Industrial Parks make a key contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Image: Jimmy Chang via Unsplash

Industrial Parks make a key contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: The case of the Malagueño Industrial Park

By directly aligning with key SDGs, industrial parks serve as pivotal engines for progress.

By Fernando Palacio, Roger Palacio and Delfina Alvarez

Sustainable Development Goals

The current global economy is highly dependent on fossil fuels, exacerbated by a growing population, putting significant strain on society and the environment. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), part of Agenda 2030, constitute a global call to action to eradicate poverty, preserve the environment, promote justice, and improve quality of life and opportunities for people worldwide. These goals consist of 169 specific and interacting objectives. These can only be achieved through the active collaboration of all stakeholders.1

The SDGs have been conceived at a global level, but their implementation depends on actions in specific locations and by individual companies. This is because, while the desired outcomes may be similar, each context presents unique characteristics and challenges that require a tailored approach. This approach must grapple with local socioeconomic and environmental realities, and identify opportunities to overcome barriers through creativity and innovation.

Industrial parks: Urban territorial infrastructure

An industrial park can take many forms, but broadly speaking it is a community of manufacturing and service firms located on common property. Companies that relocate to industrial parks are often seeking to leverage synergies towards better environmental, economic and social performance, echoing the three sustainability layers mentioned above.2

This can be achieved through lower transport costs between co-located firms, reduced waste through the re-use of by-products as inputs in complementary industries, and shared warehousing and other infrastructure. This offers economies of scale to small or micro-enterprises that make up the majority of industrial park tenants – large companies have the means to procure property and infrastructure in their own right.

These clusters also promote the establishment of common environmental, social and economic goals, with a direct impact on the city or region in which it is located. Industrial parks can therefore play a valuable role in achieving many of the SDGs, as we will see in the following case study.

Case study – Malagueño Industrial Park

The Malagueño Industrial Park is located in the Argentinian province of Córdoba. Covering 36 hectares, its construction began in 2010 and was completed in 2021. It has the capacity to accommodate 44 companies and, as of April 2024, has approximately 50% occupancy with three manufacturing plants under construction.

The planning stage was approached systematically, considering the vocations, needs, knowledge, identities and interests of the various social actors involved. The relationship between the industrial park and its physical, biological and social environment was also taken into account. This careful approach is already bearing fruit.

Social impact: The creation of over 680 jobs in the last 10 years shows that the industrial park has contributed to improving the quality of life of the community. Additionally, companies have implemented training programmes and adopted effective occupational health and safety measures for this group of employees.

Malagueño Industrial Park

Environmental impact: The business community of the industrial park established common objectives in its environmental management plan. This has driven cleaner production and reduced waste through measures such as energy efficiency systems.

Economic impact: Industrial and service symbiosis has successfully reduced production costs and strengthened the value chain. For example, a mechanical maintenance company provides services to others in the cluster. Additionally, logistical optimization has contributed to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The concentration of industrial functions away from residential areas can contribute to all three areas simultaneously. For example, relocating a logistics company that formerly operated large trucks from four locations within the city has improved the social and environmental profile of the city while reducing costs for the company.

The Malagueño Industrial Park

The Malagueño Industrial Park contributes to achieving the SDGs

The industrial park directly contributes to achieving several objectives under the SDGs, including SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure); SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production); SDG 13 (Climate Action); and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).

These impacts are reflected in improvements in the quality of life, the promotion of sustainable environmental practices, and the boost to economic competitiveness.

Figure 2 identifies the impact of the Malagueño Industrial Park on the SDGs and their objectives: positively contributing to 75 objectives and having a balanced contribution to 19 objectives (in terms of their social and environmental aspects). Nine objectives are negatively impacted by the industrial park – the result of emissions, the use of non-renewable materials, or soil and water pollution. For the remaining 66 objectives, no relationship could be identified.

Contribution of Malagueño Industrial Park to SDGs

Final thoughts

Industrial parks can play a crucial role in achieving the SDGs, but they require sensitive and collaborative planning to ensure they meet the specific needs of the local community, economy and natural environment. The planning of a new industrial park should explicitly consider its location, zoning, infrastructure, common spaces and green areas, rules and regulations, road access, as well as flexibility and future expansion.

Moreover, these considerations should be applied to all stages in the life cycle of an industrial park, including the design, construction, operation and closure of the installation.

Finally, the opportunity afforded by Industry 4.0 should be an explicit component of industrial park planning. New technologies and processes can boost their contribution to the SDGs by improving the energy efficiency of infrastructure, promoting industrial symbiosis and improving waste management. Advances in data analytics, the Internet of Things and digital twins have the potential to reduce the environmental footprint of industrial parks and improve productivity, thereby contributing to the well-being of local communities, as well as the global objectives of the SDGs.

  • Fernando Palacio is a Civil Engineer and holds a Master's degree in Environmental Management of Urban Development (UNC). He is an SME entrepreneur and works as an environmental manager, having completed the GEIPP course (UNIDO).
  • Roger Palacio is an Architect with training in environmental management of urban development from the National University of Córdoba (UNC). He is an SME entrepreneur and manager of the Malagueño Industrial Polygon.  
  • Delfina Alvarez is an Architect who has completed her training at UNC. Additionally, she is currently attending the course on Sustainable Industrial Parks by UNIDO and has contributed to the graphics for this publication.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the authors based on their experience and on prior research and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNIDO (read more).

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