The SME EnterPRIZE project was created with the intention to:
- support SMEs in their sustainable transition, consistent with the European ambition to develop a greener and more inclusive economy;
- stimulate public debate on the importance of sustainability for SMEs, promoting further research on the subject;
- highlight significant examples of responsible business, recognising entrepreneurs that can become an inspirational model for others to follow.
Small and Medium Enterprises in Europe
SMEs collectively represent more than half of Europe’s GDP and 99% of companies in the EU, they are the bedrock of the European economy and are essential drivers of sustainable transition. Overall, the sustainable transition of SMEs in Europe has remained robust, despite the many challenges that companies need to overcome. There has been an increase of 3%, in respect to the 2022’s survey, of SMEs that are adopting, or soon to adopt sustainable business practices, with the total reaching 44%. However, many SMEs continue to face challenges. SMEs perceiving a lack of institutional support, coming from excessive regulation and bureaucracy as a barrier to becoming more sustainable has almost doubled year to year from 25% to 48%. A lack of public incentives also rose significantly from 17% in 2022 to 48% in 2023. SMEs also cited a lack of sustainable finance initiatives, which also rose from 26% to 47%.
The third edition of Sme EnterPRIZE
This year’s edition - the third one - celebrated the ten “Sustainability Heroes” drawn from over 7,000 small and medium-sized businesses which were selected from across Europe. The aim is that they can become an inspirational model for fellow entrepreneurs and be ambassadors of sustainability. The companies selected in the areas of environment and social come from the ten European countries that have joined the initiative: Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain.
The event saw the attendance of senior European policymakers, including Valdis Dombrovskis – Executive Vice President of the European Commission for An Economy that Works for People and European Commissioner for Trade, Paolo Gentiloni - European Commissioner for Economy, Martina Dlabajová - Co-chair of the SME Intergroup, European Parliament, and Pina Picierno - EU Parliament Vice-President. Academic leaders, as well as Generali’s senior leadership also attended. The 2023 edition also hosted a message from Marcos Neto – Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau of Policy and Programme Support.
The White Paper and the partnership with European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME
By partnering with SDA Bocconi – School of Management a dedicated White Paper and Research project was published: built on the basis of discussions with over 1,000 SMEs from across Europe, has captured the challenges and opportunities which SMEs are facing and has suggested policy initiatives for Europe’s decision makers to implement. Generali has also established a strategic partnership with European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME, which is aimed at further reinforcing sustainability, competitiveness, and innovation in European SMEs.
Philippe Donnet, Generali Group CEO, said: “Much has happened since 2021, when Generali launched SME EnterPRIZE, its flagship project to promote a culture of sustainability among European small and medium-sized enterprises and support them as they integrate it into their businesses. While these companies had to endure significant challenges related to the energy crisis, supply chain disruptions, inflation, and economic and geopolitical uncertainties, the third White Paper issued by Generali and SDA Bocconi underlines that the number of European SMEs that are embracing sustainable business models keeps increasing, and that the business case for doing so remains very strong. However, there are still substantial obstacles and barriers preventing more companies from following the same path. Therefore, it is key that policymakers act to reduce bureaucracy and raise awareness, while larger private enterprises must offer not only products or services but also their know-how. It is a complex process that will take time, and we are not there yet. But we must spare no effort – as it is in the interest of all of us to build a stronger, safer, more prosperous and sustainable Europe.”
Generali Group General Manager, Marco Sesana said: “Our ‘Lifetime Partner 24: Driving Growth’ strategy has sustainability as its originator. It is a lens for how we see our business and our relationship with the communities that we are part of. As Europe’s leading insurer we have been raising awareness on the challenges that SMEs face for three years and have reached thousands of SMEs across Europe to find the most sustainable ways of working, highlighting businesses that are doing well by doing good. At the same time, we have championed research to understand the challenges and opportunities SMEs face. The three years of SME EnterPRIZE have underlined that there is still a strong commitment from SMEs to make their business more sustainable, despite a challenging environment. We will continue to support their journey to build an inclusive, green and sustainable European economy.”