Over the last decades, the massive consumption of natural resources and the large production of waste and pollutants have pointed out the need to rethink the economic growth as a non-antagonistic process with respect to environmental protection.
There now is widespread recognition that industrial activity plays an essential role in a sustainable society and that a radical change in the traditional manufacturing system is therefore necessary.
Over the past few years, the integration of sustainability objectives (resource protection, ethics, health, safety, life quality) into the economic processes has been adopted at European level. The Göteborg Strategy (COM 2001) introduced a fundamental cross-cutting approach to every integrated policy: “decoupling”, i.e. allowing economy to grow without any corresponding increases in terms environmental pressure, thanks to the enhancement of the efficiency of production and consumption systems and, at the same time, to find alternatives to the use of natural resources, through a progressive dematerialization process (OECD 2001). In the European Council’s guidelines for economic development and employment (2006) the global economic-ecological development is instrumental to the increase of the member Countries’ economic growth, in the framework of a “win– win–win” scenario of economic, environmental and social development; similarly, the European Commission has repeatedly stressed the need to achieve greater increasing wealth rates than increasing impact rates (COM 2003, 2005, 2009).
The command-and-control policies have proven inadequate to meet these goals: therefore new technological and management tools are necessary to activate virtuous processes which, based on environmental protection principles, could positively influence the economic process costs, by making enterprises more efficient and competitive. One of these concrete tools, which have the potential of changing today’s industrial development paradigm (Cote, 1997) is the design and implementation of Eco-Industrial Parks (EIP). According to the definition provided by the U.S. President’s Council on Sustainable Development, eco-industrial parks are “a community of businesses that co-operate with each other and with the local community to efficiently share resources (information, materials, energy, infrastructure and natural habitat), leading to economic gains, improvements in environmental quality and equitable enhancement of human resources for the business and local community” (USPCSD 1997). According to Lowe and Warren (1996), EIPs are defined as “a community of manufacturing and service businesses seeking enhanced environmental and economic performance through collaboration in managing environmental and resource issues including energy, water, and materials […] the community of businesses seeks a collective benefit that is greater than the sum of the individual benefits each company would realize if it optimized its individual performance”. In comparison to other regulative tools (EMAS, Environmental Audit, Environmental Management Schemes, etc.), the value-added characteristics of EIPs planning and design consist first of all in having introduced a “systemic” dimension, which diverts attention from the single plant or process to the enterprises’ environmental integrated management. Although the impacts at the level of the individual firm or process are still considered to be important, they need to be connected to the wider industrial ecosystem to be dealt with as a single complex entity, ensuring high performance levels in pollution prevention and health and safety protection. Secondly, this new tool differs from the traditional environmental management methods because of its pre-emptive character, able to anticipate at an earlier stage the environmental topics, which are no more limited to the analysis of existing processes, but which are dealt with through the definition of criteria and performances to be accomplished by a process to be environmentally integrated into the industrial park. Within this framework, eco-industrial parks were introduced in Italy in 1997 through the institution of the so called “ecologically equipped industrial areas” (Area produttiva ecologicamente attrezzata, Law no. 57/1997); later, the Decree no. 112/1998 defined these areas as “industrial areas equipped with infrastructures and systems able to guarantee health, safety and environment protection” (art. 26) and it entrusted the Regions with the responsibility to implement EIPs. Since then, many Italian Regions have started working on the definition of eco-industrial park design, implementation and management of criteria. At present, fifteen out of twenty Regions have regulated this topic in different ways: some of them have just transposed the national law without proceeding to the implementation phase as requested; others have seriously addressed the eco-industrial park design and implementation issue, by working out interesting methodological, procedural and legislative suggestions. In general, according to Italian laws, EIPs should adopt advanced infrastructural and managing tools within an integrated quality system in order to guarantee the attainment of high environmental standards. These concepts are resumed and deepened in a regional dedicated technicalnormative act according to which the development of new eco-industrial parks or the conversion of existing industrial areas into eco-industrial parks is based upon the consistency with land use characteristics and the equipment of the park with technologically advanced infrastructures and facilities, to be managed by an Area Manager in an integrated way. To make sure that sustainability measures are successfully implemented within the EIP, the Area Manager’s role set out by the Italian legislation appears to be fundamental. The Area Manager’s activities can be subdivided into three phases: 1. Preliminary activities: control over the fulfillment of the set preconditions; enterprise selection. 2. Implementation activities: control over the design criteria to be implemented; endowment of common infrastructures and services (i.e. water works, sewages, power plant, TLC networks, logistic services, etc.); administrative and legal support; organization of education and refresher courses; 3. Monitoring activities: the Area Manager shall be responsible for the monitoring process to be implemented in order to measure the environmental outcomes and the EIP actual performance according to the pre-defined sustainability objectives, checking and adjusting, if necessary, the park implementation, identifying and managing any unforeseen impact. In conclusion, even if at present, eco-industrial park implementation in Italy is still at an early stage, it show a great potential thanks to key ecoindustrial park features: the high degree of project pre-planning and design, the presence of site management mechanisms and monitoring during its implementation. In fact, by taking into account the local economic, social and environmental context, EIPs design and implementation aim at creating the favourable economic development conditions by means of a more sustainable industrial development model. REFERENCES Commission Communication COM. 2001. A Sustainable Europe for a Better World: A European Union Strategy for Sustainable Development. 264 final, 15.05.2001. Commission Communication COM. 2003. The World Summit on Sustainable Development one year on: implementing our commitments. 829 final, 23.12.2003. Commission Communication COM. 2005. Draft Declaration on Guiding Principles for Sustainable Development. 218 final, 25.5.2005. Commission Communication COM. 2009. Mainstreaming sustainable development into EU policies: 2009 Review of the European Union Strategy for Sustainable Development. 0400 final, 24/07/2009. Conticelli, E. and S. Tondelli. 2009. La pianificazione delle aree produttive per lo sviluppo sostenibile del territorio [Industrial parks planning for a sustainable spatial development]. Firenze: Alinea. Conticelli E., Tondelli S. (2013) Application of Strategic Environmental Assessment to Eco-Industrial Parks: Raibano Case in Italy. Journal of Urban Planning and Development, Vol. 139, No. 3, September 2013, pp. 185-196 Cote, R. 1997. Industrial ecosystems. Evolving and maturing. Journal of industrial ecology 1(3): 9- 11. Lowe E. A. and Warren J. (1996) The Source of Value: An Executive Briefing and Sourcebook on Industrial Ecology. Battelle Pacific Northwest Library , Richland. Lowe, E. A. and J. Warren. 1996. The Source of Value: An Executive Briefing and Sourcebook on Industrial Ecology. Richland: Battelle Pacific Northwest Library. USPCSD (U.S. President’s Council on Sustainable Development). 1997. Eco-industrial park workshop proceedings: October 17-18, 1996, Cape Charles, Virginia.