Table of Contents

The Social Embeddedness of Industrial Ecology

The Social Embeddedness of Industrial Ecology

Edited by Frank Boons and Jennifer Howard-Grenville

Most work on industrial ecology continues to emphasize its roots in engineering and the technological sciences. This book differs in that it explores the social context of industrial ecology and presents empirical work addressing how cognitive, cultural, political and structural mechanisms condition the emergence and operation of industrial ecology. The empirical chapters are written from various social science perspectives and the editors have also invited reflective commentaries by authors with cross-disciplinary experiences.

Chapter 4: Eco-industrial Parks and Industrial Ecology: Strategic Niche or Mainstream Development?

David Gibbs

Subjects: business and management, corporate social responsibility, management and sustainability, organisational behaviour, environment, corporate social responsibility, environmental management, environmental sociology


David Gibbs INTRODUCTION Recent years have seen a growing interest in industrial ecology from both an academic and a policy perspective. Some authors have been quick to claim a leading position for industrial ecology in environmental research – Ashford and Côté (1997) term it a new unifying principle to operationalize sustainable development, while Allenby (1999) calls it the ‘science of sustainability’. Similarly, from a policy perspective claims have been made that industrial ecology presents an opportunity to implement sustainable development, combining economic and social benefits with environmental improvements (Korhonen et al. 2004; Opoku 2004). Despite these claims much of the work on industrial ecology remains speculative in nature. Whether they examine theoretical or real-life situations, most authors, whether academics or policymakers, theorize what could be done in potential or existing industrial systems through exploring potential connections and synergies between constituent firms, rather than providing empirical evidence of whether this is happening on the ground. Indeed, a longstanding theme has been what might be termed the ‘implementation gap’ in industrial ecology, that is, the difference between the theory of industrial ecology and what has been achieved in practice (O’Rourke et al. 1996; and see Boons and Janssen 2005; Chertow 2007 for a more recent evaluation of progress to date). All of this raises questions as to whether an industrial ecology approach has any practical utility and whether industrial ecology can make the leap from the descriptive analysis of materials and energy flows in industrial systems toward a prescriptive framework offering concrete...

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