Slovenian sustainable business network adapts Pioneers programme to benefit its members

Sustainable business network CER Slovenia decided to tailor the EIT Climate-KIC Pioneers programme for its members, offering them an opportunity for empowerment and knowledge-sharing. Following its first delivery in 2021, Pioneers delivery partner Spela Krzisnik Mesaric says the practical programme was a success, with participants – and their managers – providing very positive feedback.

“The Pioneers programme brought a lot of added value to our members and the tools provided have also been helpful for us at CER Slovenia. The best part of being a Pioneers partner is to see the positive energy coming from participants. The younger generation is eager to learn and change the world – it is great to see there is still hope!”

Spela Krzisnik Mesaric, Marketing & PR Manager and Pioneers 2021 Delivery Partner

CER Slovenia is a sustainable business network comprised of 90 members, mostly companies. Working to build a more sustainable economy in Slovenia, the network believes that a climate-neutral and circular economy is the only possible future and companies must adapt to the challenges and opportunities present.

Spela Krzisnik Mesaric, Marketing & PR Manager at CER Slovenia, said that once the network heard about the EIT Climate-KIC Pioneers programme, they thought it would be beneficial for its members – especially the younger employees. “The programme was quite open in 2021 and we could adapt it,” says Spela. “Once we heard about it, we thought we could adjust it to our needs and it was a good opportunity to share knowledge and help empower our members,” she adds.

CER Slovenia strived to adapt the programme as practically as possible and participants were all Slovenian. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme took place fully online – meaning that Slovenian participants living outside the country could also join.

Instead of the usual Pioneers group projects or placements, participants had to come with a case study from their company and work on a project to forecast how their company would look in 2030 and 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 55% by 2050. By taking this approach, CER Slovenia ensured that Pioneers would bring climate action directly into their companies, thereby helping prepare Slovenian businesses for decarbonisation and transition more easily to a climate-neutral world where they can remain competitive.

Coaches were on hand to help participants create a climate-neutral pathway for their company and pushed them to think creatively. Pioneers worked both in groups and individually on their company challenge and needed to use systems innovation thinking and tools to present their vision. For Spela, this new approach was a success and was one of the programme’s main attractions: “This is a totally different kind of learning experience to your usual conferences and workshops – the programme helped dramatically shift participants’ thinking, especially in their work. They were really engaged and it prepared them to become agents of change within their companies.”

Sustainability consultant Ram Dušić Hren joined Pioneers because he wanted to expand his knowledge and meet like-minded people. “Systems thinking and innovation was familiar to me, but Pioneers gave me many additional creative tools and resources I now use in my work. I’m also grateful for the connections I made and for the interactive sessions where we could exchange views and knowledge,” he said.

Another positive aspect of the programme was that participants’ managers were also satisfied. Spela says, “As we were able to tailor the programme, our participants had to work on and deliver something directly beneficial for their company. It was great to receive positive feedback about this approach – and its outcomes – from both participants and their managers.”

At the end of the programme, participants each had three minutes to present their projects on an online forum and answer follow-up questions from sustainability and business experts. In future, CER Slovenia hopes 2021 participants can meet in person – and that it can run the programme again.

Check out our Week of Action videos to find out more about the programme, how it links to climate action and hear more from previous participants and partners: