Promote the sustainable industrial model of tomorrow

By Lidia Pereira, MEP (EPP Group -Portugal), Co-Chair of the Cleantech Friendship Group.

The Industrial Revolution triggered industry as the European economy’s cornerstone. Nowadays, facing globalisation, sustainability challenges and rapid technology change, the industrial sector is constantly looking not to compromise, but to maintain and reinforce Europe’s leadership. It is precisely alongside with the intensification of pollution and environmental hazards that the concept of Sustainable Industrial Development affirms itself, aiming to minimize the industrial footprint while maintaining economic growth, social advancement and quality of life. Considering the profound changes of paradigms that the recent times have brought, companies have now a window of opportunity to adapt their operations in order to reduce the disruption brought by climate change.

The European Union’s imperative must consist in opening the right paths for industry to shift towards a more sustainable future that will happen with the enhancement of decarbonization. The EU is committed to establish as thoroughly as possible the basis to support a transition to a green and digital economy, through a framework that will allow enterprises to adopt the best industrial model and to be global leaders while sustainable.

In the year of 2022, EU’s industries accounted for 20% of EU’s emissions, being a polluting agent, industry is also an operator of progress, on which lies precisely the solution for a greener future.

In regard to the practical task of promoting an industrial model, it is relevant to understand what makes industries more sustainable, responsive and adaptive to the present and future challenges. Sustainable industrial development must promote a conservative, circular and efficient usage of resources, entering into new business models in which environmental safety is guaranteed by having the control over all stages of production. One of the most important components of sustainability is minimizing environmental impact through pollution prevention and practicing safe chemical management.

If we picture a sustainable industrial environment and once determined to achieve it, certain goals must be kept in mind.

The need to develop a common innovation process with a positive CO2 contribution that generates sustainable products and services is crucial.

Secondly, this industrial future will undoubtedly foresee a strong innovation capacity and a significant contribute to reduce CO2 burdens and increase the competitiveness of SMEs.

The foundation of a sustainable collaborative platform for the development of sustainable industrial environments, with long-term organisation and funding has been part of the EU course of action on this topic and European ambition can only increase from now on.

Industry 5.0 aims precisely for a vision of industry that can go beyond efficiency and productivity and reinforces the industrial contribution to society. This model places the wellbeing of the worker at the centre of the production process and uses new technologies to provide prosperity beyond jobs and growth while respecting the production limits of the planet. It consists on mechanisms that make enterprises move past a traditional focus on technological growth and complements the Industry 4.0 approach by putting research and innovation at the service of the transition to a sustainable, human-centric and resilient European industry. In essence, Industry 5.0 represents a reframing that translates learnings obtained from the pandemic and the need to achieve a more resistant industrial system, truly capable of enhancing and seizing the opportunities in the European Green Deal.

The process of establishing industry as a driver of sustainability demands a lot from governments, public policies’ design and of course from industry-state partnership.

It will ask for new policy instruments, based upon new objectives and mainly, it will require sharpness of action for example when budget allocation needs arise.

From these needs we can deduce that this issued industrial model of the future will demand for an innovative governance. A complex arena where policy processes, areas and governance levels can work in interconnection in the pursuit of efficiency is expected.

It is pragmatically impossible to find a universal formula to achieve sustainable development for the industrial world. The challenges that come along are multiple. Yet, the need to set an actual Agenda capable of generating a universal effort, through increasing determination of governments, of the private sector, stakeholders and civil society has to talk louder. Politically, I deliver a perspective under which elevation to higher standards is crucial to achieve transversally inclusive, sustainable and resilient economic and industrial growth. Industrialization needs to be serving the purpose of creating and supporting peaceful and more prosperous societies and that will be the case through structural transformation and through European initiatives as identified in the Industry 5.0 model.

After all, the sustainable industrial model of tomorrow is an European model, an European effort seeking global dissemination and affirming Europe once again as the home for cleantech and industrial innovation, Europe as the place where sustainability and human well-being comes first and guides ambitious decisions.