Belgrade, March 10  Within the conference CSR Forum organized by Responsible Business Forum with the support from United States Agency for International Development (USAID), 19 companies were awarded for their excellence in continuous food donation for the most vulnerable citizens, significant contribution to the fight against poverty and contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Even in the previous year, marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, members of the Responsible Business Forum stood out with their responsible practices towards employees, but also with increased care for the community, empathy and taking the opportunity to help those in need.

At the opening of the conference, Slavica Đukić Dejanović, special advisor to the Prime minister of Republic of Serbia for Agenda 2030, while handing out the awards, said said: “The key aspect of the Agenda 2030  and sustainable development is to focus on progress for everyone and everywhere, that is, to make the maximum contribution in every place and for every individual. Companies as generators of economic growth and employment can help progress in sustainable development”.

According to the estimates, about half a million people in Serbia live below the poverty line, and many of them rely on food donations as their main source of food. The need to donate food to organizations that are helping the vulnerable and the poor, as well as the importance of the contributions of the awarded companies, is significant.

“One of the most important issues that the Coalition for Giving together with partners from the business sector focuses on is creating a favorable environment for food donations. Recent analysis shows that the abolition of VAT on food donations in Serbia could provide almost 1.2 million additional meals a year for the most vulnerable citizens of our local communities,” said Shenli Pinchotti, Acting Mission Director of the USAID Serbia, organization that this year marks 20 years of support to the economic and social development in our country.

Food donations represent a link between circular economy and philanthropy as it was pointed out during award ceremony with participation of Senad Mahmutović, State Secretary at Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, Stana Božović, State Secretary at Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs and Miroslav Miletić, Advisor to the President of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce.

Awards were handed to the most important donors coming from the food processing and retail industry: Atlantic Grupa, Bambi, Coca-Cola HBC Srbija, Delhaize Srbija, Delta holding with members Yuhor i Danubius, Gomex, Imlek, Lidl Srbija, Nice foods d.o.o, Mercator -S, Metro Cash&Carry, MK Group with members Carnex i PIK Bečej, Mlekara Šabac, Mleko product, Nelt, Nestle Adriatic, PepsiCo West Balkan, PerSu marketi i Vital a.d.  Awards were also handed to the most important intermediaries in the food donation chain – the Red Cross of Serbia and the Food Bank, while “Plate by Plate” and Food Scale Hub were recognized for outstanding technological innovations which contributes to the improved food donations infrastructure.

The importance of the active role of the business sector in the sustainable development was emphasized during the conference by other participants, including Dejan Turk, President of the Responsible Business Forum and Director of Vip mobile and A1 Slovenia, Predrag Mihailovic, FOP Vice President and President of OTP Bank, Neven Marinović, executive director of Responsible Business Forum and Smart kolektiv and Veran Matić, director of the Serbian Philanthropic Forum.

Large companies have important responsibility to represent good business partners and empower local communities, especially the small and medium enterprises, pointed the representatives of the Responsible Business Forum, announcing their plans to establish a club of small and medium enterprises within the Responsible Business Forum, gathering all those with already strong ethical principles wiling to improve their sustainability with the mentoring and leadership of the Forum’s network.

All participants agreed on the important that all companies continue to progress together towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, to build relationships and engage all stakeholders in order to become better and greener society.

In the second part of the conference, National volunteering awards were handed to individuals, companies and organizations that stood out in their volunteering efforts during the last year. Volunteering service of Novi Sad was awarded for their contribution in response to the COVID-19 crisis, while Manpower Group received the award for the best corporate program “Business Inclusion” focused on empowering social groups for employability.

This year’s CSR Forum was organized as part of the Framework for Giving Project, funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and implemented by the Coalition for Giving, led by the Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation. Other members of the Coalition are the Trag Foundation, Catalyst Balkans, SMART Kolektiv, the Serbian Philanthropic Forum, the Responsible Business Forum and the Serbian Chamber of Commerce. The CSR Forum was supported by Coca-Cola HBC Srbija, Eurobank Srbija, OTP Bank, Vip mobile and Elixir Group.