A couple weeks ago, in our last lecture of the Social System - Policy and Management class, we enjoyed a lot of fun in the teaching game associated to evolutionary dynamics in social systems. The game is called Car Game version 2.0 which comes out from the collective effort of game design by our teacher and all the participating students in this class.
The aim of this game is to let the participants to experience the mechanisms of variation, transmission and selection (all the three together compose the evolutionary dynamics), and how these lead to system results in terms of market shifts.
Frank Boons (2009) in his book chapter "An evolutionary approach towards the strategic perspectives of firms" of the book <Creating Ecological Value> systematically illustrated the elements and mechanisms of evolutionary theory and provided seven different scenarios of the system dynamics of PCS. Frank Boons summarized the theoretical work by looking at the elements of evolutionary mechanisms from three levels, namely firm, resource network and PCS.
By mimic of evolutionary dynamics in biology which has been extensively discussed in Darwin's theory, the dynamics of market and social systems could also be explained by evolutionary perspective. Frank Boons in his book took the evolutionary approach in analyzing the complex dynamics of production and consumption system where he argued the three necessary elements are variation, inheritance and selection. Different from biology, companies in economic systems rarely reproduce offsprings but rather inherit their characteristics through transmission or retention.
Since the evolutionary dynamics have been analyzed in the PCS and discussed in our previous lectures, roles of producers and customers are accordingly created in our Car Game version 2.0.
The ideas is that some groups of students play the role of car producers and supply cars with various features that attracts customers. They try to sell the cars to gain profit and by competing with each other the producer who gains the most revenue wins the game in the end. While the competition mechanism excited all the students playing the role of producers, perhaps the ultimate purpose of playing this game is not to compete how to be the best seller, but instead to experience how the interactions between producers and customers, between producers and producers, as well as between customers and customers formulated the variation, transmission and selection within the system. Finally, summarizing the game from the system level is of much importance as it gives a holistic view of how small changes in different sectors, under the context of selection pressure of the system, drives the evolutionary process of the system.
The game indeed created a lot of fun and gave space for different scenarios to happen. I believe students playing different roles (customers, producers, bank, government and even one group who played producer finally sold their company and it gave the merge and acquisition to happen) might have different interpretations of mechanisms from their own experience. The most important thing I treasure in this game is the freedom to play, which means within the boundary of the game rules you could do anything you think that is rational in the market. For example, one group of producer sold their company and give the scenario of merge and acquisition to happen. Another instance is that in the last round some "customers" decided to use their budget to purchase a fantastic super car together and then try to do car sharing. All this actions were very creative and it posed new scenarios to the system or injected new driving forces into the market, which finally caused a distinctive result, or rather, made a difference in the final evolutionary end-point. Perhaps, this also resembles the real-life world where the system is so dynamic and you never predict what could happen in the future.
While I enjoyed playing this Car Game 2.0 very much during class and I participated in the co-designing process of the game, I afterwards independently created another game which I think better employs the evolutionary dynamics and more interesting to play with. The game designed by me has been introduced in my last blog entry: Design an Educational Game for SSPM class of Industrial Ecology and I named it "EU Wind Energy Game". I evaluated both the "EU Wind Energy Game" and Car Game 2.0 and conclude that the "EU Wind Energy Game" is more suitable to function as a teaching game of evolutionary dynamics. You are very welcome to view and comment on my game and join me to improve it and make it a teaching game in next year's industrial ecology class.
For this blog entry, several questions regards to Car Game 2.0 should be answered:
1. My Experience as a Player
In the Car Game, I played the role of a consumer. In the first round, I tried to save money by choosing public transport instead of buying a car immediately. A second reason is that at the very beginning the producers are quiet cautious and they tend to make ordinary cars with only basic functions and rare features. So buying a car in this round might leads to having the same or similar cars with others which cannot distinguish my own taste and style. Thus I opt out from being similar as others by choosing public transport. And of course this saved me some budget which I could use in next rounds to buy a relatively better car. In the first round, several producers overestimated the market need and ended up with stocking unsold cars which is trashed immediately.
In the second round, producers were more cautious and starts to build features to their cars and predicted the market projections. Customers choose cars with various features according to different values. As most customers are industrial ecologists, the "sustainability" of the cars is one of the most important evaluation index of the design. However, producers are smart and they tried to attract customers by designing various innovative features such as having bigger wheel, or improving the safety system or even incorporating various luxury characteristics. However among all the features, I find the "lengthening durability" is most popular as some customers think this is the strategy of having a car that last longer to save money. It did work and I used this strategy to save budget. I also noticed some other "customers" chose to purchase cars of fancy features to show off with each other. As the subconscious aim of customers is to own a nice car and compete with each other. So my strategy is to save budget at the first several rounds and try to purchase a really awesome car at the ending round. This perhaps is one kind of customer psychology in this competition.
However, as far as I see it, there is a flaw in this game ---- it lacks a rational competition mechanism among consumers. While it gives some sense to say consumers purchase cars to show off and compete with each other, this reasoning sounds very superficial and ambiguous. First, although the customer's psychology is understandable, I still don't understand what is the driving force for consumer's competition. Since the producers design various features and there is no suitable evaluation mechanism to judge which feature is more attractive and deserve more investment or payback. Thus there is no suitable mechanism to quantify and qualify the values of cars owned by different consumers and thus no way to compare them on a rational perspective. Due to the lack of evaluation mechanism, the competition of consumers became very complicated and multidimensional, and even vague.
Second, in the Car Game, while it's popular to produce and purchase cars with high sustainability factors (less CO2 emission), it didn't prove a working mechanism to drive the ecological benefit. The popularity of eco-cars in this game is based on the fact that we have a whole room of industrial ecologist and sustainability has already deeply rooted in their personal philosophy. But in real-life, this is not the case. Especially the sustainability itself is valuable to public good of society but not to private producer or customer. So there is no clear driving force towards sustainability. The assumption that every customer and every producer loves eco-friendly car is very dangerous or even false.
