The Systems Science of Industrial Ecology


This chapter explores how the interdisciplinary field of industrial ecology, a blend of environmental science, social science, engineering, and management, can help deliver sustainable development goals (SDGs). As a systems science, industrial ecology provides a source of knowledge that can guide sustainable manufacturing, waste and pollution reduction, and offer a framework for extending the life of physical goods in a circular economy. The chapter focuses on four industrial ecology approaches: material stock and flow analysis, life-cycle assessment, input-output analysis, and industrial symbiosis, offering descriptions and case examples that relate to specific SDGs and targets. Although these approaches are relevant to a broad range of SDG targets, the authors focus on those pertaining to responsible and efficient use of water and energy (SDG6 and target 7.3), economic growth (SDG8), reducing inequalities (SDG10), transportation (target 11.2), production and consumption systems (SDG12 and targets 2.4 and 9.4), and climate action (SDG13). Industrial ecology approaches are also beneficial to rapidly industrializing countries, where improvements in economic performance and the environment must be carefully balanced. Finally, by tracking flows of material and energy, industrial ecology promotes resource efficiency and provides a strong basis for making sustainable production and consumption decisions.

Science, Technology, and Innovation for Sustainable Development Goals: Insights from Agriculture, Health, Environment, and Energy