Workshop11. For a Multilevel Approach of Industrial
Symbiosis Dynamics


Anne Hewes (Ecomaine)



UIC Forum, Room I



The objective of the workshop is to discuss the possible ways to link research at macro, meso and micro level to understand the process of development of Industrial Symbiosis.


Many contributions to our understanding of the implementation of more sustainable industrial systems have arisen recently research at a level of sociotechnical network and inter-organizational action. To a smaller extent, some studies have shown as well the importance and usefulness of studying both human agency at an individual level (Hewes & Lyons, 2008) and institutional displays at a macro level (a region, a community, etc.) (Salmi et al., 2011). We know that these levels are linked, and some proposals have been made in that sens (Boons & Spekking, 2012), but as Wall & Paquin (2015) have reminded us, we still lack a theoretical multi-level model relevant to integrate the different scales of analysis.


More generally speaking, there are already some theories and conceptual models available in other academic fields and disciplines. For instance, in the political science area, many researches has been done to understand the interplay between the different territorial levels of political entities (see the multi-level polity/governance literature, such as Hussein Kassim & Patrick Le Galès, 2010). In the organizational and management science field, the question of to what extent an organization is more than the sum of its members is as well discussed for a long time (see for instance Mintzberg’s classical writing on organizations strategy).


Last but not least, the self-organization model – already used in the industrial ecology field - suggests a recursive effect between the micro and the macro level (Chertow & Ehrenfeld, 2012): the individual actions are embedded in a larger technical and environmental context, economic and cultural conventions, a common history and social networks that enable people to meet, to find common interests and to act cooperatively; in the other direction, successful individual actions retro-act on networks, institution and local communities that "learn" from individual actions and enrich the common frame of action.


Numerous other theories and frameworks tackle this issue. If we consider that an interdisciplinary dialog would be welcome to overcome the diversity of contributions and theoretical backgrounds, we can now rely on the recent article of Boons, Chertow, Park, Spekkink and Shi (2016). The authors propose a set of ideal- patterns on the socio-technical dynamic of industrial symbiosis formation and identify key research questions. They define a generic framework for bringing closer the very diverse perspectives, scales and types of research results on the social process of implementation of more sustainable industrial ecosystems.


This workshop aims at bringing a reflexion on the different ways to study and understand the multilevel phenomena of industrial symbiosis development. On the other hand, the workshop is also an opportunity to discuss how the multilevel approach can help to go further in research on Industrial Symbiosis dynamics.



Boons F. and Spekking W. (2012). Levels of Institutional Capacity and Actor Expectations about Industrial Symbiosis Evidence from the Dutch Stimulation Program 1999–2004. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 16(1), doi: 10.1111/j.1530-9290.2011.00432.x
Boons F., Chertow M., Park J., Spekkink W., and Shi H. (2016). Industrial Symbiosis Dynamics and the Problem of Equivalence: Proposal for a Comparative Framework: Industrial Symbiosis Dynamics. Journal of Industrial Ecology. doi: 10.1111/jiec.12468
Chertow, M., and Ehrenfeld, J. (2012). Organizing Self-Organizing Systems: Toward a Theory of Industrial Symbiosis. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 16(1), 13-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1530- 9290.2011.00450.x
Hewes, A. and D. I. Lyons. 2008. The humanistic side of eco-industrial parks: Champions and the role of trust. Regional Studies 42(10): 1329–1342.
Kassim H. & Le Galès P. (2010): Exploring Governance in a Multi-Level Polity: A Policy Instruments Approach. West European Politics, 33:1, 1-21
Mintzberg H. (2003). The Strategy Process: Concepts, Contexts, Cases. Pearson Education - 489 pages
Salmi O., Hukkinen J., Heino J., Pajunen N., and Wierink M. (2011). Governing the Interplay between Industrial Ecosystems and Environmental Regulation, Heavy Industries in the Gulf of Bothnia in Finland and Sweden. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 16(1), doi:10.1111/j.1530-9290.2011.00403.x


Number of Participant: 20