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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 7: Transgenic Crops in Brazil: Scientific Decision-making for Social Ambiguities?

Jeremy Hall and Stelvia Matos

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


Jeremy Hall and Stelvia Matos INTRODUCTION The social aspects of new technologies have become an increasing source of concern for managers, policymakers, researchers and other stakeholders, especially in developing countries. In the context of industrial ecology, one of the challenges consists in integrating social factors into its analytical processes. In this chapter, we discuss these challenges. We argue that sustainable development, the recognition of interactions among economic, environmental and social parameters, has replaced the narrow environmental management perspective where industrial ecology emerged. Sustainable development is more complex, a situation where there are many interacting variables, and often ambiguous, i.e. where it is difficult to identify key variables and how they interact with each other (Hall and Vredenburg 2003; Matos and Hall 2007). We use the biological analogy suggested by Frosch (1992) and Frosch and Gallopoulos (1989) and Graedel (1994) to interpret the core concept of industrial ecology. We suggest that, as in biological systems, industry, society and ecology are complex systems with many variables and many interactions (Spiegelman 2003). Such complexity indicates that imperfect information is the norm rather than something that can be assumed away. Under these circumstances, the underlying industrial ecology optimization strategies based on assumptions and heuristics advocated by orthodox economics, scientists and engineers have limitations: a search for satisfactory solutions is more appropriate (Simon 1969). We thus define industrial ecology as a managerial approach that aims to avoid and reduce wastes by considering the interactions amongst and within complex systems (for example, manufacturing processes, industries and...

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