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The Synergies between Zero Emissions & Zero Waste strategies and Sustainable Development Goals achievement

Published onJun 21, 2023
The Synergies between Zero Emissions & Zero Waste strategies and Sustainable Development Goals achievement
Juan Henriques1,* , Rui Dias1, Marco Estrela2,
Bruno Magalhães.
1Low Carbon & Resource Efficiency, R&Di, Instituto de Soldadura e Qualidade, 4415-491 Grijó, Portugal; 2 Low Carbon & Resource Efficiency, R&Di, Instituto de Soldadura e Qualidade, Taguspark, 2740-120 Oeiras
*[email protected]

Extended abstract


In recent years, the impact of climate change and the scarcity of resources has increased awareness among industries about the importance of promoting new business models and sustainable concepts. Among those new concepts, Zero Waste (ZW) & Zero Emission (ZE) stand out as promising approaches for industry transition. Zero Waste and Zero Emission are strategies for achieving sustainability goals by reducing waste generation and minimizing environmental pollution. These strategies provide a promising opportunity to drive various business models toward a more sustainable future. For instance, in the Zero Waste strategies, the business models associated with reuse, rethink, and redesign represent one of the most important opportunities for products and materials that can bring significant environmental and economic benefits.

The Zero Waste (ZW) concept is described as a vision, a goal, or a guide to promote positive behavioural and structural change around the culture of discarded materials (Connett, 2013). On the other hand, the concept of Zero Emission (ZE) combines ecological and economic goals so that production systems do not emit any type of emission (Baumgartner and Zielowski, 2007). In this sense, Zero Emission is potentially understood as a philosophy that eliminates/minimizes emissions of pollutants that contribute to the reduction of air quality and to global warming, and Zero Waste potentially is understood as a philosophy that eliminates/minimizes waste sent to landfills and incinerators and promotes the reduction/reuse/recycling of materials (Švecová et al., 2019).

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that people enjoy peace and prosperity for all by 2030. The 17 SDGs are integrated and comprehensive, they recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others and that development must balance social, economic, and environmental sustainability (United Nations Development Programme, 2019). Currently, Sustainable Development Goals are widely recognized as a valuable framework for assessing the extent to which various initiatives contribute to sustainable development. Several studies have been developed to try to understand the contribution of the different topics within the scope of SDGS, for example, for Lean Manufacturing (Upadhye, Deshmukh and Garg, 2010), Circular Economy (Schroeder, Anggraeni and Weber, 2019), and Industrial Symbiosis (Henriques et al., 2022).

To the best of the authors' knowledge, the Sustainable Development Goals and Zero Emissions & Zero Waste strategies have never been related. It is important to note that conducting such an exercise is crucial to comprehensively understanding the dimensions of the impact of these strategies. Therefore, the objective of this study is to advance our understanding of how the implementation of Zero Emissions & Zero Waste can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs by identifying potential synergies and collaborative opportunities between these concepts. The authors consider that identifying these contributions and tradeoffs will be important for the definition of business models that derive from these strategies and will contribute to the SDGs.

Methodology and Results

This work is based on a matching exercise with the main objective of identifying the synergies and type of collaboration of the implementation of the Zero Emission & Zero Waste concept and the SDG achievement. For this, a systematic process consisting of the following steps was developed.

Step 1: Granulate the ZE&ZW concept in a set of categories and indicators

A set of categories where is expected that the implementation of the Zero Emission & Zero Waste concept has an impact has been defined. This exercise has identified four different categories for the two concepts and eight different indicators that can be directly related to the SDG framework. Figure 1 presents the concept, categories, indicators, and nomenclature.

Figure 1 Zero Emission & Zero Waste (Categories and indicators)

Step 2: Matching Exercise

The next step was to review the targets and goals of each of the 17 SDGs and correlate them with each Zero Emission & Zero Waste strategy. Each ZE&ZW strategy was analysed in view of the potential contributions to the fulfillment of the SDGs defined targets and goals. To find the links and relations between the ZE&ZW strategies and the SDGs, the methodology used was based on tacit knowledge, external observation, and complemented by Google searches. The matching exercise is shown in three different dimensions:

  1. Indicator indirectly related to ZE, ZW or ZE&ZW,

  2. Indicator directly related to ZE, ZW or ZE&ZW,

  3. No indicator related to ZE, ZW or ZE&ZW.

To better visualize step 2, the synergies between ZE&ZW and SDGs are presented on a matrix basis, allowing identify the contribution by SDG and for each target and goal.

Figure 2 the synergies between ZE&ZW and SDGs

In SDG2 (Zero Hunger), the indirect contribution is represented with T2.4 through ZW1, ZW2, and ZW4. In SDG 3 (Good health and well-being), there is an indirect contribution with T3.9 through ZE2, ZE3, and ZE4. Concerning SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), there is a direct contribution in T6.3 (ZW2 and ZE4), and T6.4 (ZW2). In SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), two targets have direct contributions T7.2 (ZE1) and T7.3 (ZE1 and ZW3). In SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), there is a direct contribution with T8.4 and an indirect contribution with T8.2 (Transversal for ZE&ZW in both targets). In SDG 9 (Industry, innovation, and infrastructure), there is a direct contribution for T9.2 (Transversal to ZE&ZW) and a direct contribution for T9.4 (ZE1, ZW1, ZW2, and ZW3). In SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption, and Production), the targets T12.2 (Transversal to ZE&ZW), T12.3 (ZW4), T12.4 (ZE2, ZE3, ZE4, and ZW1), T12.5 (Transversal to ZE&ZW) have a direct contribution and T12.6 (Transversal to ZE&ZW), and T12.8 (ZE1) with an indirect contribution. In SDG 13 (Climate Action), the indirect contribution is represented with T2.4 through ZE1.In SDG 14 (Life Below Water), the targets T14.1 (ZE4) and 14.3 (ZE1 and ZE4) have both direct contributions. Lastly, SDG 15 (Life on land), the target 15.3 (ZE2) have a direct contribution.

Discussion and conclusions

This study has defined a systematic approach to identify the synergies and type of collaboration of the implementation of the Zero Emission & Zero Waste strategies and the SDG achievement. The main output of this study is the identification of synergies between the ZE&ZW and SDGs achievement. According to the findings of this study, the implementation of ZE&ZW could potentially aid in accomplishing 10 SDGs and 20 targets. In general terms, our analysis suggests that the ZE&ZW implementation has a contribution to achieve SDG2, SDG 3, SDG 6, SDG 7, SDG 8, SDG 9, SDG 12, SDG 13, SDG 14, and SDG 15. The most important synergies can be found in the SDG 12 and the least representative in SDG 2, SDG 3 and SDG15.

The authors consider that a promising perspective for future research and advancement is to support the definition of business models derived from ZE&ZW strategies with the contributions found in this study. The developed correlation matrix between the SDGs and the ZE&ZW strategies will allow to develop and prioritize the business models that will have a more significant impact on the SDGs. For instance, by identifying SDGs that align with both ZE and ZW, we can focus on the identification of specific business models that are applied to these strategies and strengthen these business models with the outputs of both strategies.


Zero Emissions, Zero Waste, Sustainable Development Goals, Industrial Sustainability.


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