SS Forum: The Emergence and Development of Industrial Symbiosis -- Inter-firm Resource Sharing Across the Globe

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Event Type: 
Guest Lecture
Marian Chertow
Friday, October 21, 2016 - 2:30pm to 4:00pm
1040 Dana Building
Event Sponsor: 
Center for Sustainable Systems
Erb Institute


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 talk, 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.


Marian Chertow is a professor of industrial environmental management at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Her research and teaching focus on industrial ecology, business/environment issues, waste management, circular economy, and urban industrial systems. Current research interests are: (1) industrial symbiosis involving geographically based exchanges of materials, energy, water and wastes within networks of businesses; (2) industrial ecology in resource-poor, emerging economies; (3) using material flow analysis and other methods to quantify and compare resource flows through urban areas.

Prior to Yale, Professor Chertow spent ten years in environmental business and state and local government including service as president of a large state bonding authority charged with developing a billion dollar waste infrastructure system. She has testified on waste, recycling and other environmental issues before committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Professor Chertow currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Research in Corporate Sustainability (ARCS), the External Advisory Board of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability at Ingersoll Rand, on a Review Committee for the National Academy of Sciences, and was the elected President of the International Society of Industrial Ecology, her scholarly society, until 2015. She is a frequent international lecturer and is also appointed as faculty at the Yale School of Management and the National University of Singapore.  She is the immediate past-President of the International Society for Industrial Ecology.