Edited by Matthias Ruth and Brynhildur Davidsdottir
Chapter 9: A Framework for Analysis of Industrial Networks
Ruud Kempener, Brett Cohen, Lauren Basson and Jim Petrie 9.1 INTRODUCTION Industrial networks play an important role in providing products and services to both meet basic human needs and fulfill wider societal aspirations. As such, their operations underpin all aspects of economic activity. At the same time, such networks impact upon the natural environment through consumption of natural resources and generation of wastes. Their social function is related to such things as their employment generation potential, their spatial interplay with residential communities, and their (often perceived) contribution to quality of life – either positive or negative. Consequently, understanding how industrial networks function is key to understanding their contribution to sustainable development. Moving businesses towards more sustainable operation demands that systemic approaches, cognizant of all explicit and implicit dynamic interconnections, be adopted. Traditional organizational theories of business practice are unable to cope with this complexity. In 1995, Gladwin argued that ‘new insights about system dynamics and predictability emerging from the study of complex systems may become critical in making these connections’ (Gladwin and Kennelly 1995). Spiegelman (2003) and Ehrenfeld (2004) support the view that complex system theories will be used in developing science to advance understanding of sustainability. These theories can support the development of more rigorous methodological tools to model the dynamic, non-linear and unpredictable behavior of real networks. Whilst industrial networks themselves may be relatively simple entities involving only a few players, they can also be complex interacting structures embracing multiple value chains. Equally, their interaction with their broader environment...
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