Later in this game, we introduced the role of Government and the selection pressure of tax related to CO2 emission. It works a little bit since it somehow pushed all companies towards the sustainability goal. Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to fully explore the effects of selection pressures from tax imposed by Government.
In my point of view, the selection pressure is not strong enough and companies could have different tricks to avoid the selection pressure. For example, in the certain round, companies could make less car and minimize the impact from the tax pressure. The selection pressure in the Car Game also lacks power to reset or re-organize the whole system. It also seems to me the transmission mechanism has rarely been employed in this game. Neither companies nor consumers have formed any impact on each other and facilitated any transmission of behavior, action or strategy. It seems producer-producer relationship and customer-customer relationship didn't contribute much to the dynamics of the system.
Another observation is that in this Car Game, no niche has been created. There is also no proper method to evaluate how one specific participant impact the whole system, how fast and to what extent the transmission has been performed, how well is one participant doing, or how better one participant is doing than another. Generally speaking, the Game still lacks quantification index to give clear and precise insights.
Anyway, while I criticized a lot on the Car Game, I won't hesitate to agree that it's still a fair game to depict the evolutionary dynamics and it indeed gives a whole picture of how the system evolved along time.
2. Comparing the Car Game with EU Wind Energy Game.
Comparing the Car Game with my EU Wind Energy Game, I would like to highlight that the EU Wind Energy Game is better in terms of employing and simulating the elements in Evolutionary Dynamics. This could be observed from different aspects.
1) The EU Wind Energy Game has introduced the competition mechanism for consumers. In this game, the roles of different countries are both producers and consumers. They are competing on wind energy development.
While the competition mechanism in Car Game is very vague and week (as it only assumes consumers buy cars to show off and compete with others), the competition mechanism in EU Wind Energy is pretty clear and precise. The competition is based on two factors --- Environmental Impact and Profit. It also has particular algorithm to quantify these two factors.
The comparison thus is more rational and practical since every country wants to reap more profit while minimize the environmental impact. Besides, this competition mechanism is more related to Industrial Ecology than the one in Car Game.
2) In the Car Game, there is no clear driving force towards sustainability. The assumption that every customer and every producer loves eco-friendly car is very dangerous or even false.
However in the EU Wind Energy Game, this problem doesn't exist. Since the competition mechanism is more rational and practical, every country's aim is the to to reap more profit while minimize the environmental impact. This is also true in real-life where profit and sustainable technology is always the driving force in the wind energy development.
3) The selection pressure in the Car Game was found to be very week. Only the Government (the teacher) posed some incentives among companies and that doesn't work very well. Also, the impact of selection pressure on different companies could not be simulated, as during playing every company designed eco-car to avoid tax pressure from government. There is no company outperforms others under the selection pressure and there is no company who dies out. Thus I argue that the selection pressure in Car Game is also very week.
However, as you could see. The selection pressure in EU Wind Energy game is pretty strong. In each round, the selection pressure (Environmental Impact Factor and Profit Factor) selects two leading countries. These leading countries then determined the technology innovation and projection in the future and have an significant impact on other companies and the whole system by promoting and diffusing the technology innovation. The EU could also impose incentives and provide subsidy to countries in different phase, particularly during the R&D period. Thus the EU's incentive has a huge impact on the technology development direction. All these demonstrate that the selection pressure in EU Wind Energy game is much more vivid and practical.
4) In the EU Wind Energy Game, concepts like "transmission" and "niche" in the evolutionary theory have been simulated. Especially the game pays attention to how different new technologies are diffused among different countries and how the technology transmission is performed. Niches could also be created by coalition of different countries.
5) The EU Wind Energy Game provides more significant meaning when analyzing from the system level. Looking at the large picture from the system's level gives clear description of the interactions of countries and how technology innovation is transmitted and diffused. If the records are kept in excel, we could easily tell how the profit of wind technology raise and how the "Per round environmental impact" is decreased (regardless the total accumulation is increasing). This resembles the technology evolution could achieve economic and environmental benefit. Based on the statistics, if we compare the results of first three rounds (before first R&D) with the results after several rounds of R&D, we might be able to find that through the wind turbine technology evolution, the decoupling of economic profit and environmental impact occurred and became more and more impressive.
Thus the EU Wind Energy Game gives us better opportunity to learn from the system analysis.
In the End, I argue that the EU Wind Energy Game is better than Car Game 2.0 and I hope my explanation could persuade the teacher to use the game designed by myself in next year's teaching. Thanks.
In the ninth meeting of Social System - Policy and Management lecture in Joint Research Master's Program of Industrial Ecology at Leiden University and Delft University of Technology. We learned about Evolutionary Mechanisms in global Production and Consumption System (PCS). The automobile industry was taken as example for analysis.
Frank Boons (2009) in his book chapter "An evolutionary approach towards the strategic perspectives of firms" of the book <Creating Ecological Value> systematically illustrated the elements and mechanisms of evolutionary theory and provided seven different scenarios of the system dynamics of PCS. After case study of PCS of coffee industry and automobile industry, Frank Boons summarized the theoretical work by looking at the elements of evolutionary mechanisms from three levels, namely firm, resource network and PCS.
As we all know, Darwin firstly proposed an evolutionary theory to explain the changing characteristics of biological organisms. In his famous master piece <Origin of Species>, Darwin bestowed us his crucial insight that new characteristics of species spread through a population when these characteristics fit with the environment in which the organisms lives. Three elements of evolutionary theory were concluded, variation, reproduction and selection.
By mimic of biology, the dynamics of market and social systems could also be explained by evolutionary perspective. Frank in his book took the evolutionary approach in analyzing the complex dynamics of production and consumption system where he argued the three necessary elements are variation, inheritance and selection. Different from biology, companies in economic systems rarely reproduce offsprings but rather inherit their characteristics through transmission or retention. The mechanisms of these three elements have been illustrated from Frank's reasoning.
