our impact over the past three years is centred solely on topics like the environment, the health and wellbeing of citizens, quality education, gender equality, affordable and clean energy, climate action and industry innovation and infrastructure. We will next year tackle sustainable cities and communities. We promote and integrate these values through joint projects and initiatives, as well as a wide array of activities, including conferences, roundtables and public diplomacy. Our members often serve as role models, and they continue to improve their business practices for even greater alignment with SDGs.

In light of the changing global economic landscape, how does the Nordic Business Alliance plan to adapt and continue fostering economic growth and collaboration, not only between businesses, but also within the broader community?

— The current political and economic landscape presents challenges to many countries, including Serbia, and that gloomy shadow is certainly here to stay in 2024. The only way forward for our association is to stay true to its core values. To this end, we will continue to support Serbia’s EU accession process in various capacities. I truly believe that business is a catalyst for social change. By learning and working together across our differences, we can make our small contribution to peace and prosperity. Now is the time to recommit to our mission with a sense of urgency and purpose.

PERCEPTION

Serbia faces challenges in attracting Nordic investors, due to concerns like the rule of law and corruption, but it boasts highly skilled and educated human capital as a compelling asset

OPPORTUNITY

Greening the economy in Serbia holds growth potential and financial incentives, with local businesses keen on adopting Nordic green practices

COMMITMENT

Amid challenges, our commitment to Serbia’s EU accession remains, as we believe in business as a catalyst for social change and prosperity