Establishing an Eco-Industrial Network for Small to Medium-Sized Enterprises in the Mid-West Region

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Resource or Project Abstract

While SMEs contribute to growth, employment and rural development they also exert quite significant impacts on the environment. It is estimated that, in total, SMEs are responsible for 70% of all industrial pollution across the EU (EC Enterprise Directorate General, 2004). Though often under less scrutiny from environmental groups than larger corporations, SMEs are also under pressure for improved environmental performance. As large corporations are deciding to improve the environmental quality of their product they are including environmental performance in their buying criteria creating pressures for their suppliers, most often SMEs, to address environmental issues in a systematic and rigorous manner. Therefore, promotion of an environmental management system (EMS) whether formal or adapted in character may help address environmental impacts while also improving the socio-economic performance of SMEs. In addition, the performance of individual SMEs in relation to sustainable development can be further enhanced by analysing opportunities for network solutions to environmental and socio-economic problems. Identifying and using synergies and linkages between cooperating industries can be used to improve resource efficiency and minimise waste. These concepts are central to this project. This project adopted action research methods that emphasise the generation of practical knowledge in a local context and in partnership with practitioners (in this case representatives from the participating SMEs, the RWMO, UL and the EPA). As this project was concerned with company networks, it focused on the plurality of experiences and the capacity in the network as a possible driver for enriching the environmental performance of all participating companies. The project duration was 18 months. As far as possible the principles of IE were applied within the individual assessments and identification of collaboration opportunities. However, as the participating SMEs were geographically scattered, their operations and survival were so dynamic that it was possible only to commence the development of a functioning IE network in this time. One company moved operations to China, two companies closed down, one shed a large number of jobs and two others changed the nature of their business entirely during the project. Indeed, without planning from the stage of industrial park construction, membership of companies coming into parks and provision of support services, a functioning IE network is unlikely to arise in Ireland under such dynamic, uncertain conditions. The objectives of the project were as follows: 1 To establish a project Steering Committee which included representatives of the participating SMEs, policy makers, local community groups and researchers 2 To design, test and validate an environmental review document for SMEs and to provide guidance on legal responsibilities 3 To establish an environmental review procedure for SMEs 4 To identify environmental problems faced by individual SMEs and recommend potential environmental improvement options available to them individually and as a network 5 To carry out an EF analysis of the SMEs for the purpose of raising environmental awareness and to demonstrate how the implementation of best environmental practice scenarios can enhance the SME environmental performance 6 To calculate the EF reduction potential that might be achieved through the implementation of best environmental practice in specific areas of each of the SME activities 7 To assess the value of the EF as a tool for measuring sustainability in SMEs 8 To use the principles of IE to identify ways of improving the environmental performance of the individual SMEs and the network 9 To report on findings to individual companies, the EPA and industry bodies (as agreed by the EPA)

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. Bernadette O'Regan
University of Limerick
Senior Lecturer
Department of Chemical and Environmental Sciences, University of Limerick, Limerick City, Limerick, Ireland
Telephone: +353 (0) 61 202552
e-mail: bernadette.oregan@ul.ie

Professor. Richard Moles
University of Limerick
Director - Center for Environmental Research
Department of Chemical and Environmental Sciences, University of Limerick, Limerick City, Limerick, Ireland
Telephone: +353 (0) 61 202817
e-mail: richard.moles@ul.ie

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Below is a selection of the [ 17 ] files attached to this resource : To view the list of all data and information products attached to this resource you will need to view the Full Attachment List

Attachment Name and Download Link
End of Project Report    STRIVE_19_ORegan_SME_epr.pdf  (0.97 Mb)
Offline Print Quality Version    STRIVE_19_ORegan_SME_syn_prn.pdf  (2.42 Mb)
Project Report Optimised For Online Viewing    STRIVE_19_ORegan_SME_syn_web.pdf  (2.5 Mb)
Att 4    _ORegan_SME_epr_Appendix11.pdf   (0.17 Mb)
Att 5    Oregan_SME_epr_Appendix10.pdf   (0.81 Mb)
Att 6    ORegan_SME_epr_Appendix9.pdf   (0.02 Mb)
Att 7    ORegan_SME_epr_Appendix8.pdf   (0.04 Mb)
Att 8    ORegan_SME_epr_Appendix7.pdf   (0.22 Mb)
Att 9    ORegan_SME_epr_Appendix6.pdf   (4.0 Mb)
Att 10    ORegan_SME_epr_Appendix5.xls   (0.05 Mb)
Att 11    ORegan_SME_epr_Appendix4.pdf   (0.04 Mb)
Att 12    ORegan_SME_epr_Appendix3.pdf   (0.05 Mb)
Att 13    ORegan_SME_epr_Appendix2.zip   (0.34 Mb)

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Author(s)O'Regan, B. Moles, R.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationEstablishing an Eco-Industrial Network for Small to Medium-Sized Enterprises in the Mid-West Region
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL http://erc.epa.ie/safer/resource?id=abc15b24-436e-102c-b381-901ddd016b14
Unique Identifierabc15b24-436e-102c-b381-901ddd016b14
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2017-07-28

An example of this citation in proper usage:

O'Regan, B. Moles, R.   "Establishing an Eco-Industrial Network for Small to Medium-Sized Enterprises in the Mid-West Region". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland http://erc.epa.ie/safer/resource?id=abc15b24-436e-102c-b381-901ddd016b14 (Last Accessed: 2017-07-28)

