Lombardy, one of the most important crossroads for European communication networks, is the fourth largest and the most populated Region in Italy. Its GDP accounts for 21% of the national one and its production system features large, medium and small firms. 36% of Lombardy’s GDP originates from the industrial sector, 62% from services and 2% from agriculture.
The Lombardy Region has far-back endorsed a series of actions aiming at:
- promoting and raising awareness on models and tools for environmental sustainability, even by means of ad hoc public announcements of competition: local Agenda 21, green public procurement, environmental accounting, Environmental Management Systems (EMS), Energy saving, sustainable development;
- guiding, training and providing aid to local institutions willing to implement innovative projects;
- signing ad hoc agreements with other local authorities and institutions (Chambers of Commerce, Universities and Research Centres) for the implementation of sustainability projects;
- providing the Strategic Environmental Assessment for the 2007-2013 European Union Programs, by means of an integrated evaluation and participative process in all phases;
- adopting new regulations and measures for the improvement of air quality and the reduction of Greenhouse gases.
In the last years, the implementation of the EMAS Regulation has played a crucial role for the diffusion of the cluster approach among the Region policy priorities. In particular, the need to promote EMAS among those firms facing problems of implementation because of lack of resources has led the Region to test the Scheme at the territorial level, within clusters and local production systems.
The environmental impacts of single firms located in larger productive areas or clusters can hardly be singled out and independently assessed with respect to those generated by similar and adjoining firms, as well as to aspects generated by overall industrial activity of the area. This is true not only for homogeneous industrial clusters, but also for highly industrialized areas hosting a wide range of diverse industrial activities.
The first experience in Lombardy dates back to the ‘90s and concerns the Filago Area (BG) where five chemical firms are located. These firms have an independent management but are strictly linked each other and share common services. As provided for by the Italian EMAS Board, these firms have established a Committee for the monitoring of the area’s all environmental aspects and the adoption of all necessary measures to achieve the continuous improvement required by the EMAS Regulation. The approval of a single environmental statement for all involved firms makes the Filago case the first official implementation of an “EMAS cluster” approach in Italy.
After this pioneering project, the Lombardy Region has adopted the cluster approach in other homogeneous industrial areas, as well as in larger and more diverse clusters. Other pioneering projects centred on the cluster approach have been implemented thanks to the financial support granted by European Union institutions and by the Lombardy Region, such as:
- S.E.NO.MI. Sustainable EMAS NOrth Milan, a LIFE project aimed at promoting the EMAS certification in the northern Milanese area, within industrial districts developed on disused steelworks once owned by industrial groups such as Falck and Breda. The project intends to convert the area in the name of economic, environmental and social sustainability;
- VALLI BRESCIANE (Brescia Valleys), a cluster hosting firms specialized in metals’ processing and plating with relevant environmental impacts related to emissions in the atmosphere, the use and release of used water and waste production. The project, started in 2003 in collaboration with Unioncamere Lombardia, aims at improving the firms’ environmental performance by promoting the adoption of EMAS at cluster level. Furthermore, the project is complemented by the assessment of the efficacy of newly introduced organizational and technological innovations.