16-A.3 Expanding Industrial Ecology's Ecological Metaphor - an historical perspective

P. Nieuwenhuis , Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society (BRASS), Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom
Catrin Lammgard , School of Business, Economics and Law, Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, Sweden
Full Papers
  • GIN3027.pdf (211.8 kB)
  • “Two views of the world dominate our thinking this century...the Ecological World View, which contrasts sharply with the polar-opposite Economic World View to which many governments and business leaders subscribe. You are living in a century in which the Economic World View will be superseded by the Ecological World View.”
    (preface to Krebs, 2008)
    Industrial ecology has at least one of its roots in biomimicry in that it uses natural processes, particularly in the context of how the waste of one organism becomes food for another, to inform its fundamental model. We might ask, though, to what extent IE still acknowledges biomimicry? Conversely, where should it be heading? In recent years, various authors have attempted to address this issue and have attempted to broaden the field of IE in various ways, but always by making reference to the underlying ecological metaphor of the discipline (Bey, 2001; Ehrenfeld, 2003; Wells, 2006, Wells and Darby, 2006). Ehrenfeld (2009) also argues that we desparately need a ‘new story’ as a foundation to our world view, one based on sustainability, emphasizing that “reducing unsustainability does not create sustainability” – suggesting, perhaps, a level of agreement with Krebs. This notion of exploring the theoretical boundaries of IE is something pursued more recently by Wright et al. (2009). In an attempt to show a practical application of this broader approach Wright et al. (2009) revisit some of the underlying ecological concepts and apply them to a real world setting in the Burnside Industrial Park in Halifax, NS. It may be appropriate, therefore, to revisit those biomimicry roots.
    This paper builds on previous work that attempts to expand the IE model by exploring long term survival through resistance or resilience. A number of case studies are presented whereby links are made between the long term survival of firms and their resilience as a result of practices that could be interpreted in the context of diversity and succession. The paper will attempt in a limited way to expand the ecological metaphor that underpins IE into new directions, primarily by considering the dimension of change over time in the context of the succession and diversity concepts, and also by focusing primarily on the level of the firm while placing this in a broader sector context. The case studies illustrate the potential practical applications of such an approach. If IE is to develop into the major 21st century discipline it has the potential to – filling the void implied in Krebs’ opening statement – such expansionary explorations are important. This is very much based on ongoing research and it is hoped that more GIN members and IE practitioners will engage in this process. Significantly more effort is needed if we are to progress IE into a role where it can truly inform the essential transition to sustainable societies.
    Bey, C. (2001), Quo vadis industrial ecology? Realigning the discipline with its roots. Greener Management International, 34 (Summer), 35-42.
    Ehrenfeld, J. (2003) Putting a spotlight on metaphors and analogies in industrial ecology, Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1-4.
    Ehrenfeld, J. (2009), presentation to session ‘Creating a sustainable future – new models’, Academy of Management 2009 Annual Meeting, Chicago Ill., August 8-11.
    Krebs, C. (2008) The Ecological World View, Collingwood: CSIRO.
    Wells, P. (2006) Re-writing the ecological metaphor: Part 1, Progress in Industrial Ecology-An International Journal, Vol. 3, Nos. ½, 114-128.
    Wells, P. and Darby, L. (2006) Re-writing the ecological metaphor: Part 2: the example of diversity, Progress in Industrial Ecology-An International Journal, Vol. 3, Nos. ½, 129-147.
    Wright, R., Côté, R., Duffy, J. And Brazner, J. (2009) Diversity and connectance in an industrial context, Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 13, Nr. 4, 551-564.