Title: The social dimension of industrial ecology: on the implications of the inherent nature of social phenomena

Authors: Walter J.V. Vermeulen

Addresses: Department of Environmental Studies and Policies, Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development and Innovation, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80115, NL–3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands

Abstract: A substantial body of scientific literature has grown on the necessity, opportunities and attractiveness of industrial ecology strategies. In many cases, proponents claim combined ecological and economic gains. Yet, mainstreaming of industrial ecology practices shows slow progress. Theorists often use a simplified model of an actor|s behaviour in society, stressing a |single actor rational choice| approach Yet, they have proposed innovations that imply social processes going far beyond this model. They involve processes of multiactor cooperation, divergence in actor group characteristics and interactions among various domains of society (state, science, production, civil society and people). In this paper my central position is that proper understanding of these social phenomena is essential in understanding the (slow) progress in mainstreaming industrial ecology. This calls for a more central role of an empirical retrospective social science analysis, as demonstrated with cases in the fields of eco-industrial park development, and innovation and sustainable building.

Keywords: social theory; society; industrial ecology; implementation; social science analysis; eco-industrial parks, innovation; sustainable buildings; sustainability; sustainable development.

DOI: 10.1504/PIE.2006.012754

Progress in Industrial Ecology, An International Journal, 2006 Vol.3 No.6, pp.574 - 598

Published online: 13 Mar 2007 *

Full-text access for editors Access for subscribers Purchase this article Comment on this article