Sustainable Manufacturing and Environmental Pollution Programme

Research Seminar: Tackling Manufacturing Pollution in the South

The uptake of productive capacities by developing countries has delivered important economic and social gains. But as productive capacities increase, countries often incur various types of air, soil, and water pollution as a consequence of manufacturing in response to domestic and foreign demand. The resulting impacts of pollution on the local environment and human health imposes a limiting factor to social development, and therefore, competitiveness.

Pollution-inducing manufacturing activity does not occur in isolation. Many of the pollution effects can be traced to exports, making the linkages between producers and buyers very important to improve environmental governance of production and trade. Across sectors, trends are observed for increasing adoption of data-production and traceability technologies which will clear the fog between production and consumption ends of the value chain, stimulating better behaviour on both ends.

Policy developments such as the EU Sustainable Products Initiative (SPI) are also likely to raise the environmental bar for products entering developed-country markets, which will increasingly tie environmental performance to the ability to compete in foreign markets.

This seminar discussed themes related to the pursuit of SDG 12 in developing countries, especially as growing trade integration and economic diversification cast a shadow of pollution linked to local production. The seminar focused on Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and South Asia (SA), areas which are being supported through the Sustainable Manufacturing and Environmental Pollution (SMEP) Programme, established by UK-FCDO and implemented in partnership with UNCTAD.

In specific, four themes were discussed, each supported by a draft research paper, available here:



While each session had thematic specificities, they were united by an overarching narrative calling for attention to pollution effects other than GHG emissions. Those effects, such as water soil and air contaminants, as well as plastic pollution, all share similar patterns of damage to biodiversity, reducing ecosystems services, and indirectly increasing unknown risks such as microplastic-health interactions and release of pathogens (e.g., epidemics-inducers).


The goal of the seminar was to compare evidence structured in the four research papers (based on elements from the SMEP programme and recent thematic literature), with the experience from practitioners with thematic experience on the sectors and target regions.


The ultimate objective was to advance understanding of common themes that intersect across various types of pollution beyond climate impacts, in view of assisting the deployment of SMEP funding assistance expected in the 2nd half of 2022.


This virtual event was part of the Sustainable Manufacturing and Environmental Pollution Programme, supported by the UK-FCDO.

View the programme here


Crossposted from the UNCTAD website.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Johannes Pokorn on Unsplash

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