Looking forward, pushing back and peering sideways: analyzing the sustainability of industrial symbiosis

Pratima Bansal, Brent Mcknight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


This paper compares and contrasts two different forms of interorganizational relationships that deal with the production and movement of waste: industrial symbiosis and supply chains. Industrial symbiosis reuses, recycles and reprocesses byproducts and intermediates within the system of organizations, whereas conventional supply chains reduce waste within manufacturing processes and reuse end-of-life products. Although both these models address waste, there is surprisingly little consideration of industrial symbiosis within supply chain research. Yet, industrial symbiosis has much to offer the study of sustainable development within supply chains. Industrial symbiosis emphasizes community, cooperation and coordination among firms, which serves to protect the environmental integrity, social equity and economic prosperity of the region - all hallmarks of sustainable development. However, such tight integration among a diverse set of organizations is difficult to jump start and difficult to maintain. In this paper, we also outline the challenges and offer some ideas on how to address these challenges. We ground our insights from interviews with firms in the Sarnia-Lambton region of Ontario, Canada. This region is home to over 130,000 people, and has a strong physical infrastructure and social structures that have facilitated symbiotic relationships among local businesses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-37
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Supply Chain Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Environmental issues
  • Social responsibility
  • Supply chain management
  • Sustainability

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