In the following part of the article, seven scenarios of system dynamics in PCS and related evolutionary mechanisms are elaborated. The scenarios include 1) reproduction of similarity, 2) reproduction of variety, 3) niche formation, 4) niche growing into PCS, 5)competing niches, 6) selection pressure withou niches, 7) vision based change. The grouping of scenarios is very interesting and it could be applied to analyze most, if not all, of the real-life cases.
During the in-class group work, students teamed up and entered a contest for developing a simulation, which is to be used in classroom teaching, for letting students experience an evolutionary process in relation to industrial ecology. Four groups completed with different ideas of simulation and these are finally integrated into the Car Game Version 2.0 which is played in later class to test the theory and mechanisms.
I independently designed a game which is suitable for classroom teaching and able to embody the evolutionary dynamics. I name it "EU Wind Energy Game"
EU Wind Energy Game
Background: In 2011, installed wind power capacity in the European Union totalled 93,957 megawatts (MW) --enough to supply 6.3% of EU's electricity. 9,616 MW of wind power was installed in 2011 alone, representing 21.4% of new power capacity. The EU wind industry has had an average annual growth of 15.6% over the last 17 years (1995-2011).
A European Environment Agency report, entitled Europe's onshore and offshore wind energy potentialconfirms wind energy could power Europe many times over. The report highlights wind power’s potential in 2020 as three times greater than Europe’s expected electricity demand, rising to a factor of seven by 2030.
The EWEA estimates that 230 gigawatts (GW) of wind capacity will be installed in Europe by 2020, consisting of 190 GW onshore and 40 GW offshore. This would produce 14-17% of the EU's electricity, avoiding 333 million tonnes of CO2 per year and saving Europe €28 billion a year in avoided fuel costs.
Research from a wide variety of sources in various European countries shows that support for wind power is consistently about 80 per cent amongst the general public. As of 2011, Denmark is generating more than a quarter of its electricity from wind. 83 countries around the world are using wind power on a commercial basis. In 2010 wind energy production was over 2.5% of total worldwide electricity usage, and growing rapidly at more than 25% per annum.
Aim: a classroom teaching game to let students letting students experience an evolutionary process in relation to industrial ecology. In the game, variation, inheritance and selection processes should be able to occur.
Participants: Divide the students into groups, two or three in one group representing an European country. As there are totally 48 countries in Europe. We might only take the most typically 20 into account in this game. (consider the student numbers).
Technology: Wind turbines
1. General Background:
Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form of energy, such as using wind turbines to make electrical power. Large wind farms consist of hundreds of individual wind turbines which are connected to the electric power transmission network. Offshore wind farms can harness more frequent and powerful winds than are available to land-based installations and have less visual impact on the landscape but construction costs are considerably higher. Small onshore wind facilities are used to provide electricity to isolated locations and utility companies increasingly buy surplus electricity produced by small domestic wind turbines.
2. Types of turbines:
The variety of wind turbines that has been devised or proposed to harness wind energy is considerable and includes many unusual devices. Generally speaking, wind turbines could be categorized as Horizontal axis and Vertical axis in terms of the design. Horizontal axis turbines could be further categorized as single-bladed, double-bladed, three-bladed, multi-bladed, upwind, downwind, multi-rotor, counter-rotating blades etc.. Vertical axis turbines could be further categorized as primarily drag-type, primarily life-type and combinations etc. In terms of location, wind turbines could be grouped as off-shore, on-shore and inland turbines.
3. Environmetal Impact:
Wind energy development has both positive and negative environmental impacts. The scale of its future implementation will rely on successfully maximizing the positive impacts whilst keeping the negative impacts to the minimum. Wind turbines could generate negative environmental impact from the following aspects:
Target of Game:
Students are divided into groups representing different countries. The target of these "countries" is to develop wind energy industry within their counties. They should systematically consider the strategy of development, the economic benefit they could reap, the environmental impact caused throughout the development and their positions in the evolutionary technology trajectory. Thus, after several rounds of play, the group (country) has achieved most economic benefit and the group who controlled the environmental impact at minimum are the winners.
How to Play:
Prepare two boxes (like the fishing pool game we played), Box A & Box B. Box A contains three existing mature wind turbine technology which is already available in market. Each type of turbine has its own specific characteristic and index. so the information of three wind turbine options are publicly available from the beginning of the game. However, Box B contains certain technology innovation, from Type D to Type H (or even more). The index and characteristics of each type in Box B are already fixed but the information is hidden, which is to simulate the innovation developed through the game. So at the beginning of the game, the Box B is a sealed box (which implies technology innovation could leads to different directions and the variety of innovation is existing).
For each type of wind turbine in Box A and Box B, the turbine has three attributes --- environmental impact index, price and profit index. The information (attributes) in Box A is publicly available thus open at the beginning of the game. Nevertheless, the information in Box B is fixed but hidden and no one knows the attributes of turbines in Box B when the game starts. The information is only revealed along with the game by leading countries' technology innovation development.
At the beginning of the game, each group (country) is granted with the same base budget for development of wind energy. In real world, the countries in Europe are different in size and population. However in our game, as we consider the wind power generated is in the form of electricity which could be stored or purchased (import or export) as product, thus we don't take the size of countries into account. We assume each country needs to develop wind power as this is an emerging renewable energy so that each country has huge potential for its application. Thus the basic atmosphere in this game is to create a competition of wind power development among different European countries (represented by groups of students).
At the beginning of the game, Round 1, each country (group) use its budget to purchase existing wind technology in Box A as the technology attributes (environmental impact index, price, profit index) are all publicly available. Countries could decide which turbine to buy and how many to buy according to their budget and the price of the turbine. After the first round, each country should have an overview of their virgin development of wind power by calculating the environmental impact and profit.
For example, Netherlands at the first round decides to use x% of his budget to purchase turbine A, y% of budget to purchase turbine B, z% of budget to purchase turbine C. Then after this round, Netherlands could calculate its environmental impact and profit by using the above equation. We set each round represents 5 years and each turbine could work for 10 years (two rounds) before it become obsolete. Both Environmental Impact variable and Profit variable is accumulative so that in the second 5 years (after second round), the Environmental Impact and Profit should double.
