Developing pro-biodiversity business opportunities
in Bulgaria and Croatia
The introduction of sustainable investments for the wise use of biodiversity resources in Bulgaria and Croatia, as elsewhere in Europe, is of great and urgent importance. One method of addressing this issue is to identify and promote appropriate forms of financing for businesses that can either increase the positive ecological impact of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), or help to mitigate / reduce the negative impacts of their operations on biodiversity. In fact, the best way of addressing these issues is to encourage the establishment of intrinsically biodiversity-related investments.
The project worked with SMEs and local financial institutions to create appropriate financing opportunities for companies so that they can benefit from the positive financial gains of working on biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources generally.
Several studies had investigated the entrepreneurial resources in Bulgarian wetlands and grasslands for starting or expanding SMEs with a pro-biodiversity orientation. A systematic approach had not yet been carried out for Croatia, so a pre-feasibility study was necessary to identify the possible willingness on the part of SMEs in that country to engage in a pro-biodiversity investment strategy. However, the interest of the central government to advocate pro-biodiversity business approaches was strong. In both countries, the follow-up by local entrepreneurs will ultimately depend on the availability of capital in the form of loans and/or equity at a reasonable interest rate or internal rate of return, respectively.
The project was expected to design some form of environmental micro-credit facility as the most appropriate means to make capital investment available for local entrepreneurs (most likely to be farmers, foresters, fish-pond owners, tourist service providers, or shopkeepers/craftsmen) engaging in biodiversity-related investment for the first time.
The first step was to collate and analyse existing knowledge about the challenges of ecologically responsible entrepreneurship in Croatia and Bulgaria. This was done through interviews with government officials who are knowledgeable about biodiversity priorities and with entrepreneurs already operating in environmentally sensitive areas. In addition, interviews were also conducted to assess the awareness of the financial sector (banking and social investment funds) regarding the potential for biodiversity-related investments to be profitable, and to learn about their reasons for not supporting such types of investments. A SWOT analysis for the true potential for encouraging pro-biodiversity business in the two countries was carried out. The end result was the design of a finance facility that would be able to work in countries such as Croatia and Bulgaria. The aim was for this model to be used by both national and international financial support sources, not only in the target countries but elsewhere in the region.
This project ran from October 2006 until July 2008.
This project was funded by the BBI Matra fund of the Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The final output of the project was an outline design of a finance facility that would be able to work in countries such as Croatia and Bulgaria.