Submitted by Piraeus Bank
The first international conference “Business and Biodiversity in Natura 2000 sites: The way forward”, which discussed the various opportunities arising for businesses in Natura 2000 sites, was held in Athens and Stymphalia. Delegates from the EU, the private and public sector, as well as high level representatives from across businesses, government and the civil society, discussed the various ways in which the private sector could provide complementary funding for managing biodiversity and ecosystems, as public funds are increasingly scarce while the needs are growing.
“The engagement of the private sector in generating complementary financing opportunities for the protection of Natura 2000 sites is dictated by the European Union’s policy. We are actually implementing this policy for the first time in Greece, through the LIFE-Stymfalia project. Piraeus Bank, a pioneer in green business, is now creating innovative investment solutions for Natura 2000 sites, which cover 27% of the terrestrial area of "‹"‹Greece. We aspire to prove that nature protection can be an important tool for the sustainable development and the creation of new jobs”, said Mr. Vrassidas Zavras, Piraeus Bank’s General Manager for Green Banking.
During the Conference, there were dedicated sessions spotlighting the opportunities and challenges to finance Natural Capital in the EU, the EU policy framework and the role of the LIFE programme, as well as the need for the integrated management of natural and cultural capital at the landscape level. At the heart of the discussions was the business opportunities arising in protected sites, such as organic farming, eco-tourism and renewable energy.
The conference’s concluding remarks were included in the LIFE-Stymfalia Statement, encouraging all stakeholders to move beyond the perception that Natura 2000 sites are an obstacle to development and to recognize them instead as opportunities for promoting sustainable business that favours biodiversity and ecosystems.
In launching the Statement, Dimitrios Dimopoulos, Director of Piraeus Bank’s Environment Unit, told the plenary audience that it is important for national, regional and local authorities, Natura 2000 managers, NGOs and businesses, to collaborate in exploring and forming comprehensive strategies to support business projects and initiatives that maintain and enhance biodiversity and ecosystems in Natura 2000 sites.
On the second day of the Conference, the delegates visited the PIOP Environment Museum of Stymphalia and were guided from the exhibition "The Sixth Labor" of Hercules to the heart of Ancient Stymphalos through the environmental interpretation trail "Man and Nature on the Paths of Time", which was constructed within the LIFE-Stymfalia project. The participants had the opportunity to experience the connection between nature and cultural heritage in a site steeped in mythology and history.
The two-day international conference was organized in the context of LIFE-Stymfalia project. The project is run by Piraeus Bank in partnership with the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation (PIOP), the Municipality of Sykionion, OIKOM LtD, The Society for Protection of Prespa, and Centre for Renewable Energy Sources and Saving.
Piraeus Bank Group is one of the most dynamic and active financial organisations in Greece today. Founded in 1916, Piraeus Bank went through a period of state-ownership and management (1975-1991) before it was privatised in December 1991. Today, Piraeus Bank leads a group of companies covering all financial and banking activities in the Greek market (universal bank). Piraeus Bank possesses particular know-how in the areas of retail banking, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), capital markets and investment banking, leasing and financing of the shipping sector. Piraeus Bank Group has a growing international presence, focused in Southeastern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean, but also in the financial centres of London and New York. Main strategic targets of Piraeus Bank Group are: further enhancing market shares in Greece and abroad wherever it operates, improving service quality and customer satisfaction, creating innovative products, further enhancing the Group's position in retail banking and small and medium-sized enterprises financing, strengthening the Group in the areas of asset management and bancassurance and, finally, strengthening profitability with a view of constantly increasing shareholder value.
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