Conceptualising "coupling" for sustainability implementation in the industrial sector: A review of the field and projection of future research opportunities
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The industrial sector is an important player in the global sustainable development agenda. Over the last several decades, the sector has made considerable progress towards the adoption of cleaner production initiatives and the implementation of broader sustainability practices. However there is a growing call for integrated and holistic approaches to meet sustainability objectives over broad spatial and temporal scales. The implementation of these solutions requires not only engineering solutions but also advances in the human systems responsible for control. This demands consideration of the interactions and feedback relationships between coupled human and engineered systems. The natural science, engineering and management disciplines have each had a history of research on coupling and may thus provide insights for making progress. This paper makes two contributions. First, it provides a comprehensive and integrative literature review of research on coupling efforts across three diverse disciplines: natural sciences, engineering and management. Differences across these disciplines included: the scope and aims of coupling research and the ontological perspectives adopted. Similarities included: a lack of consistency in terminology and a growth in social network analysis and simulation modelling as research methods. The second contribution of this paper is the application of a framework to guide future research on coupling within the industrial sector. This paper is relevant to academics seeking an overview of methodological advances in coupling research across disciplines and an understanding of how they might be integrated to inform future research efforts. The paper may also be of interest to industrial practitioners who seek novel insights for managing sustainability issues characterised by both social and technical constraints. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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