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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL http://erc.epa.ie/safer/iso19115/display?isoID=104
Resource Keywordsecological footprint SME Small-to-Medium-Sized Enterprises Sustainable Development Eco-industrial network Mid-west Limerick Shannon
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2004-SD-MS-18
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeSocio-Economics
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Public-Open
Limitations on the use of this ResourceThe attachments to this resource are open access. You may freely download these digital resources. However, if any of the download resources are used in any publications, presentations, or other derived products (digital or otherwise) a proper acknowledgement and citation should be provided. A sample citation is provided on this system.
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 20
Project Start Date Thursday 10th March 2005 (10-03-2005)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Thursday 10th March 2005 (10-03-2005)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Sunday 10th September 2006 (10-09-2006)
Published on SAFERTuesday 3rd February 2009 (03-02-2009)
Date of Last EditWednesday 31st July 2013 at 16:26:32 (31-07-2013)
Datasets or Files Updated On Tuesday 10th March 2009 at 09:19:32 (10-03-2009)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
All companies that participated in this study were guaranteed confidentiality. Each company was assigned a letter, and is referred to as Company A, Company B, through to Company R. The companies were diverse in their activities and geographically dispersed throughout the region , so that there were both sectoral and location-specific issues to consider in terms of their individual performance and In total, 20 SMEs formally committed to the project, while 18 of these provided detailed data. These companies were from a diverse range of sectors, including packaging, plastic moulding, electronics, furniture production food, waste management and light engineering. They were located within a 43-km radius of Limerick City. Of the 20 companies, eight were located in Shannon, six of which were in Smithstown Industrial Estate and two of which were in the Shannon Free Zone. Seven companies were in Limerick City and the remaining five were located in rural County Limerick collaboration opportunities.

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
The aim of this research was to carry out an environmental performance assessment and identify and evaluate performance improvement measures using the principles of IE as well as to carry out a sustainability appraisal of SMEs in the Mid-West Region using the EF metric. engaging SMEs in the drive towards sustainability is vital because they constitute the majority of companies and, taken as a whole, they have the largest environmental impact (Ries et al., 2003), contributing perhaps as much as 70% of all industrial pollution (Ammenberg and Hjelm, 2003). Attaining corporate sustainability means that companies must measure and report all their environmental impacts in a way that is consistent, transparent and easily understood. The ecological footprint (EF) is an environmental indicator that measures environmental/ecological impacts (Barrett and Scott, 2001). Economic activity and productivity require ecological inputs of raw materials, energy and social inputs of labour and human-made capital, and the ecosphere?s ability to absorb wastes and pollution (Holland, 2003). This project was unique in the Irish context and raised many policy issues that need to be tackled if Irish industry is to progress towards SD. Small- to mediumsized enterprises have a substantial environmental impact when viewed cumulatively. There is still significant scope for Government to develop effective policy with a specific focus on SMEs and it would be important for the Government to take intermediaries, such as universities and industry bodies, into the consultation process when developing these policies.
Supplementary Information
Some papers and presentations are provided as attachments to this resource.


The role of the CER was crucial and provided administrative infrastructure and technical expertise. The participation of SNS ensured success as it encouraged its member companies to participate and provided researchers with helpful, interested contacts. Member companies already worked together in projects and therefore the necessary mutual trust was already present.The SMEs that participated in this project recognised their individual and collective responsibility for SD. The interest and commitment of senior management within the SMEs was invaluable in the success of the project . The mutual trust between the SMEs, policy makers and the researchers resulted in the sharing of information about possible innovations .The establishment of the Steering Committee provided a platform for SME management and policy makers to interact . The network provided an arena for cross-sectoral interaction between companies. The environmental review reports and recommendations provided the participants with clearly defined and achievable environmental efficiency measures. The review procedure encouraged companies to examine their own processes and operations to identify environmental improvement opportunities . The review templates were provided to the companies so that they could use these to monitor their own progress over time and after the project had ended . The contribution that each SME makes towards achieving SD was measured quantitatively using the EF. Some SMEs expressed an interest in participating in a car-pooling scheme in order to reduce transport EFs .Quantified EF reduction scenarios were successfully applied to the EFs of each SME to demonstrate the reductions in environmental impact that can occur as a result of implementing ?best? or better practice . Waste reduction, reuse, and recycling were important to all the SMEs . The SMEs were aware of the need to reduce the use of energy and natural resources by improving designs, use of technology and reducing packaging. Participating companies would be supportive of using the EF in a regional certification or award scheme. Daughter projects such as the EPA-funded Pallet Exchange Demonstration Project have resulted directly from the success of this project. It is hoped that this will grow and develop into a broader materials exchange 18 At the end of the project two of the SMEs were planning on improving their environmental management by implementing ISO 14001. SD appraisal techniques can be used to distinguish between those SMEs that future-work towards improving their environmental performance and those that do not . The UL CER SNS Committee continues to have regular monthly meetings with stakeholders to discuss possible paths of future development of the eco-industrial network project CER, Centre for Environmental Research;Acronyms used SNS, Supply Network Shannon; SME, small- to medium-sized enterprise; SD, sustainable development; EF, ecological footprint; EPA, Environmental Protection Agency; UL, University of Limerick.

A help guide about the benefits for SME for being part of a network is attached to this resource.
Links To Other Related Resources
  http://www.ul.ie/~cer/econet/index.htm (Opens in a new window)

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