“An Eco-Industrial Park can be defined as a community of manufacturing and service businesses located together on common property. Members seek enhanced environmental, economic and social performance through collaboration in managing environmental and resource issues”.
[Ernst Lowe, 1997]
Until recently, sustainable business practices were widely ignored or overlooked by most of the enterprises operating in industrial zones. Due to challenges related to global climate change and a decrease in the supply of resources such as fuels, materials, and water, ecological and social factors are becoming crucial in the industry’s plans to remain competitive. Governments and the private sector have become supportive of a more modern and sustainable investment regime for industrial zones.
One of the first times that the concept of Eco-Industrial Parks was formally discussed was at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. In the 1990s, European countries, the USA, Japan, and Canada as well as some developing countries such as China and India had started adopting some Eco-Industrial concepts. In the early years, the focus of Eco-Industrial Park interventions was waste management and pollution mitigation; creation of industrial ecosystems; and sharing of utilities, by-products, and wastes between companies through the application of industrial ecology principles.
As part of the maturing of the concept in the past two decades, a broader focus emerged by addressing a range of environmental, social, and economic topics relevant to the sustainable development of Eco-Industrial Parks. In the 2000s, Japan, China, and South Korea expanded their Eco-Industrial Park efforts supporting them with national policies as a means to boost their competitiveness in global markets. In the past decade, Eco-Industrial Parks became a prominent global concept for developing new industrial parks and retrofitting existing parks in over 40 countries.