Chapter 1: Introducing the Social Embeddedness of Industrial Ecology
Frank Boons and Jennifer Howard-Grenville In the last 15 years, industrial ecology has proven to be a powerful label for scientists, policymakers and practitioners to develop new perspectives on and ways of dealing with the ecological consequences of industrial activities. Scientists from various disciplines, including the natural and technical sciences as well as social and management sciences, have been inspired by the label. While from its inception industrial ecology has displayed a technological bias, its development, diffusion and application has implications that can fruitfully be studied from social science perspectives. Indeed, industrial ecology at its basis is a social construction (CohenRosenthal 2000). However, social science contributions to the field are scattered throughout the literature, and only loosely connected with technical and natural science approaches. As with other attempts to combine insights from different disciplines, the industrial ecology field displays a tendency to develop islands of knowledge with infrequent visitors from other areas. In this book, we focus on perspectives that address the social embeddedness of industrial ecology: the ways in which material and energy flows are shaped by the social context in which they occur. Our purpose is threefold. First, we bring together empirical work that explores this social context of industrial ecology. Much of this work can fruitfully offer insights into the complex interactions between individuals and organizations that have material and energy streams as their consequence. Major questions include: what is the social context in which material and energy flows are produced, how does this social context enable...
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