Play this for three rounds, then compare the environmental impact generated and profit reaped by different countries. After comparison, there must be two leading countries in two aspects, namely the leading country who reaped the most profit, and the leading country whose environmental impact is minimum. This implies these two leading countries have current best application of wind energy from the economic and environmental perspective. Perhaps these two countries have more expert in wind energy technology.
So, we give these two countries some "reward" which is the "subsidy for R&D" from European Union. The teacher plays the role of European Union and decides how much money EU (he) would like to give the two leading countries for subsidy of R&D development.
After receiving the R&D subsidy from EU, the two countries go to Box B and randomly pick two innovative technologies (two folded paper notes). The two innovative technology either have higher profit rate or lower environmental impact index than previous existing technologies in Box A. In the coming round, the two countries who pick the innovative technologies must spend at least half of their budget at hand because they received subsidy from EU and they should have money) to apply the new technology at hand (the one he choose).
Then they open the information to public (they put the chosen two technology into Box A). This action reflects the fact that there are always technology forerunners who shoulder the responsibility of technology development and diffusion. Then at the next round (Round 4), participating countries have two more options in Box A to choose. Because the innovative technology is more expensive and not every country has enough money to widely apply the new technology. Some pool countries might still choose the previous technologies (Turbine A, B, C) until they reap more profit and have enough money. (This reflects the market mechanism).
Play at this level for two or three rounds. After each round each country should report their current environmental impact situation and profit (budget) situation. Statistics should be recorded in terms of each country's environmental impact and profit, and most importantly their application share of different technologies. (the statistic is useful for after-game final analysis).
After two rounds, compare different countries situation and there must be again two leading countries in economic and environmental benefits. The two new leading countries receive subsidy from EU and do exactly the same thing as last R&D process. They pick two more new technology from Box B and have to use half of their budget to apply the new technology in the next round. They of course also put the new technology into Box A so that other countries could also learn to apply although they don't receive subsidy from EU.
EU (the teacher) at certain time, could pose selection pressure by posing incentives on specific type of technology in Box A. For example, EU could rule that in certain round each country must have x% application on Turbine X, etc. This could cause certain country bankrupt at coming rounds if the compulsory technology is expensive and this country cannot afford it.
Worthy to explain is that the action that leading countries put innovative technology into public pool (Box A) simulates their responsibility of promoting new economic-promising or environmental friendly technologies. The innovative technology in Box B is hidden and this suggests the variation of wind turbine technology development -- the evolution of wind turbine technology could go to various direction. Moreover, after R&D and the innovative technologies being put into Box A, other countries in Europe could also learn from leading R&D countries and begin to apply the new technology. This simulates the Transmission mechanism in evolution theory.
Attention should be paid that leading countries who pick new technologies from Box B also have the right to protect their R&D result and prevent it from transmission. In such case, the country should apply for patent and pay patent fee to EU (the teacher) to keep the technology information not publicly open until at certain point they decide to release the information.
This is especially true if one country continuously becomes the leading country who choose innovative technology. At the second time of development, he might want to keep the innovation secret before he reaped enough benefit from his previous innovation which has been put into Box A. This could be explained by citing Frank Boons' elaboration in his book " A major issue then becomes at what moment the novelty should be introduced. Although first mover advantages can be substantial, this does not imply that a novelty is best introduced whenever it is marketable. Firms may be in a position to decide to reap the benefits of existing technologies before introducing new ones. "
Attention should also be paid that several countries could actually form coalition and create a niche within the EU system. For example, the Nordic countries might want to aggregate their budget to develop an expensive innovative technology from Box B and keep the technology secret from non-Nordic countries by applying patent. But Nordic countries within the niche have the right to freely develop the innovative technology. This niche mechanism is also possible to emerge and exist in this game.
After several rounds of playing, the game comes to the end. We then compare the total environmental impact accumulation and profit accumulation of different countries. The country who has achieve most economic benefit from developing wind energy and the country who has minimized the environmental impact through the development excels and becomes the Winner of the Game.
Shall we just cease after telling the winner of the game ? Perhaps we could learn more if we look at the large picture from the system's level and take a close scrutiny to the statistic records. If the records are kept in excel, we could easily tell how the profit of wind technology raise and how the "Per round environmental impact" is decreased (regardless the total accumulation is increasing). This resembles the technology evolution could achieve economic and environmental benefit. Based on the statistics, if we compare the results of first three rounds (before first R&D) with the results after R&D, we might be able to find that through the wind turbine technology evolution, the decoupling of economic profit and environmental impact occurred and became more and more impressive.
Besides, if we look at the result from the system's level, it might be helpful if we analyze the statistics and tell how the technology innovation is diffused in the system. Questions like "what is the transmission mechanism at certain rounds" or "What is the diffusion rate of different innovations and why they are diffused in different rates" etc. are always interesting and deserve exploration.
Finally, my acknowledgement after designing the game
In conclusion, I independently designed this EU Wind Energy Game version 1.0. Further discussion on the game and revision are always open and welcome. I must say designing a game has never attracted me so much before. I really appreciate the study atmosphere in the international classroom and all the knowledge and theories learned in the Social System - Policy and Management lectures. The teacher's devotion and all classmates' resourceful discussions have inspired me so much. The case study and provided reading materials are extraordinarily helpful and thought provoking. Moreover, I always learn from in-depth reasoning and many new interesting staffs from my colleagues' blog entries. The blog interaction between the teacher and students give me the passion to think and write. The teaching style is so awesome and I would like to conclude attending the SSPM class is my happiest time of my first semester study in Netherlands.
For this specific blog topic, I tried to make the elements and mechanisms in Evolutionary Theory able to be reflected in the game dynamics. I also integrated my previous experience of Model United Nations, which is a simulation game of United Nations and attracts elite students all over the game. Perhaps more elements from Model United Nations could be introduced into this game if we introduce lobbying mechanisms or negotiation mechanisms into the "evolution game".
Question 10: Define industrial ecology in a way that fits with your national culture, and make explicit what the specific national elements in your definition are.
