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By-Product Synergy: A Case Study of Tampico, Mexico

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In October 1997, the Business Council for Sustainable Development - Gulf of Mexico (BCSD-GM) launched a demonstration By-Product Synergy project in Tampico, Mexico with a group of 21 local industries. The goal was to promote joint commercial development among economic sectors so that one industry's wastes became another industry's inputs. The project demonstrated that by working together, industries can maximize use of potentially profitable materials which otherwise may be treated as "waste". By reusing by-products as raw materials rather than disposing of them as waste, companies save energy reduce environmental damage, and gain potential trade opportunities. They may also lower their greenhouse gas emissions, while cutting the demand for raw materials and landfills. The Tampico project provided an opportunity to put those ideas into practice. The goals of the demonstration BPS project were to identify a minimum of five synergies, foster greater understanding of eco-efficiency, and create a new community of companies with greater industry leadership. This summary report documents and disseminates the project's successes, shares the lessons learned, and recommends ways to overcome barriers in future by-product synergies.

BACKGROUND

Several member companies of the American chapter of the Business Council for Sustainable Development for the Gulf of Mexico (BCSDGM) have experienced individual successes with by-product synergies. These have been documented in the primer, "By-Product Synergy: A Strategy for Sustainable Development - A Primer" (April 1997). The American and Mexican chapters of the BCSD-GM wanted to test the idea of approaching by-product synergy in a systematic manner. Rather than stumble upon synergies haphazardly, the idea was to seek these potentially profitable synergies among a group of industries.

The Tampico-Cuidad Madero-Altamira region offered an ideal location for a demonstration by-product synergy project. Most of the major industries in the area were already linked for other business purposes through the powerful network of the Asociacion de Industriales del Sur de Tamaulipas (AISTAC). Eighteen of the twenty-one companies are members of this association; the demonstration project was able to take advantage of the association's structure and relationships.

The region has recognized that it must set a zero waste - 100% product goal, if it is to shift to a sustainable industrial economy. Eco-efficiency has been an ongoing pursuit within these companies; most companies are ISO 9000 certified and several are ISO 14000 certified. The BCSD-GM is advancing these efforts a step further by identifying and capitalizing on opportunities to promote eco-efficiency across industries, not just within a given industry.

The Tampico region with a population of approximately 800,000 is located on the Gulf of Mexico. It is one of the busiest ports in Mexico. Most of the participating firms were chemical and petrochemical companies (see Appendix 1).

The driving forces behind the project were the BCSD-GM, (American and Mexican chapters) AISTAC, and the strong leadership and support of Mexican industrialist Ing. Eduardo Prieto Sanchez M., director general of GRUPO/PRIMEX, and president of the BCSD-GM Mexican Chapter. The US Environmental Protection Agency, NAFTA's Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), the AVINA Foundation, and the Ford Foundation also supported the project, which was managed by Susana Hurtado, a local facilitator.

THE PROCESS

The entire process took approximately fourteen months, plus the evaluation period. The proposal for a generic BPS Project estimates that it should take nine to twelve months, with two additional months to evaluate the results.

Awareness

Project organizers began by seeking the support and commitment of a core group of participant companies. Ing. Prieto and Susana Hurtado worked together to sell the idea to the CEOs of major industrial companies in the area. …