Keywords: social theory, society, industrial ecology, implementation, social science analysis, eco-industrial parks, innovation, sustainable buildings, sustainability, sustainable development
The social dimension of industrial ecology: on the implications of the inherent nature of social phenomena
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.