Strengthening industrial ecology's links with business studies: Insights and potential contributions from the innovation and business models literature

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Resources, 2014, 3 (2), pp. 362 - 382
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© 2014 by the authors, licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. The declining availability of natural resources and the environmental impacts of continued extraction of primary resources for production activities have forced greater focus on waste streams and recycling activities. Industrial ecology as a field of practice and theory has been closely related to sustainability issues, yet despite the development of much theory and specific tools and methodologies, the link between natural, industrial and economic systems is not convincing. Not only that, the need for delivering sustainable production and consumption practices is increasing, which is demanding new solutions to existing problems, particularly around the degree of novelty. The interaction of industrial ecology with business studies and industrial investment decision-making remains under-developed, and this is likely impacting on the adoption of more sustainable and resource-efficient practices. As such, this paper uses a constructive approach and explores how two areas of the literature can support the development of the industrial ecology field into strategic business practice: firstly, the innovation literature, particularly the emerging work on open innovation and sustainable innovation as a model to understand radical innovation processes and the creation and maintenance of networked systems of firms; secondly, the closely related area of business model (BM) innovation, specifically the emerging typologies of sustainable BMs and how these typologies can be developed and used as a route to positioning recycling activities at the strategic management level of the firm.
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