Changing Stocks, Flows and Behaviors in Industrial Ecosystems

Changing Stocks, Flows and Behaviors in Industrial Ecosystems

Edited by Matthias Ruth and Brynhildur Davidsdottir

Industrial ecology provides a consistent material and energetic description of human production and consumption processes in the larger context of environmental and socioeconomic change. The contributors to this book offer methodologies for such descriptions, focusing on the dynamics associated with stocks of materials and capital, flows of raw materials, intermediate products, desired outputs and wastes, as well as the associated changes in behaviors of producers, consumers and institutions.

Chapter 7: Changing a Firm’s Environmental Performance from Within

Clinton J. Andrews

Subjects: business and management, management and sustainability, organisation studies, economics and finance, industrial organisation, environment, environmental management, environmental sociology


7. Changing a firm’s environmental performance from within Clinton J. Andrews INTRODUCTION Industrial ecologists are becoming interested in better understanding the influences on industrial structure and performance. It is clear that agency exists at several levels, with the fundamental sources of agency in industrial ecosystems being individuals acting as citizens, employees, investors, and consumers. Nations are the key actors on the global stage, but national policies emerge in part from interactions among citizens and organizations. Firms are key actors within sectors, supply chains, and symbioses. Corporate behavior, to some extent, emerges from interactions among employees, and market outcomes emerge from the myriad choices of individual consumers. Individuals are not truly independent actors, however (Scott 2001). Institutions and organizations place formal, regulative constraints on individual choices: the chain of command, the order of work, and legal requirements. They also impose informal, normative constraints, such as a code of professional conduct, a work ethic, or an expectation of environmental stewardship. Some constraints are entirely unwritten and operate as cultural framing assumptions or cognitive biases: for example, humans should be fruitful and multiply, and humans should satisfy their immediate survival needs before addressing abstract concerns that are distant in time, space, or genetic similarity. The conundrum of whether agency determines structure, or vice versa, disappears if one recognizes that they interact (Giddens 1984). Individuals have some leeway to change the organizations where they work and also their governing institutions through quitting their jobs, voting politicians out of office, and buying di...

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