China, the ancient civilization of the Orient, is changing her appearance rapidly into a modern industrialized society over the last few decades. China, along with ancient Egypt, Babylon, and India, is known as one of the four great ancient civilization of the world. The distinctive culture that arose in China was both far-reaching and highly refined. Today, in many foreign big cities, we are not surprised to find the 'China Town' where lots of Chinese elements are well shown. The traditional Chinese culture, especially the invaluable inheritance of the Confucianism has rooted deep in the Chinese minds. The philosophy of Confucianism is also embedded from personal beliefs to national development strategy. The rapid and vigorous industrial development and soft power building of China in recent three decades has already shown to the world how much confident and diligent Chinese are with building their own country and how they are willing to join the hands of western world towards the sustainable future. "Scientific Development", a key word from the national strategy of last government, has been extensively mentioned and applied as guidelines and principals of many development projects in the country. It has enbodied the philosophy of industrial ecology and circular economy in its implication and application. It's out of question that China has learned the experience of western industrialization and began to apply the emerging industrial ecology principals in its own development.
The speed of Chinese industrialization could be easily seen from this small video on Youtube which shows you the growth of different cities in China by GoogleMap visualization of different years.
Who are the Chinese ? How did they developed their country in the last few decades ? What is embedded in the Chinese culture ? How does the Chinese culture integrate the foreign elements into its competitive strength ? I believe the following video could give you some image of Chinese culture.
I herewith cordially invite you to watch the following video of China.
During the Social Systems & Policy Management class of Industrial Ecology, we learned about the cultural impact on decision making in different countries. Hofstede (2001) concluded the five dimensions which altogether categorize the cultures of different nations. While during the game in class, we have the IBM sheet of the Hofstede dimensions where China is not on the list, I find the cultural dimensions of China on the website of Hofstede Center
( http://geert-hofstede.com/china.html )
I compared the cultural dimensions of China, United States and Netherlands, which gives a distinctive comparison of the cultural differences between east and west.
(PDI = Power Distance IDV = Individualism MAS = Masculinity
UAI = Uncertainty Avoidance LTO = Long Term Orientation )
By using the software provided by Sustainable Society Foundation (http://www.nederlandduurzaam.nl/)
We could also evaluate the sustainability of difference countries from various aspects. Here is the comparison of China and The Netherlands where we could easily conclude that China has the urgent need to improve its environmental performance a lot.
It's very difficult to define Industrial Ecology based merely on the cultural dimensions indicators. Perhaps industrial ecology concept is quiet new in China and Chinese scholars are also learning from experiences in developed countries. However, by looking at the history and process of implementing Industrial Ecology principals in China, we are not surprised to find quite some Chinese elements and characters.
It's during the 1970s that China reformed its economy and opened its door for foreign investment. Since then, China’s transformation from a planned economy to market-based economy and open to foreign trade and investment has fuelled economic development. With rapid GDP growth (see picture below), it didn't take China too long to become one of the most important economic powers of the world. However the vigorous economic growth has coupled with severer resource depletion and environmental pollution. On the other hand, the continuous population growth has even exaggerated the environmental impact and spurred more resource extraction and industrial manufacturing. It is instructive to compare China's progress in industrialization with that of other countries. In leading developed countries, such as those in Europe, the process of industrialization has spanned a period of about 200 years, but equivalent progress has been achieved in a few decades in China. The current population of these leading countries is only about 0.7 billion, accounting for 11% of the total population of the world, while China's population is 1.3 billion and constitutes 22% of the total population of the world. Other contrasts of significance are that China's natural resource base is relatively limited, and economic development is further hampered by many difficult natural conditions. China's rapid industrialization has therefore inevitably resulted in serious conflicts between economic development and environmental performance. Five decades of aggressive industrialization has seriously degraded all natural resources. The modern economy of China is characterized by high investment, increasing consumption of natural resources, low efficiency in the process of production, very high emissions to the environment, and an industrial structure that lacks closed loops and other structural efficiencies. In essence, China's mode of economic development has tended to follow a similar industrialization path to that of other countries as they have developed, albeit one that is remarkably rapid.
Due to the severe environmental impact caused along with industrialization, Pan Yue, Deputy Minister, State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) said “China can no longer afford to follow the West's resources-hungry model of development and it should encourage its citizens to avoid adopting the developed world's consumer habits . . . It's important to make Chinese people not blatantly imitate Western consumer habits so as not to repeat the mistakes by the industrial development of the west over the past 300 years.”
China has an ambitious development goal which is to raise the majority of China's population into "the all-round well-being society". This means that by 2050 a larger population of 1.8 billion would reach a per capita GDP of US$ 4000 per year, five times the current level. This demands a tremendous increase in production and multiplies pressure on natural resources and the environment. It is realized by Chinese top leaders that this goal would never be achieved if continuing current development models. To achieve the development target set for 2050, China needs alternative development strategy and approach which requires a seven-fold increase in efficiency of resource use while maintaining environmental quality. And the China Council for International Co-operation for Environment and Development even said a ten-fold increase is needed. (Indigo Development)
The severe environmental impact has become visible and aroused broad public concern. Not only environmental scholars but also state leaders began to seek measures to tackle the pollution and consumption. During the past few years, reduction of environmental pollution and better management of resources have been incorporated into state policies. As the former Chinese Communist Party Secretary Hu J.T. and Premier Wen J.B. stated: “China needs development which balances development between urban and rural areas, between the regions, between social and economic aspects, between humanity and nature, and between domestic and international policy development.”
In November 2012, China just sends ripples to the globe by changing his Government. The new President Xi is expected by public to lead further economic and political reforms of the country. I have been paying attention to the news about the new government and I read that the Government has announced that the GDP growth has lost its priority in state development strategy.
