The Social Embeddedness of Industrial Ecology
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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.
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Chapter 6: The Social Embeddedness of Industrial Symbiosis Linkages in Puerto Rican Industrial Regions

Marian R. Chertow and Weslynne S. Ashton


Marian R. Chertow and Weslynne S. Ashton INTRODUCTION Industrial symbiosis occurs among firms in geographic proximity that engage in ‘a collective approach to competitive advantage involving physical exchange of materials, energy, water, and by-products’ (Chertow 2000). Communication, trust and willingness to cooperate have been found to play important roles in the development of these collaborative relationships, but have not been as well-studied as more technical aspects until recently. Several authors, most notably Hoffman (2003), have challenged industrial ecology researchers to tie in social science disciplines as environmental issues merge technical and social dimensions. Perhaps more than other industrial ecology concepts, industrial symbiosis clearly necessitates an understanding of the social dimensions that would facilitate inter-firm collaboration. As with business clusters studied by Michael Porter and others, industrial symbiosis has been found to be more successful in those locations where ‘pre-existing locational advantages exist’ (Chertow 2007). Part of this phenomenon is explained through the recognition, often overlooked by industrial ecologists, that existing firms are already embedded within a region’s organizational structures. For the past decade, research at Yale University’s Center for Industrial Ecology has explored the existence of industrial symbiosis and further potential for developing it in locations across the US and the world. Most notably, over seven years (2001–2008), these studies were conducted under the ‘Puerto Rico: An Island of Sustainability’ project, examining different industrialized regions of this Caribbean island. Initial studies focused on technical factors – industry identification and material flow analysis. Through the course of the research, we uncovered...

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