|Industry Cleaner production|
by Kelly Friesen
In the past, Central and Eastern European (CEE) industries were often reluctant to adopt environmental practices and technologies because of high price tags. The use of "end-of-pipe" solutions, which treat pollution after it is created, was expensive while diminishing profits and competitiveness.
Companies can now improve their environmental profile while simultaneously reducing costs through a strategy known as "cleaner production," also termed "eco-efficiency" or "pollution prevention." The strategy forwards the efficient use of resources and energy, with less waste output, improved product design and better environmental management. "Eco-efficiency helps de-couple costs from sales, leading to increased profits?" says the World Business Council for Sustainable Development's Director of Stakeholder Relations, Claude Fussler.
As CEE countries approach EU accession, cleaner production is becoming an increasingly important way to reach EU directives on pollution and resource management. The Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) directive is a good example of cleaner production in practice in CEE. The IPPC guides industries to implement the "best available techniques," encouraging the use of low-waste technologies and less hazardous substances and materials, the reduction of raw material and energy consumption, and increases in the recovery and re-use of materials within production processes.
Businesses may see how cleaner production can benefit both the environment and their bottom lines. Lack of knowledge on how to implement cleaner production often, however, keeps them from reaping the advantages. In response, cleaner production centres (CPCs) aid businesses worldwide, including those in CEE, in implementing cleaner production. "Cleaner production centres are selling a very valuable service to business: cost reduction," says Adam de Sola Pool, a chief investment officer for Environmental Investment Partners.
In Estonia, the government is helping to bridge the gap in knowledge between CPCs and industry. The local CPC assists with the training of authorities responsible for issuing integrated environmental permits, as required by the IPPC directive, and engages in awareness-raising and training for industries in preparation for permit applications.
However, without government support like that in Estonia, business is unlikely to take advantage of the opportunities. Furthermore, without demand from business, the ability of CPCs to continue their activities is threatened, thereby threatening the ability of CEE countries to meet the EU's environmental and IPPC directives.
"Business does not now connect the demands that they improve their environmental performance with the opportunities available through cleaner production centres," said REC Business and Environment Program representative Gerald Fancoj. "Many of them are not even aware of the centres at all. The EU must bridge this gap in knowledge, by making the language of cleaner production the language of environmental policy."
The Bulletin, April 2000