Pathways to industrial symbiosis in China
Case Study

So far GIZ implemented several projects in China promoting concepts of industrial symbiosis. The tool presents a series of case studies and best practice examples generated by various projects.



Main features and components

  1. The BMUB financed project “Energy efficiency and climate-friendly development in a province and selected cities” explored potentials to promote an Industrial Symbiosis programme in Jiangsu province and the development of SIAs in the province, within the context of Circular Economy (CE). The case study looks at the history of CE in China, highlighting the seven pillars of current implementation; how the concept of extending the industrial chain can lead to increased resource efficiency; how a facilitated programme could impact EIPs in China and what risks may be associated with introducing such a programme.

EIPs are seen by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) as being pilot locations where the practical application of CE can be developed. Within this view, the plans have moved from enabling policies to finding ways to further develop parks given the current challenges. To that end within the plan there are seven tasks or pillars which are seen as being key to this success.

  1. Optimise spatial layout
  2. Optimise industrial structure
  3. Realise zero emissions trough chain optimization
  4. Efficient utilization of resources
  5. Centralised treatment of pollutants
  6. Green infrastructure
  7. Standardisation of administration, operation and management of parks

2. The China Association of Development Zones (CADZ) signed a cooperation agreement with the GIZ in 2012 in the framework of the Energy Policy and Energy Efficiency (EPEE) Programme. The aim of the cooperation was to introduce modern concepts and policies for energy efficiency, energy management, and emission reduction based on industrial networks in three selected industrial development zones (Chengdu, Kunshan und Dayawan). Major steps of this cooperation were:

  1. To establish energy efficiency networks together with the responsible administrative bodies (CADZ) and other local partners and industrial companies in three development zones in Chengdu, Kunshan and Dayawan.
  2. to build-up a material flow database for the Chengdu Economic and Technological Development Zone (CETDZ) to centralize and disseminate useful information about material and energy flow as base information for industrial symbiosis;
    and to assist the CETDZ park management in identifying, assessing, coordinating and moderating an industrial symbiosis network;
  3. to support the development of a service platform at CETDZ through training in working techniques, discussion of example cases, and practical application of the acquired working techniques.


Implementation / work steps

Mission 1: Training on awareness raising and IS procedures

The first main task is to assist engineers from the park administration to gather, upgrade, structure and manage data on material and energy flows. Building an accurate database on material and energy flows facilitates the identification of industrial symbiosis and eco-efficiency opportunities. To develop the capacities, a three days training was delivered.

Mission 2: IS network launching conference and company visits

Mission 2 included the following activities:

  • 1 day IS conference and workshop involving companies from the park
  • 2 days of interviews and production line visits to collect data on material and energy flows for 6 companies
  • Steering committee meeting to identify next steps

The IS launching conference gathered together around 25 companies that are active in the park. Some of those companies expressed motivation for interviews.

Mission 3: Feasibility analysis and implementation

Mission 3 included the following activities:

  • 2 days of companies visit on specific IS potentials to support implementation and mobilize company managers
  • ½ day training on feasibility analysis and project management for industrial symbiosis
  • Steering committee meeting to analyze results and close the project

Lessons learnt

  1. Options for Industrial symbiosis in Jangsu Province
  • Before implementation, however, it would be important to decide what would show as success for such a programme.
  • Taking environmental benefits such as landfill diversion of solid waste as benchmarks against success may be regarded as a rather crude measure that would keep a programme focussed only on heavy, solid waste. If a programme were to be predicated on the introduction of innovative, new technology that enabled the extension of the industrial chain, then the type of resources that could be exploited within a programme would be extended beyond the solid waste while still keeping those resources open to be included.


  1. Industrial symbiosis under the EPEE
  • The administration should understand what criteria are important for investors when addressing them. The administration should be aware of that and react to its own advantage.

  • The administration should follow a vision for the future of the CETDZ and specify a minimum threshold that needs to be satisfied considering the master plan of the industrial park.

  • A risk management is needed for settlement projects. Otherwise the administration would leave the control of the development of the CETDZ to companies and could not rectify undesirable developments.

The administration should develop competences regarding the development of the CETDZ into an eco-industrial park or even to a thriving sustainable industrial area. Environmental aspects and a higher level of employment play a decisive role here.


  1. Options for Industrial symbiosis in Jangsu Province

While EIPs have been developed and the concept of extending the industry chain has been introduced and implemented, a number of areas of improvement have been highlighted. These include:

  • Extending the industry chain beyond what has currently been achieved
  • Increased engagement with small and medium sized companies (SMEs)
  • Energy consumption per GDP can be high in some instances
  • Data management with regards to available resources and their potential uses
  • Increased integration of new technology and incubator companies
  • Increase collaboration between companies within and between parks
  • The management ability for implementing CE could be improved in some area


  1. Industrial symbiosis under the EPEE
  1. Energy efficiency networks
  • Energy cost savings of more than 36 Mio. RMB were achieved through the 108 measures implemented. However, investments were almost 50 Mio. RMB.
  • 22.347 tonnes of CO2 were saved through the measures implemented in Chengdu.
  • The biggest savings potential can be found in electrical drives, pumps, management and other technical measures. This part constitutes more than 50% of the whole potential. Savings in air conditioning, refrigerating machines and ventilation as well as savings in compressed air account for 12% each.
  • Improved image of participating companies


  1. Industrial symbiosis elements
  • Detailed IS opportunities detected during the preliminary workshop, the launching conference, and the company interviews performed by the park administration classified by topic
  • The last steering committee meeting with the park administration at the end of mission 3 opened the discussion about potential future development of the industrial symbiosis network.


  1. Development of a service platform
  • Members of the management team participated actively in the interviews and dialogues were oriented towards a fast implementation of initiatives of the administration.
  • The methods learned during the workshops were adopted and positive results from the dialogues were evident.

Specifically, it was achieved that some companies are willing to actively participate in initiatives of the administration regarding the following topics: creation of a platform for the joint resolution of problems under the coordination of the administration; formulation of a Charta of companies regarding Corporate Social Responsibility for companies in the CEDTZ; preparation of a joint sustainability report for all companies and the whole CEDTZ.

The park administration can lead an open dialogue based on partnership with companies without external assistance.


Phase of intervention
Operating SIA, Management, Resource efficiency

Level of intervention
Company, Park management

Energy efficiency, Industrial Symbiosis, Management, Participation and Stakeholder Management, Resource efficiency, Retrofitting, Service Orientation

Target groups
Companies, SME, Industrial area management and operator, Municipalities, Private investors



GIZ project
Energy Sector Reform Program: Energy Policy and Energy Efficiency (EPEE)