Eco-Industrial Parks (EIP) foster economic and social progress and help to protect the environment. This future-oriented eco-industrial development concept integrates industry and nature to offer businesses prospects for growth, improve eco-systems and foster innovation. UNIDO’s eco-industrial park approach is an inclusive and sustainable development strategy seeking to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It rejects the trade-off between economic growth and the environment.
Today, the world largely accepts that industrial growth is a must. It helps to relieve developing and emerging economies from poverty, delivers goods and services, creates jobs and improves standards of living. But it also consumes resources, water and energy at a faster-than-sustainable rate, and generates waste and pollutants that nature cannot absorb.
Local solutions to the scarcity of resources and industrial pollution include pooling and sharing, which make use of geographic proximity of enterprises representing traditionally separate industries. Together, they gain competitive advantage by exchanging materials, energy, water and by-products. One’s waste becomes another's resource.
This so-called “industrial symbiosis” is the key idea of eco-industrial parks. By pooling together, companies can also benefit from transfer of green technologies, application of resource-effective methods and reuse of waste energy and materials.
Stephan Sicars is the Director of the Department of Environment at UNIDO, whose team implements the Organization’s eco-industrial park programme. He explains why there is little time left for shifting to the eco-industrial model:
“If the current business-as-usual practices are sustained, scientists estimate that by 2050 three planet Earths will be needed. Eco-industrial parks promote the circular economy, water resource conservation, recycling and the sound management of waste, as well as the utilization of industrial synergies.”
The UNIDO approach is to upscale and expand resource efficient and cleaner production activities in order to move beyond the borders of eco-industrial parks and incorporate them into “sustainable cities”. In such cities, economic and social symbiosis can be achieved in all aspects of sustainable urban planning. Waste streams can be exchanged on a regional scale, making use of a wider range of infrastructure, logistics and recycling and waste-to-energy options.
UNIDO also promotes the development of national programmes on eco-industrial parks. These programmes link the existing local projects into a network of national stakeholders and help countries in a comprehensive and coordinated strategic planning of EIPs.
Finally, these projects will integrate the outcomes into national policies and create links with companies and the financial sector. The goal is to finance, establish and upgrade industrial parks to eco-industrial parks.
“Eco-industrial parks better integrate industries in the cities through the creation of shared economic opportunities, improved ecosystems and innovative avenues for responsible businesses. EIPs help to achieve the triple bottom-line benefits: economic, environment and social”, says Smail Alhilali, Industrial Development Officer at UNIDO.
There are numerous examples of successful eco-industrial parks which show how the model can generate positive impacts on the local and regional economic performance by enabling new and innovative business opportunities, and increasing regions’ and companies’ competitive advantage, as well as saving costs due to reductions in waste, resource and energy consumption.
In China, one of the most successful EIPs, the Shenyang Development Area (SDA), established a circular economy promotion fund (with a total value of US$4.8m) to support key industrial symbiosis projects. The bulk of investment is being dedicated to supporting public infrastructure at SDA for water pipelines, a natural gas pipeline and heat pumps. This led to increased competitiveness of companies, reduced resource costs, lessened dependence on coal, and increased sales due to “green” and niche marketing.
There are also social benefits created by EIPs, including improvements to the quality of life of local communities as a direct result of general infrastructure provisions, and enhanced quality of education resulting from educational and training programmes. Higher health and safety standards achieved in EIPs also benefit employees and workers.
Some companies offer social benefits as part of their deliberate strategies for corporate social responsibility (CSR). For example, the industrial park Sidi Bernoussi in Morocco, runs a project to improve well-being of slum dwellers, and the Tunisian Industrial Areas of Djebel Oust and Bir M’Cherga have been constructing a dedicated social centre to improve communities’ quality of life and hygiene, as well as to enhance the infrastructure, such as banking facilities.
Modern eco-industrial parks drastically reduce negative environmental impacts caused by industrial operations through environmental management and pollution prevention systems. For example, in 2010, Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park I (VSIP I) was given the Award for Green Technology by the Vietnam Environmental Protection Association for its contribution to environmental conservation. A number of companies in the VSIP I, such as Procter & Gamble Indochina, Uchiyama, Yakult, Esquel Garment, MHE Demag Vietnam, Takako and Estec, have ISO 14001 certification. As a result, these companies are continuously seeking to improve their environmental and social performance through cleaner production and resource efficiency solutions.
By Ilia Dohel
For more information on UNIDO’s Eco-Industrial Park Programme, please contact:
Smail Alhilali, Industrial Development Officer
From waste to profit (article by Rene van Berkel, UNIDO, Making It magazine, 10 December 2009)
Ecological enterprise zones: next generation industrial strategy or fool’s gold? (article by Philip Monaghan, Director of the Infrangilis research agency, Making It magazine, 13 March 2016)