Relating Industrial Symbiosis and Circular Economy to the Sustainable Development Debate

  • Andrea CecchinEmail author
  • Roberta Salomone
  • Pauline Deutz
  • Andrea Raggi
  • Laura Cutaia
Part of the Strategies for Sustainability book series (STSU)


Industrial Symbiosis (IS) is a business-focused collaborative approach oriented towards resource efficiency that has been theorised and studied mainly over the last 25 years. Recently, IS seems to have found a renewed impetus in the framework of the Circular Economy (CE), a novel approach to sustainability and Sustainable Development (SD) that has been rapidly gaining momentum worldwide. This opening chapter of the book provides an introduction to the concepts of IS, CE and SD, and summarises their complex evolutionary paths, recalling the relevant developments and implementation challenges. In addition, the authors point out the divergences and interrelations of these concepts, both among themselves and with other related concepts and research fields, such as industrial ecology, ecological modernisation and the green economy. Furthermore, the potential contribution of IS and the CE to SD is briefly discussed, also highlighting critical issues and trade-offs, as well as gaps in research and application, especially relating to the social component of sustainability. Particular attention is given to the potential role of IS in the achievement of targets connected to the Sustainable Development Goals set in the UN Agenda 2030. The recent advances in the IS and CE discussion in the context of the SD research community are further explored, with particular emphasis on the contribution of the International Sustainable Development Research Society (ISDRS) and its 24th annual conference organised in Messina, Italy, in 2018. The programme of that conference, indeed, included specific tracks on the above-mentioned themes, the contents of which are briefly commented on here, after an overview of the whole conference and the main cross-cutting concepts emerged. In the last part of the chapter, a brief description of the chapters collected in the book is presented. These contributions describe and discuss theoretical frameworks, methodological approaches and/or experiences and case studies where IS and the principles of CE are applied in different geographical contexts and at different scales to ultimately improve the sustainability of the current production patterns.


Industrial symbiosis Circular economy Sustainable development Sustainable development goals Sustainability Industrial ecology Green economy Ecological modernisation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Cecchin
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Roberta Salomone
    • 3
  • Pauline Deutz
    • 4
  • Andrea Raggi
    • 5
  • Laura Cutaia
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Plant SciencesNorth Dakota State UniversityFargoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Earth System Science and PolicyUniversity of North DakotaGrand ForksUSA
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsUniversity of MessinaMessinaItaly
  4. 4.Department of Geography, Geology and EnvironmentUniversity of HullHullUK
  5. 5.Department of Economic StudiesUniversity “G. d’Annunzio” of Chieti-PescaraPescaraItaly
  6. 6.ENEA, SSPT-USER-RISERomeItaly

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