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Methodology and experience from initiating and implementing ecopark co-operation

An expanded framework for the industrial ecology concept (IE-concept) and its implementation has been developed in this report. The concept builds on theory and perspectives proposed by other scientists, mainly Tibbs (1992); Ehrenfeldt (1994); Jelinsky et al. (1992) and Lafferty et al. (1997). The expanded concept framework may be presented by the following aspects:

Exploitation of company-internal potentials for sustainable development through:
  • Improving metabolic pathways.
  • Dematerialising output.
  • Internal loop-closing.
  • Improving patterns of energy use.
  • Understanding and adjusting product functionality to real customer needs.
  • Securing a balance between environmental impacts from the company and the carrying capacity of relevant recipients.
Exploitation of potentials through IE-networks through:
  • Loop-closing between companies.
  • Upgrading of waste materials or substances.
  • Systematic use of local/regional resources and infrastructure.
  • Common service systems (e.g. purchasing, maintenance, personnel transportation, education/training etc.)
Support and regulation from national and local government through:
  • Regulatory approaches, economic instruments and macro-policies.
  • Introduction of IE principles and practices in county and municipal planning.
Linking local interests through action co-ordinating structures:
  • Active stakeholder participation and co-ordination through LA 21 initiatives with participation from e.g. industry, municipality/county, research institutions and households.

A set of social and organisational principles and processes have been identified as necessary to make the IE-concept work between independent actors in a region:

  • The creation of arenas for information, communication and feed-back within the region and within the individual company.
  • Systematic use of feed-back information loops to spread results and progress reports from IE-networks to involved or interested parties.
  • Permanent involvement by companies requires identification.
  • A learning-by-doing should be used.
  • A sense of part-responsibility of each IE-network participant is needed for successful network results.
  • External facilitators should be used for initiation and maintenance of the IE-network co-operation process.

A 5-step social and organisational learning process is proposed in the report, which is regarded as necessary to reach a satisfactory degree of success and permanence of ecopark or IE-network co-operation.

Management support and priority setting has been found to be essential to start and maintain a well functioning IE-network over time. In addition, the ‘facilitator’ is expected to introduce both visions and methodological practices for the network on the one hand and help bring about practical achievements from the network on the other.

Finally, the following issues have been identified from literature as possible drivers and barriers to successful IE-network practices; economic issues, inter-company issues, intra-company issues, resource and technology issues, industry vs. local government issues and public opinion issues.

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