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Newsletter October 2020 - Special ‘Rising Stars’ Edition



Open your diaries and draw a big green circle around the 3rd of November 2020 – on that day we will finally reveal the EBAE 2020-21 winners by hosting our famous Award Ceremony.

This cycle's ceremony will take place online during the 2020 Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference. We are excited to let you know that you will be able to watch everything through our online platform! Watch this space for further information on how to register for the ceremony

If you need a reminder on the EBAE 2020-21 finalists and their impressive eco-innovative achievements:

You can check the full list here.


Policy updates - EU Recovery Plan

Article by Malgorzata Kicia, The European Commission, DG Environment (BU-05 04/130) Unit A3 – Environmental Knowledge, Eco-Innovation and SMEs

European small and medium enterprises (SMEs) account for more than half of the European GDP, they employ around 100 million people adding value in every sector of the economy. Many SMEs are EBAE laureates, driving the development of break–through environmental technologies and proving that eco-innovation makes a business case. Through their innovative solutions to challenges such as climate change, resource efficiency or biodiversity loss, they significantly contribute to helping achieve the objectives set out in the European Green Deal.

The COVID-19 crisis hit SMEs heavily; the outbreak caused financial distress for companies in numerous sectors, particularly tourism, hospitality, transport, retail and manufacturing. Many SMEs face financial difficulties due to liquidity problems (short term), many of them had started the sustainable transition before the outbreak and will need financial support to continue the transition (medium-term). Moreover, many SMEs will still need technical assistance and capacity building before they can undergo crucial investments into more sustainable and innovative models.

In March 2020 the European Commission adopted the SME strategy which foresees support in these areas through, among other instruments, strengthening the role of the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) and its Sustainability Advisors. Later, in July the EU leaders agreed to a recovery package and the 2021-2027 budget that will help the EU to rebuild after the pandemic and will support investment in the green and digital transitions.

The recovery package introduces new instruments that will mitigate the impacts of the pandemic and that will increase the resilience of European SMEs in the future. The REACT-EU and the Just Transition Funds will support SMEs, in particular in their capacity to invest into more sustainable solutions. The Recovery and Resilience Facility, large-scale financial support to both public investments and reforms, will provide financing in the green and digital transition. The support will take the form of up to €310 billion in grants and up to €250 billion in loans. The Facility will be demand-driven and powered by an emergency European Recovery Instrument, ‘Next Generation EU’, amounting to €750 billion.

Member States may combine their national funding with the EU resources available, for example under the Recovery and Resilience Facility, cohesion funds or REACT-EU. Bridging financing schemes for SMEs experiencing liquidity issues could be deployed using, for example, the Solvency Support Instrument. Member States could also earmark part of the EU funds under the Recovery and Resilience Facility to repay existing arrears owed to suppliers by the public sector. Finally, the enhanced InvestEU programme will provide crucial support to companies in the recovery phase. It will finance the development of nascent technologies, building stronger value chains within the EU, and support critical infrastructure and cross-border strategic projects. A dedicated SME window within the InvestEU programme will be tailored to their specific needs.

The EEN partners already deliver important access-to-funding consultation services to SMEs to identify the best possible funding scheme(s) for their project ideas. As soon as the new recovery programmes are approved and available to businesses, the EEN consultants will be able to navigate SMEs towards these programmes if there is a fit with their project ideas.


From your favourite candy bar to the roof above your head; from your next holiday spot to helping farmers monitor their crops – get inspired by the EBAE 2020-2021 Rising Stars!

Learn more about those companies whose applications have made a particular impression on the jurors, but have not been shortlisted for an Award. Click on their logos to see their full profile and read their interview, get inspired by their stories, and follow them in their promising adventures.


The latest edition of the Belgian Business Awards for the Environment successfully took place on 21 September 2020. All details and information about the competition and the Belgian entrants in the European Business Awards for the Environment may be found here. On this occasion, we caught up with Vanessa Biebel, Executive Manager, Sustainability & Circular Economy Skills Centre at the VBO-FEB (Federation of Enterprises in Belgium).

Briefly explain what the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium is and does. And what are the VBO-FEB engagements towards the green and circular economy?

The Federation of Enterprises in Belgium (FEB) is the only inter-professional employers’ organization representing companies from the three regions of the country. FEB comprises over 50 sectoral federations and represents more than 50,000 companies, accounting for 75% of employment in the private sector. On our 125th anniversary in 2020, we have redefined our strategy which is reflected in our new baseline « creating value for society ». Economic and societal interests are linked: they are complementary, interconnected and interdependent. This generates real value for everyone. If the themes of sustainable development and circular economy have been dealt with by our federation for many years, it has become even more important because we have just created a Competence centre dedicated to these subjects. By organizing the national version of the EBAE awards, we also want to prove that another business model is possible. A sustainable model that brings prosperity while respecting the environment and society.

