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Sustainability oriented network meshes for industrial regions
Thomas Sterr, Institut for Environmental Economic Analyses (IUWA), Germany
As the development towards sustainability in business is increasing worldwide, the necessity of developing appropriate instruments becomes more and more obvious. Network structures are of fundamental importance in this process. However, these instruments must be formed in such a manner that their goals, assignments, organizational construction, and means through which they solve problems are able to adequately fulfill the diverse dimensions of sustainability. According to the author promoting sustainability in business requires at least two kinds of networks: one for interorganizational exchange and connectedness of diverse actors from business, the scientific community, and politics, and another driven by more homogenous actors in which group-specific and sensitive questions can be treated under sustainability aspects prior to being discussed in an overarching forum. Thus, several specialized networks, which ought to be connected and interlinked, are required if one wishes to not only discuss, but also materially realize sustainability goals. The presentation itself will reflect the authorís insights as a participating observer in this field. Being engaged in the establishment of formal/informal network structures both on the theoretical-conceptional as well as the practical side since 1996, and currently active as a moderator and a board member in diverse networks, the author will present basic structures and lessons regarding opportunities and limitations involved in network development. A special emphasis will be placed on finding means of convincing industrial businesses to actively partake in sustainability oriented networks, as well as on the resulting common goods that can subsequently either be made available to the public or be restricted to members (club goods). In the final section, the author introduces such a mesh of networks which not only satisfies individual interests of network members, but also encourages a sustainability-oriented behaviour, contributes to a positive image, and promotes the economic competitiveness of an entire industrial region.