BRUSSELS – At this year’s European Development Days, the European Commission’s annual forum on international affairs and development cooperation, public and private sector experts agreed on the need for a collaborative approach to Green Industry implementation. This conclusion was arrived at in a forum discussion, organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), focused on how to mobilize the private sector for environmental sustainability.
In front of a diverse audience of sustainable development leaders, thinkers and practitioners, the expert panel engaged in a lively analysis of the opportunities and challenges surrounding private sector involvement in accelerating a greener model of industrial production.
Emphasis was put on the need for the private sector to operate in a conducive and supportive policy framework in order for green industries to provide economic growth and technological innovations.
European Commission policy units are “increasingly working with industry and enterprises and not against economic interests,” said Carina Vopel, Head of the Resource Efficiency and Economic Analysis Unit, at the European Commission’s Environment Directorate-General, and added that a structural transformation across the economy is needed.
Richard Northcote, Member of the Executive Committee and Head of Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainability at Bayer MaterialScience, pointed out that despite the efforts of the public sector to create enabling environments, the private sector often successfully develops green solutions and technologies only to find that they cannot market them due to prohibitive costs and regulatory barriers. Due to this , “industry is finally coming around to seeing that collaboration is the way forward”, said Northcote.
UNIDO Representative to the European Union, Christophe Yvetot, introduced UNIDO’s Green Industry Initiative and the multi-stakeholder Green Industry Platform, as a tool to create transformative partnerships by aligning public and private sector interests. He highlighted that the Green Industry Platform fosters dialogue among the private sector, governments and civil society on successful approaches to improving the environmental footprint of industry.
To underscore this fact, Yvetot listed the successes that had been achieved on the ground through collaborative action, for instance in Bangladesh where waste pollution by the leather sector had been reduced by 90% and its water consumption by 50%.
“All successful examples, whether from the private or public sector, need to be shared since they can help others realize that together we can move things,” Yvetot concluded.
This view was seconded by Brigitte Dero, General Manager of the European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers and Deputy-General Manager of VinylPlus, the voluntary commitment of over 180 European companies in the PVC industry, which recently joined the Green Industry Platform.
She outlined a successful example of an approach to circular economy which involved the recycling of flooring from the London Olympic Games to furnish schools in the United Kingdom, adding: “We joined the Green Industry Platform to share our experience and expertise with other stakeholders.”
The discussion, which was moderated by Paul Hohnen of Sustainability Strategies, rapidly settled on the fact that no one solution or actor could bring about a decisive change in the way industry produces and consumes. The panel’s overall outlook was summarized by Richard Northcote, who noted: “If you have competition, it drives specialization; whereas if you have collaboration, it drives change.”
More information, including a podcast of the panel discussion, is available here.