What role can businesses play in addressing today’s environmental challenges – in Belgium and in general?

The final objective is to consume as few resources as possible and to emit the least amount of pollutants and CO2 into the environment, both at the time of extraction, production and consumption and then at the end of the product's life or for the service provided. Businesses have an important role to play but can take advantage of their commitment, creating new market opportunities, attracting talent, etc. Everyone must understand environmental emergencies and take part in the solutions. Business is a major player and will have to collaborate closely with consumers, civil society and the authorities.

What advice would you give to the Belgian companies who made it as EBAE finalists this year?

First and foremost, I would like to congratulate them for their commitment. It is always a long journey that combines courage, innovation, teamwork and persuasion to bring all the staff in the same direction.

Considering the newest Green Deal, Recovery Plan and other EU initiatives to promote and encourage sustainable and circular economy, why do you think Belgian companies should enrol and participate in the next EBAE competition?

Committing to sustainable development now allows business to anticipate future policies. But there are also other advantages in terms of resilience. The health crisis has shown that companies whose strategy is oriented towards more "circularity”, and who take sustainable objectives into account, have fared better than others than others. This is at least what emerges from the results of a recent survey conducted by Vlaanderen Circulair and the independent institute for technological research VITO. Belgium has an unstoppable power of innovation. Many companies are often rather shy to show their progress in the circular economy. They should be prouder of their achievement. This year, we are proud to count 4 Belgian companies among the finalists at the EBAE, I hope we will count a winner among them!


Article by Marta Sz.Bonifert, Vice President of the European Partners for the Environment

The EPE as a pathfinder.

The EPE was launched in 1994 to promote ‘shared responsibility’ linked with a Sustainable Development Action Plan and has been promoting dialogue and engineering multi-stakeholders' partnerships related to environmental issues contributing to sustainable development nationally and internationally.

The EPE has, along the years, shaped an agenda which addresses the challenges and opportunities across both business and society: competitiveness and innovation; trust and confidence; new processes, products and services; purchasing and procurement policies; a focus on specific areas (textile, food, electronics, forestry and tourism), as well as addressing inclusive and sustainable finance, to name but a few.

The EPE as a think tank to develop a Winning Organizing System

Now that the EU has adopted an EU Recovery Plan strategy and the principles of a European Green deal, EPE, as a ‘think tank’ and a ‘do tank’, is focused on the governmental challenges and multi-stakeholder partnerships to develop a Winning Organizing System.

Companies should participate in the next EBAE competition to showcase their progress and innovation in this field, and to demonstrate how they contribute to system leadership and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Indeed, system leadership for transformational change, as the SDGs have set out, requires addressing three revolutions together: the green revolution and planetary boundaries, the inclusive and sustainable finance revolution and the digital revolution and empowerment.

To develop a winning Organizing System, efficiency requires a new form of leadership to lead in societal capabilities, dealing with finance, biodiversity, climate, inequality, and health in a holistic manner. Companies need not only to make a profit but evidence societal purpose.

EBAE finalists should continue to demonstrate and promote how they generate innovation. They should continue to “carry the torch”, showcase good examples, and be a role model for innovation and progress.

The general term ‘innovation’ includes four types that the EBAE could reflect, which are not mutually exclusive: project innovation, process innovation, management/marketing innovation, and organisational innovation, as well as a focus on particular international partnerships for the implementation of SDGs. With resource efficiency constraints, we will need to see more non-technological innovation to increase our sustainable production and consumption efficiency.

In this business framework participation in value chain management and multi-stakeholder partnership is key and this is the reason why the EBAE award is and will be increasingly significant.

EPE, as a ‘do tank’ focused on blockchain.

Value chain efficiency requires a new form of leadership, especially from those managing risks and finance. The EPE has been working together with the Responsible Finance & Investment Foundation to develop a blockchain for inclusive and sustainable finance. This is a ground-breaking digital technology, supporting decentralised methods for consensus reaching as well as sharing, storing, and securing transactional and other data with fewer to no central intermediaries.

Blockchains are expected to transform value chain management as well as the management of public funds, in the framework of the EU Recovery Plan, and the Green deal in particular.

The EPE is leading a consortium to clarify the opportunities and options for connecting data related to public funds to incentivize trust concerning Europe’s public funds. It will also explore in more detail the feasibility for specific value chains such as food systems and building retrofits.