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The Industrial Green Game: Implications for Environmental Design and Management
As the green game is played out in corporate boardrooms, the shop floor, in the home, and in the community, it is clear that technology and engineering will continue to play a critical role in reducing many environmental impacts of production and consumption. Neither technology nor technological know-how are in short supply. The primary opportunities come from the continued, sustained application of existing technology to identified problems. The primary need is to create the incentives and techniques for companies to use technology and knowledge to improve environmental quality. The main barrier in this regard is the corporate manager, who sees dealing with environmental impacts only in terms of its costs or as a difficult trade-off between design and management.
The papers in this book suggest that a revolution is taking place in how private firms, across all economic sectors, are dealing with the environmental impact of production and consumption. It is not unlike the revolution that made safety and quality strategic concerns of most companies. In the next decade or two, the best and most profitable companies competing globally will understand the environmental impacts of their products (or service), production process (or service delivery), and operations. And, working with consumers or in response to market pressures, these companies will play the green game better, thus improving both their competitive position and the environmental quality of the planet.
This statement is a reinterpretation in business terms of the simplified model of environmental impacts as being a function of population, rate of consumption (or affluence), and technological efficiency.
A recent review of industrial ecology (O'Rourke et al., 1996) provide a range of definitions for industrial ecology. There are several categories of industrial ecology. The first is the analogy of industrial ecology to natural systems: Traditional model of industrial activity—in which individual manufacturing processes take in raw materials and generate products to be sold plus waste to be disposed of—should be transformed into a more integrated model: an industrial ecosystem. In such a system the consumption of energy and materials is optimized, waste generation is minimized and the effluent of one process…serves as the raw material for another process (Frosch and Gallopoulos, 1989) based on the observation that
In a biological ecosystem, some of the organisms use sunlight, water, and minerals to grow, while others consume the first, alive or dead, along with mineral and gases, and produce wastes of their own. These wastes are in turn food for other organisms, some of which may convert the wastes into the minerals used by the primary producers, and some of which consume each other in a complex network of processes in which everything produce is used by some organism for its own metabolism. Similarly, in the industrial ecosystem, each process and network of processes must be viewed as a dependent and interrelated part of a larger whole. The analogy between the industrial ecosystem concept and the biological ecosystem is not perfect, but much could be gained if the industrial system were to mimic the best features of the biological analogue. (Frosch and Gallopoulos, 1992).