Eco-industrial Parks (EIP) have become a central element in China’s industrial strategy to combine industrial development while minimizing environmental impacts and improving resource efficiency. National standard system has been developed as a main tool for assessing EIPs. This paper provides a review of the development of China's EIP standard system. The focus of the analysis is the new national demonstration EIP standard (HJ/T274-2015), including a review of calculation methods for some key indicators. The analysis also provides a comparison with previous standards to identify the main changes and improvements in the assessment of EIPs. Comparison findings illustrate that the new standard provides a more consistent indicator system by providing a consolidated standard system, and offering more comprehensive and quantitative indicators. Moreover, the new standard aims to better manage environmental issues by supplementing more comprehensive environmental indicators. The standard also strengthens the emphasis of the industrial symbiosis dimension in the evaluation of EIPs. By offering optional indicators and giving distinct targets based on contextual conditions for a number of indicators, the flexibility and rationality of the EIP assessments are also enhanced. Although many positive changes have been identified, there are still some shortcomings exist in the new EIP standard. The paper proposes a number of recommendations based on analyzing shortcomings, for instance further improving of the industrial symbiosis indicators, offering social benefit evaluation indicators, and strengthening the reduction action evaluation. China’s experience of setting EIP standards and indicators may provide lessons for other countries’ attempts to develop industrial estate indicators. In order to observe and effectively promote industrial estates at the global range, several remaining research questions that need further exploration are put forward in this study.
With the aim of responding to environmental pollution and global warming, many countries are seeking innovative ways to relieve these problems. Establishing Eco-industrial Parks (EIPs) is considered as one effective way for coordinating environmental pollution and economic development (Lai, 2013; UNEP, 1997; Zhang et al., 2010; Song and Shen, 2015). Though being a policy-concept which is infused with different meanings depending on political, socio-economic and cultural context (Boons et al., 2017), EIP is usually proposed as a community of manufacturing and service businesses seeking enhanced environmental, economic, and social performance through collaboration in managing environmental and resource issues (Lowe, 1997; Valenzuela-Venegas et al., 2016). Practically, a precursor to EIP is the regional industrial symbiosis1 at Kalundborg in Denmark, uncovered in 1990 (Ehrenfeld and Gertler, 1997; Chertow, 2000). Other eco-innovation park cases were also initiated and investigated, such as in the US (Chertow, 2000), Canada (Cote and Cohen-Rosenthal, 1998; Fleig, 2000), Korea (Kim and Powell, 2008; Park et al., 2008, 2016), Japan (Van Berkel et al., 2009; Geng et al., 2010), European countries (Massard et al., 2014) and Australia (Roberts, 2004; Van Berkel, 2007; Van Beers et al., 2007). China began to facilitate the EIP strategy in early 2000s and actively promoted it with the enactment of both cleaner production promotion law and circular economy promotion law (Geng and Cote, 2003; Geng et al., 2009, 2013, 2016; Chiu, 2001; Fang et al., 2007; Shi et al., 2012a, 2012b; McDowall et al., 2017). The first reported EIP case in China is the Guitang sugar-making complex approved by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA)2 (Zhu and Cote, 2004; Zhu et al., 2007). China developed large amount of EIP networks since then. Although EIP can be developed and promoted in different forms, setting of standards and guidelines is found helpful for promoting EIP development in China (Shi et al., 2012a, 2012b). Several regions also designed their own EIP criteria, including Port of Cape Charles in the US, Virginia in the US, Thailand, and the Eco-star criteria in Devens, Massachusetts (Cote and Liu, 2016). Yet only China designed a national EIP standard that is applied in large number of parks, and there is no internationally accepted standard for EIP. Several studies discussed about the EIP evaluation standard system in China. Geng et al. (2008) argued that some of the criteria in EIP standard released by SEPA in 2006 are vague and difficult to evaluate. Meanwhile, the standard is criticized having not considered the principles of eco-industrial development and local realities (Geng et al., 2009). Yu et al. (2014) and Liu et al. (2007) reviewed the EIP performance according to the Chinese EIP standards, and found indicators such as reuse rate of reclaimed water, recycling rate of solid waste are usually challenging for industrial parks to execute.