Environmentally Sound Technologies and Cleaner Production (EST & CP) play a significant role in sustainable development as it contributes to the application of resource-conserving and environmentally-sound modes of production particularly in the economic sector. EST & CP use resources in a more sustainable manner, produce less pollution, recycle more of their wastes and products, and handle residual wastes in a more environmentally acceptable manner. The essential role of EST & CP is thus to protect the environment and conserve scarce natural resources by providing preventive environmental management through the more efficient use of non-renewable resources.

Recognising the significant contribution of EST to sustainable development, ASEAN, has included a policy framework for the promotion of EST & CP in the Vientiane Action Programme (VAP) 2004-2010. Designed to achieve Vision 2020 of clean and green ASEAN, the VAP aims, among others, “for zero waste and minimal impact on the environment, and promote business opportunities in environmental goods and services, through relevant environmentally sound technologies.”

The specific programme areas and measures in the VAP on EST are as follows:

3.3.4   Promotion of environmentally sound technologies   Operationalise an appropriate ASEAN-level regional mechanism (centre/network) to promote environmentally sound technologies   Foster effective government-business-innovative financial mechanisms to promote environmentally sound technologies especially among the SMEs   Adopt region wide environmental management/labeling schemes to promote economic growth and environmental protection.

Pursuant to the above strategy and programme measures, , in December 2001, ASEAN, with the support from the United States, conducted A Feasibility Study on Means to Promote Environmentally Sound Technologies in the ASEAN Region. This study was further followed by An Assessment for the Establishment of an ASEAN Regional Centre or Network to Promote Environmentally Sound Technologies, which was supported by Japan .

An ASEAN Workshop on ESTs and Cleaner Production (CP) was held on 29 November-1 December 2004 in Kuala Lumpur to review the studies and assessments, as well as to set recommendations and follow-up actions. The key recommendations were to initiate the ASEAN-NEST (ASEAN Network on ESTs and CP), and establish an ASEAN databank on ESTs and CP. ASEAN is currently working on the follow-up actions of the recommendations, to eventually achieve environmental sustainability through ESTs and CP. A Multi-stakeholder Workshop on EST and CP is planned to be held sometime in 2007.