Can Industrial eco-systems reinforce resilience?

Political interventions, economic turbulence and climate change can all place companies under severe pressure. Could a focus on developing industrial eco-systems help to relieve some of this pressure, making organizations more resilient and even thrive under these conditions?

Industrial eco-systems operate in a similar way to nature and can be a way to address and build resilience under tough economic conditions. In its most basic form, individual companies interact within their ecosystem to utilise waste and by-products from other industries as inputs to their processes. This is relevant for creating synergies between respective businesses to access new opportunities. It is also a way to improve ecosystem and environmental management.

We workshopped the industrial eco-systems with several companies in Reunion Island during a recent Circular Economy Forum, to get their take on critical success factors such as the need to work with competitors, clustering, localisation and reducing costs to become competitive. Having regional cooperation, data transparency, Centers of Excellence, political interventions and acceptance have all been highlighted as essential requirements to create a good system and improve circular functioning. Working within an industrial eco-system can have important environmental and sometimes even social impacts. There is a focus on encouraging innovation, resource efficiency and sustained growth.

Example industrial eco-systems: Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park in Denmark

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 14.25.50Kalundborg Symbiosis is an industrial ecosystem, where residual products of one enterprise are used as a resource by another enterprise, in a closed cycle. An industrial symbiosis is a local collaboration where public and private enterprises buy and sell residual products, resulting in mutual economic and environmental benefits.

Key impacts here include:

  • 3 Million cubic meters water saved through recycling and reuse.
  • Biogas from yeast slurry formed during production of insulin.
  • 150.000 Tonnes gypsum recycled from flue gas desulphurization (SO2); Replacing natural gypsum (CaSO4) import.

We similarly asked companies in Reunion Island how they can create synergies leading to a more circular economy. They highlighted that it is essential to have a collaborative approach to build local dynamics and use collectively. This approach is in line with TOMA-Now’s focus on developing impactful and resilient value chains.

Mastering complex supply chains

Be transparent while harnessing the power of a collective. Working with key members of the value chain can positively support these outcomes.

  • Ecosystems can close manufacturing loops while treating waste as a resource.
  • Develop partnerships with other industries to trade by-products.
  • Increase efficiency of industrial processes.
  • Reduce virgin materials and energy, while becoming resource efficient.
  • Reuse or substitute with eco-friendly materials to conserve resources.
  • Incorporate items like energy supply within the eco-system.

Key requirements for robust ecosystems

Need for public-private sector inter-municipal cooperation and joint planning of development zones. Companies listed the following benefits:

  • Savings from material purchasing, licensing fees and waste disposal costs.
  • Improved environmental protection.
  • Treating waste as an additional revenue stream.
  • Improved relations with other industries and organisations and market advantages.
  • Enhanced corporate image.