In terms of Industrial Ecology, the first related concept appeared in China was the eco-development concept proposed by a member from Chinese Academy of Science Shijun MA in late 1980s. This facilitated the eco-agriculture development in China from mid 1980s. Later, Deli Xi of Tsinghua University introduced the emerging discipline industrial ecology into China in 1990. The 1996 article “Industrial Ecology: New Opportunity for the Private Sector” in the Chinese version of United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP’s) magazine, Industry and Environment Review, introduced a new wave of industrial ecology concepts into China. To date, research on and practice of such core constituents of industrial ecology as life-cycle assessment (LCA), design for environment (DfE), materials flow analysis (MFA), and ecoindustrial parks (EIPs) or industrial symbiosis have reached varying levels of development.
The paper "Industrial Ecology in China Part I & Part II" by Han Shi, etc. has extensively introduced how the Industrial Ecology concepts and tools has been introduced into China and used in research, as well as how institutions helped to diffuse Industrial Ecology to society via offering educational programs.
While industrial ecology has been introduced to Chinese research and education, the application in business and industry is nevertheless quite limited because of the lack of awareness. Scholars believe that "Industrial ecology, as ayoung scientific discipline emerging from North America, Europe, and Japan over the last decade, may obtain unprecedented opportunities for testing of
its methodological robustness and further development of its theory and tools given the size, dynamics, and diversity of China’s industrial activities."
According to Han Shi's paper, it's until around 2001 that have a few governmental officials and industrial practitioners started to show interest, principally in the topics of EIPs and the closed-loop economy. Before 2000, Chinese industry has not been widely aware of or convinced of the industrial ecology and has not been prepared to fund research and practice on the development of industrial ecology tools. Then in 2002 Circular Economy was accepted by the central government as a new development strategy that aims to alleviate the contradiction between rapid economic growth and the shortage of raw materials and energy. This concept originates from the industrial ecology paradigm, building on the notion of loop-closing emphasized in German and Swedish environmental policy, and has been pursued by China’s environmental policy makers as a potential strategy to solve existing environmental problems.
Based on the fact described above, I would like explain the phenomena by linking it with the inherited Chinese culture characters according to Hofstede's cultural dimensions. According to the survey result, China has a high score in Power Distance and low score in Individualism. As a Chinese myself, I understand that in current social system, all individuals in societies are highly not equal. (Power distance is defined as At 80 China sits in the higher rankings of PDI - i.e. a society that believes that inequalities amongst people are acceptable.The subordinate-superior relationship tends to be polarized and there is no defense against power abuse by superiors. Individuals are influenced by formal authority and sanctions and are in general optimistic about people's capacity for leadership and initiative. People should not have aspirations beyond their rank.
Besides, the "Individualism" factor is low for Chinese culture. (the individualism factor depicts the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members. It has to do with whether people´s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “We”. In Individualist societies people are supposed to look after themselves and their direct family only. In Collectivist societies people belong to ‘in groups’ that take care of them in exchange for loyalty) At a score of 20 China is a highly collectivist culture where people act in the interests of the group and not necessarily of themselves. In-group considerations affect hiring and promotions with closer in-groups (such as family) are getting preferential treatment. Employee commitment to the organization (but not necessarily to the people in the organization) is low. Whereas relationships with colleagues are cooperative for in-groups they are cold or even hostile to out-groups. Personal relationships prevail over task and company.
According to the above two indicators, I would like to argue that the two indicators (high Power Distance, low Individualism) somehow reflect the high hierarchy of current Chinese political system and Top-down pattern of executing certain policies or principals. The power distance reflects the centralized government power and the fact that resources are controlled in minor groups. The right of making a decision is also limited within high authorities, for example government bureaus. It determines the Top-Down paternalistic leadership in China's political and social environment. Besides the low Individualism indicator reflects the lack of innovation in the economy and the psychology of refusing to change and maintaining current states of the industries. Of course, companies always hate changes. However, after the IE concepts been introduced to China early from 1980s, the slow promotion and diffusion of IE principals amongst industries implies that rare industries and companies understood the value of industry ecology yet.
It would then be easier to understand why the year 2002 is a ice-breaking point of diffusing Industrial Ecology concepts in China as the core concept Circular Economy had been incorporated in state development strategy by central government. After that, the Circular Economy has been extensively used as guideline and principle in development projects.
In organizational terms, in 1999, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA)
became the first central government agency to promote the concept of CE when it launched
a series of projects across the country. Eco-Industrial Parks are especially promoted by SEPA via its circular economy guidelines. Many national and local projects called circular economy and EIPs were carried out. Before 2002, the ice-breaking year of diffusing Industrial Ecology, companies only focused on waste cycling based on closed loop of waste flow in collaboration with other companies. However, after the successful incorporation of Circular Economy into national development strategy, more activities have been created including environmental design, improving resource productivity and eco-efficiency in a comprehensive way, especially optimizing the structure of industry/product, developing and applying new technology, upgrading equipment, and improving management. Some scholars said if China achieves its goal of increasing efficiency of resource utilization by a factor of 10, this will have global impacts. One critical factor will be the success or failure of Chinese leadership in convincing their citizens to follow a Chinese model of quality of life before a US style consumerist lifestyle fully emerges.
In 2004, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC; a unit of the State Council that studies and analyzes the economic situation in China and formulates and implements strategies of national economic and social development, annual plans, and mediumand
long-term development plans)was appointed by the State Council to take over the duty of
promoting CE in the country. This implies that instead of being only an environmental protection strategy, CE has been raised to such a high level that it becomes the overall comprehensive strategy of national development. Scholars have foreseen the tremendous benefit of Circular Economy. Market-based economy enables the transformation to tap the creative entrepreneurial spirit of the new economy in China, while still utilizing public planning mechanisms to assure balanced development.
While we enjoy the outlook of the benefits that CE could bring to us in the future, we also realized that are certain obstacles in the way. One of them is the lack of legislation and lack of discipline in the current economy system.
