Boons, F., Chertow, M., Park, J., Spekkink, W. & Shi, H. (2016) Industrial Dynamics and the Problem of Equivalence: Proposal for a Comparative Framework, Journal of Industrial Ecology.


Industrial symbiosis (IS), one of the founding notions within the field of industrial ecology, has diffused throughout significant parts of the world as a practice that can reduce the ecological impact of the industrial processes of groups of firms. In this article, we propose a fresh look at this research topic, building on the considerable advances that have been made in the last 15 years in understanding how IS comes about. We propose a conceptual and theoretical framework for taking on the challenge of comparative analysis at a global level. This requires developing an approach to address a solution to the problem of equivalence: the difficulty of comparing instances of IS across different institutional contexts. The proposed framework emphasizes IS as a process and attempts to address the obstacles to comparative study by (1) identifying terminology to examine IS variants, (2) providing a typology of IS dynamics, and (3) formulating key research questions to illuminate a way forward. In developing our argument, we build on the collective experiences of collaborative research efforts in North America, Europe, and Asia as evidenced in recent overviews of the literature.

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