Industrial ecology uses principles of biology, ecology and systems thinking to maximize business performance and profits by all measures - economic, social and environmental. It adapts nature's principles to business, boosting innovation and promoting long-term sustainability. Principles derived from nature include diversity, specialization, complexity. These can be applied to specific business situations in order to create adaptability and resilience. Positive feedback loops and creative-destruction/ renewal cycles are other natural system process which provide models for corporate efficiency and productivity.
Industrial ecology is a rapidly growing field that systematically examines local, regional and global materials and energy uses and flows in products, processes, industrial sectors and economies. It focuses on the potential role of industry in reducing environmental burdens throughout the product life cycle from the extraction of raw materials, to the production of goods, to the use of those goods and to the management of the resulting wastes. Industrial ecology is ecological in that it: (1) places human activity -industry in the very broadest sense -- in the larger context of the biophysical environment from which we obtain resources and into which we place our wastes, and (2) looks to the natural world for models of highly efficient use of resources, energy and by-products. By selectively applying these models, the environmental performance of industry can be improved.
The Next Industrial Revolution can be framed as the following assignment: Design an industrial system for the next century that: (1) introduces no hazardous materials into the air, water, or soil; (2) measures prosperity by how much natural capital we can accrue in productive ways; (3) measures productivity by how many people are gainfully and meaningfully employed; (4) measures progress by how many buildings have no smokestacks or dangerous effluents; (5) does not require regulations whose purpose is to stop us from killing ourselves too quickly; (6) produces nothing that will require future generations to maintain vigilance; (7) celebrates the abundance of biological and cultural diversity and solar income. (Revolution by William McDonough and Michael Braungart).