Industrial Symbiosis Dynamics and the Problem of Equivalence: Proposal for a Comparative Framework

Frank Boons, Marian Chertow, Jooyoung Park, Wouter Spekkink, Han Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Citations (Scopus)


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 article, 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)938-952
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Aug 1


  • business strategy
  • comparative analysis
  • industrial ecology
  • industrial park
  • industrial symbiosis (IS)
  • social science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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