1. One pressing research question for the coming years is:

“How does the financial crisis affect the possibilities for initiating and up scaling industrial ecology initiatives?”

Use the following framework from the final lecture and develop a research plan for answering this question. Make sure you select only two levels of analysis (micro + meso or meso + macro).

Final Lecture Framework (Boons, F.)



First it is useful to illustrate what each level represents.  According to my perception, macro-level analysis is highly related to psychology; it analyzes the society level, complicated economic systems in different countries, etc.  Meso-level involves smaller networks, such as companies, communities, and micro-level involves individuals and their actions and choices.

I am going to analyze the micro and meso-level.


There is a variation of individuals involved, mainly creating two groups of people: (group 1) everyday people who are contributing to the establishment of ecological values only as consumers and (group 2) people who form/participate in governmental/non-governmental associations and companies that are:

  1. solely focusing on sustainability and/or
  2. could embody sustainability in their projects

Of course in all cases, except the first one, the individuals who have the most importance are those who take the decisions.  So the question is, how will it be determined how the crisis is affecting the choices and subsequently actions of individuals?

In order to find out how the recession affects the consumers’ attitude towards sustainability, a feedback plan can be developed, by looking the sales of eco-products.  But this allows us to make a feedback analysis and not discuss a future development.  Another approach could be by looking their attitude during the last decade, since the economic crisis actually began in 2008 and ecological values in Europe have been developing already since the 1970s.  So, according to the facts of the past a forecast can be made.

An empirical plan that will allow us to estimate what will happen is to directly interview individuals, either by telephone or by home visiting.  Of course the sample of people should be representative; multiple areas, ages, genders, levels of income and education.  The approach must be very careful, since when people know what you expect them to answer they might tailor their answers according to your expectation, resulting in inaccurate predictions.  Nevertheless, there should be also a margin of error for such cases.

It is more complicated to assess the behavior of individuals of group 2 towards industrial ecology issues in conjunction to the economic crisis, since the system becomes more complex.  More stakeholders are involved and there are limitations set by coercive forces, e.g. governmental policies.  In this case the plan also consists of interviews with top managers and people who make the decisions, but also investigating their background would help in making a good forecast.  E.g. President Reagan of the US in 1980-1989 was against stiff environmental regulations and was mainly supporting the industrial interests.


As mentioned, meso-level involves smaller networks, such as companies and communities.  So in this case many individuals and conditions are involved, creating a complex system.

A way to determine the effect of the recession towards ecological behavior in the meso-level is to study holistically the system; it is not enough to know the beliefs of the CEO of a company, but rather the existing legislations and policies and stakeholders that are involved. An example could be given in regard to the oil company BP.  Despite the fact that they had a disastrous 2010, they couldn’t abandon their ecological projects due to the commitment they have to various organizations (API, etc) and policies (e.g. in Europe the 20, 20, 20 goal till 2020) to protect the environment.

So, every time, we have to choose our system and set its boundaries, i.e. determine the stakeholders involved. Then an analysis on each stakeholder needs to be done.

E.g. if it is a governmental institution, then an interview with a policy maker or politician or analyst should be made to determine future developments.

In all cases I believe that personal interaction is the most important key to obtain reliable information and at the same time good observation of the global economy and politics that can lead to probable forecasts.