scientific facts, uncertainties, and intangibles. An incomplete representation of the facts leads to a loss of public confidence, so there is a need to provide credible information to the public. By improving communications with employees and the public, Hydro Aluminum, like many companies in Europe, has made significant gains in improving relations with a range of stakeholders.
To defend aluminum against biased life cycle analyses, Hydro Aluminum has established programs to educate its employees and the public about aluminum's advantages and disadvantages, its applications, and its environmental effects. This outreach effort also provides information about the company's industrial ecology approach to environmental management. The challenge posed by this education effort is to maintain an openness without leaving a negative image of aluminum.
Industrial ecology adds several dimensions that transcend the traditional scope of environmental communication. Industrial ecology focuses on a totality and an understanding that link environmental problems and consumption to production. Information, therefore, has to link consumers and producers in understanding their roles in implementing options to solve problems. This makes the concept of industrial ecology difficult to understand fully and requires even more information and ways to integrate that information in decision making. The focus of engineering and management training has to move away from single processes toward consideration of whole systems.
Thinking of industrial ecology as a system helps identify areas for improvement, builds links to customers, and identifies potentially competitive markets. Market research in specific major markets, the continued growth in government regulations, and the general response to Hydro Aluminum's environmental reports suggest that ecology is of increasing importance in the marketplace. Technological development is needed to improve processes and products. Long-term, system-based approaches will have to be translated into simple tools for analysis of product, processes, and operations. Stronger links between industry and academia are needed to establish theory and methods that move society toward greater environmental sustainability.
Jelinski, L. W., T. E. Graedel, R. A. Landise, D. W. McCall, and C. K. N. Patel. 1992. Industrial ecology: concepts and approaches. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 89:793–797.
Pomper, S. D. 1994. Life cycle assessment of aluminum. Paper presented at a workshop on product stewardship. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Boston. March.
Willums, J., and G. Ulrich. 1994. From ideas to action. Pp. 49–79 in Business and Sustainable Development. Paris: International Chamber of Commerce.