More and more Czech companies are starting to integrate sustainability within their core business. SME EnterPRIZE’s first edition in the Czech Republic, organized by Generali Česká pojišťovna, demonstrates that sustainability is not just a passing fad, but a trend that is here to stay and which will shape the way we do business for the years to come.
More than thirty companies participated in the national round of the competition, which aimed to draw attention to sustainable SMEs and support them in their transition to sustainable business models. “The companies that applied operate in a number of industries. From organic farmers and technological startups to companies that do business in the field of waste management or energy saving” said the local SME EnterPRIZE Representative, Vratislav Žáček.
The companies and their business models were evaluated by a jury of experts. This included Chairwoman Helena Továrková, director of the Veronica Foundation, Vilém Třebický from the CI2 organization, and Renata Kučerová, a professor at Mendel University in Brno. They were joined by representatives of Generali Česká pojišťovna – Alena Stiborová, Senior Manager of Agricultural Insurance, and Martin Flajšar, Head of Corporate Product Management.
A total of 10 companies were selected by the jury for the finals, which took place online in the Generali Česká pojišťovna TV studio. This year‘s contest saw the awarding for the first place of a 100,000 CZK prize, 70,000 CZK for the second place, and a prize of 50,000 CZK for the third place. The first two companies to come on top have also been given the golden opportunity to represent Czech sustainable businesses at the Pan-European Award Ceremony, which is scheduled to take place this autumn in Brussels, Belgium.
It was a close competition, but CleverFarm, a firm committed to developing smart solutions for farmers, came on top as winner of the prestigious prize. Among the cutting-edge solutions Clever Farm offers, there are IoT-based sensors and precision farming tools. “The agricultural sector is quite outdated in terms of mentality and how it operates. We see a huge opportunity for digitization here,” said Vojtěch Malina, CEO of CleverFarm, during the competition’s final ceremony. “Smart solutions can save farmers water and fertilizers, applying processes that are cost-effective and good for the soil and our planet“.
The second place went to Stabilplastik, a company that produces pallets from recyclable plastic. Plastic pallets have several advantages over wooden ones – they are lighter, last longer and provide also for the instalment of smart solutions – such as the addition of trackers to pallets which help with shipment tracking and in the overall optimization of transportation. Their sustainable and innovative solution not only contributes to the recycling of plastic waste, but also helps lower the carbon footprint across a wide range of sectors.
The third place was awarded to the eco-farm Javorník, which is located in the foothills of the White Carpathians Protected Landscape Area, bordering Slovakia. The farm has been operating within the organic farming system since 1996, applying sustainable practices to land cultivation and above-standard conditions for animal housing and handling. The farm‘s long-term ecological methods and sustainable functioning is what was appreciated most by the jury.
Companies that came in 4th to 10th place, received a prize of 10,000 CZK and the title of Finalists of the SME EnterPRIZE competition.
Generali Česká pojišťovna is already working on the second edition of the SME EnterPRIZE competition. “The inaugural year of the initiative was extraordinary in many ways. Above all, it highlighted that there are small and medium enterprises in the Czech Republic, for whom adopting sustainable practices is crucial. This is something we are very happy about” added Vratislav Žáček. “Preparations for the second year have already begun. We are confident that we will again have a chance to come across companies that will prove how small and medium-sized enterprises in the Czech Republic are determined in their pursuit of becoming more sustainable and are ready to be future-proof.”
An interview with Jury Chairwoman Helena Továrková
Q: Can you describe the companies and initiatives that entered the competition?
A: Many of them were focused on waste or product recycling – mainly plastics. Several entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector also signed up, those who work in organic farming as well as those who are looking for a more sustainable approach to conventional farming. Applications from the construction industry were also strong.
Q: What did the jury appreciate most about the winners of the competition?
A: All three winning projects are paving the way with new, innovative solutions, where many others have not thought to venture yet and none of them are daunted in their ambition to expand beyond the borders of the Republic. In Javorník, for example, they combine plant and animal production perfectly so they can sell organic products to Switzerland, although of course, they would like to see them consumed in the Czech Republic as well.
At Stabilplastik, they work with recycled plastic derived from materials that are not otherwise processed, but they do not stop there, they optimise their pallets using integrated chips to simplify and streamline logistics across Europe.
And CleverFarm offers solutions for precision agriculture, which is an area in crop production in our country that is still underdeveloped. CleverFarm is gradually expanding worldwide, with orders from Africa, for example.
Q: Was there an applicant that you found particularly interesting?
A: I was pleasantly surprised by the Kutná Hora Wine Cellars, which develop their own products for strengthening or protecting plants using herbal extracts which are then offered to the agricultural sector. If they can expand with these products, even a relatively small winery can have a significant impact.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for companies considering a sustainable path?
A: Calculate your carbon footprint or – better yet – have it calculated by experts. Find out where your business is lacking and subsequently what needs to be done to offset the climate and environmental impact of your company. Every effort counts, but it is always better to focus sustainable investments where maximum returns are guaranteed.