Two weeks ago, I was in Leiden participating the European Conference with Kofi Annan, the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations. In his speech, Annan said in his point of view, to achieve the sustainable and peaceful future and to realize the Mellenium Development Goals, three prerequisites are needed: 1) stability, 2) development, and 3) rule of law. Kofi Annan especially emphasized on the third aspect ---- rule of law. China still has a lot to improve in terms of institution and legislation. The Chinese government in the past decade had already issued several laws that are very supportive of circular economy. The first and most significant is the “Cleaner Production Promotion Law,” put into effect in January 2003. The amended Law on Pollution Prevention and Control of Solid Waste, which took effect on 1 April 2005, also supports the development of CE; the law is part of the country’s growing demand for strict management of solid wastes. On August 29th, 2008, The Circular Economy Law of People's Republic of China was adopted by the Standing Committee of the 11's National People's Congress. This implies that the Circular Economy concept has become a core value and guideline that every industrial practicer has to comply with.
However, while we are happy with the enact of several laws on Circular Economy, we probably sometimes feel depressed by certain cases that cannot be tackled according to current incomplete laws. Moreover, certain articles in the law are ambiguous. As indicated from Hofstede's cultural dimension--- Uncertainty Avoidance. (The dimension Uncertainty Avoidance has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity brings with it anxiety and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways. The extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these is reflected in the UAI score.) At 30 China has a low score on uncertainty avoidance. Truth may be relative though in the immediate social circles there is concern for Truth with a capital T and rules (but not necessarily laws) abound. None the less, adherence to laws and rules may be flexible to suit the actual situation and pragmatism is a fact of life. The Chinese are comfortable with ambiguity; the Chinese language is full of ambiguous meanings can be difficult for Western people to follow. Chinese are adaptable and entrepreneurial. Overall speaking, Chinese are comfortable with ambiguity and sometimes take advantages of the ambiguity of laws. Perhaps, more rounds of amendments of laws and enacting new laws are needed to build a comprehensive and sound legal system in China to better avoid uncertainty and ambiguity in legislation.
Besides, another character of Chinese culture is favoring Long Term Orientation. With a score of 118 China is a highly long term oriented society in which persistence and perseverance are normal. Relationships are ordered by status and the order is observed. Nice people are thrifty and sparing with resources and investment tends to be in long term projects such as real estate. Traditions can be adapted to suit new conditions. Chinese people recognize that government is by men rather than as in the Low LTO countries by an external influence such as God or the law. In promoting Circular Economy and Industrial Ecology concepts, the Long Term Orientation could be observed from the fifty-year plan to achieve sustainability. (see below)
National leaders such as Xie Zhenhua, Minister of SEPA, are charting a fifty-year plan to achieve sustainability. With the new vision, several developments in recent years contribute to this planning:
The Circular Economy approach of efficient resource utilization in China integrates cleaner production and industrial ecology in a broader system where efforts from various sectors are needed. The main sectors participating in Circular Economy includes household, industrial firms, networks or chains of firms, eco-industrial parks, urban planning, farming and regional infrastrcture to support resource optimization, government and consumer etc. Some scholars group the sectors in three major levels,
At the individual firm level, managers must seek much higher efficiency through the three Rs of CP, reduce consumption of resources and emission of pollutants and waste, reuse resources, and recycle by-products. (Sustainable product and process design is important in German and Japanese recycling economy plans but is just emerging as a component of the Chinese CE concept.)
At the meso level, Eco-Industrial Park is the main practice of applying Circular Economy. The EIP concepts is also discussed in the Social Systems & Policy Management lecture. Chinese scholar Lei SHI from Tsinghua University published the paper "International comparison and policy recommendation on the development model of industrial symbiosis in China" in which he systematically compared the industrial symbiosis models of Kalundborg model, USA model, UK model, Korea model, Japan model and China model.
I believe his comparison also illustrates the features of Chinese industrial symbiosis (industrial ecology) in the context of the global application of industrial ecology principles. However, as shown below, his publication is in Chinese. So I would like to translate it into English as following.
The International Comparison of Industrial Symbiosis Development Models
Key partners and collaboration network: At early stages, the enterprises spontaneously cooperate, afterwards, it's the Industrial Symbiosis Association who promoted the IE concepts. Major cooperative members of the network include: enterpriseIndustry, Kalundborg city government, residents and Industrial Symbiosis Association; The Industry Symbiosis
Association is the key participant.
Key activities and core capability: The Kalundborg mode until the mid-1990s has a strong industrial symbiosis feature that the corporation is spontaneously and gradually formed on a commercial basis. The by-product exchange among enterprises is driven by market. Several approaches are applied, including direct sales, barter, or even friendly collaboration
exchange etc. After the establishment of Industrial Symbiosis Association, several companies began to participate in the consultation, infrastructure sharing etc. so that the industrial symbiosis could be realized. Conditions of this includes enterprise geographical proximity, mutual trust, and the presence of benign cooperation.
Capital flow: The Industrial Symbiosis Association raised money from various sectors of the cluster. At the same time, the Association is dedicated in developing new collaboration projects and offering external consultation to gain economic benefit.
Key partners and collaboration network: the U.S. Commission on Sustainable Development, the pilot zone enterprises, residents, public or private developers.
Key activities and core capability: to promote waste exchange with external sectors, the implementation of green building, energy efficiency, and basic infrastructure sharing.
Capital flow: diverse funding sources including the federal government, state government, city or enterprise.
Key partners and collaboration network: NISP (the major promoter), collaboration network including central government, local government and International Synergies Limited and other enterprises.
Key activities and core capability: Corporate Membership Recruitment Plan calls on the member companies to participate the industrial symbiosis program. Interested companies submit the application letter and fulfill the basic information of the company in the survey and report it to the Industrial Symbiosis Program committee. The NISP Program committee then further sort the information using professional industrial symbiosis analyzing software; The NISP Program organizes field trip and investigation to typical circular economy practicing enterprises to further find out the supply and demand of that enterprise; The Program organizes quick wins for potential docking opportunities; If some enterprises have cooperation intention, the NISP will organize bilateral and multilateral meetings, visits for enterprises and facilitate the communication. If the collaboration of enterprises ends up successful, the NISP will draft collaboration memos and case report for companies. With the assent of enterprises, the NISP will open the case report as public resources for promotion. For resources whose condition for instant collaboration is not mature enough, the NISP will keep their information in database and offer consultation to its potential of symbiosis collaboration.
