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Implementing stricter environmental regulation to enhance eco-efficiency and sustainability: a case study of Shandong Province’s pulp and paper industry, China

Wang, Yutao, Liu, Jian, Hansson, Lars, Zhang, Kai, Wang, Renqing
Journal of cleaner production 2011 v.19 no.4 pp. 303-310
administrative management, carbon dioxide, case studies, eco-efficiency, economic performance, energy efficiency, energy use and consumption, environmental law, environmental performance, gas emissions, pulp and paper industry, sustainable development, water utilization, China
There has been much debate on the topic of whether stricter environmental regulations can promote environmental performance and economic performance at the same time. Different researchers have used different indicators to measure environmental performance and economic performance in their empirical studies. However, it is a surprise that few studies have checked the relationship between environmental regulation and eco-efficiency, as the latter is widely regarded as a quite powerful tool of considering ecology and economy together. In this study the background is the implementation in 2003 of the Stricter Discharge Standard (SDS) in Shandong Province’s Pulp and Paper Industry (SPPI), compared to the national standards of China. The stricter regulations were intended to promote corporate change from passive management to active control and from end-of-pipe treatment to cleaner production. This study investigated the eco-efficiency trends of SPPI from 2001 to 2008 in three fields: water efficiency, energy efficiency and environment efficiency. A “de-linking” and “re-linking” tool was used to attain a further evaluation. The study showed that with the implementation of stricter regulation most of the efficiency indicators (except CO₂ emission and energy consumption) had achieved significant improvements, and the overall environmental performance trends of SPPI showed it to be more sustainable. However, the study also found that it was not enough to address a single indicator in the environmental regulation of the pulp and paper industry. More holistic eco-efficiency indicators need to be further considered and introduced to the industry as the next step to create true sustainable development.