Capital flow: NISP is subsidized by International Synergies Limited and UK central government.
Key partners and collaboration network: National Environmental Department, Eco-town, local government, enterprises and community.
Key activities and core capability: 1) establish a region-based concept of "zero emissions MCC environment friendly, economic and social harmony regional development communities;
2) promote energy saving and resource recycling as well as resource integration in the park and centralized waste treatment.
Capital flow: Japanese central government subsidize 30% of the total financial need of the eco-town or even 50% to those specially innovative processes in certain eco-towns. These subsidy will be utilized to build the infrastructure and software of the eco-towns. Other budget is collected from local companies.
Key partners and collaboration network: Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Science and Technology, local government, Park Management Committee, enterprises and public etc. especially the park management committee
council or the leading enterprises
Key activities and core capability: The state departments introduce the eco-industrial park management practices, technical standards and planning Guide, responsible for the creation of the demonstration projects. Industrial Park Management Committee is responsible for EIP Planning, and setting up the EIP leading office. The committee is also responsible to promote
Waste minimization club construction or establishment of a waste exchange website, and to promote the sharing of ecological infrastructure.
Capital flow: State departments will give some financial support of the demonstration project, or through capital source of comprehensive utilization of preferential policies, such as tax relief etc.
1. Han Shi. et al．Industrial Ecology in China, Part 1 research．Journal of Industrial Ecology，2003, 6（3-4）：7-11
2. Han Shi. et al. Industrial Ecology in China, Part 2 education. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 2003(7)：6
3. Zengwei Yuan, et al. The Circular Economy: A New Development Strategy in China, Journal of Industrial Ecology, Volume 10, Issue 1-2, pages 4-8, January 2006
4. Indigo Development, Creating system solutions for sustainable development through industrial ecology
I would like to start with a deviation from addressing the assignment directly to introducing you a recent video which I find very interesting. Climate change and global warming have been widely discussed and recognized in scientific academia or around the public aspects. 98% percent of world's climate scientists believe that it's anthropogenic attribution for global warming. The topic has become the themes of academic or political conferences and summits calling for collective efforts to protect the earth climate. Policy makers are fond of taking advantage of what scientists believed truth to promote their political standpoints and outlines. The conclusion that the earth is heating up from scientists has also penetrated into political hierarchies and affected decision makers. Barack Obama used to back the "cap and trade" approach to achieve legislation for reducing emission of carbon to atmosphere by a system of regulations and financial incentives. Nevertheless, the emerging topic of climate change in recent decades has also confronted with attacks from skepticism from time to time. It has never been away from the target of debunking efforts which seeks to prove the global warming claim is a scientific hoax. It seems the skepticism succeeded in the sense of arising public debate with scientists and doubt upon their discoveries. Within just four years, the number of American who believe the global warming is manmade has dropped to about half position. Skepticism argue the so-called "global warming consensus" is not based on science but a political consensus which included a number of scientists. The climate change debate has last long ever since the so-called "global warming consensus" appeared to penetrate social, political and economical aspects. Interestingly, while the consensus seems to continuously receive unfailing support from scientific proofs, there also seems some mysterious change with policy makers who used to boast how to defend national security from global warming. It has been observed that certain politicians avoid mentioning this topic any more and some supportive evidence of the consensus began to disappear.
Then, is climate change really attributable to human activity? Is anthropogenic attribution significant ? How important is the political incentives in shaping the consensus ? Is it true that the global warming consensus is just a scientific hoax and more like a political consensus as what the skepticism claimed ? How could we explain the relationship between evolution of scientific discovery and political incentives ?
I believe the following interesting video could help give us a clue to some of the above confusions.
Climate of Doubt (PBS FRONTLINE)
As an industrial ecology student with science and engineering background, I disagree with the skepticism that global warming is just a scientific disinformation. The flaws I found from their argumentation are lacking of scientific proof and chaotic internal dynamics of their claims. Perhaps this is the way how skepticism works, they do not need to build a solid evolutionary theory but attempt to doubt and attack from various aspects to put their target in an embattled situation. As what is described in the video, continuously using the "Climate Gate" emails to arise the public criticism to the whole climate research field is ridiculous. Using the ten-year sampling size of climate data to prove climate cooling could not receive scientific appreciation at all. The skepticism seems not effective to me at all.
However, one argumentation of the skepticism triggered my reflection on the relationship of governmental incentive with scientific evolution. The observation of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both avoided to talk about climate change in their 2012 election campaign, as well as the collective disappearance of voice on this topic among republicans and politicians, aroused my strong curiosity and interest.
Why do they stop talking about climate change any more ? Is it true that the global warming is just a scientific hoax, as the skepticism says ?
Well, I couldn't answer this question yet. However, it seems to me a solid fact that political incentives do serve as selection pressure in scientific activities. Many scientific research needs huge sum of money and the scientists apply for grant from government. The money may at its end comes from tax and the tax payers are also electors in democratic societies. So the question comes to how the stakeholders, tax payers, get involved in the scientific evolutionary path through the policy incentive forces. The government could either facilitate or impede certain discoveries through their external control or setting boundary conditions.
It then comes into my mind the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) model. SCOT sees a variety of groups (called relevant social groups) competing to control a design, which at this point is far from preordained (SCOT callsthis the phase of interpretive flexibility). Each group has its own idea of the problem that the new artefact is supposed to solve and, in consequence, favors a distinctive technological design, including components and operational principles that may not be favored by competing groups.
In the SCOT model, the artifact is the consciously human-made, artificial object. And the relevant social group refers to people who are involved in a certain technical development and who hold the same view regarding that artifact. Around each artifact, a number of social groups could be distinguished and people within a particular group share the same attitude and view on the artifact. A certain group, however, could define several problems towards the technology of the artifact. Multiple solutions are conceivable to the problems. Thus, the core concept of SCOT model is a centered artifact perceived by various social groups who defines problems regarding to the artifact and at the same time seek solutions to the problems. Then, the direction of the technology development is the collective effects from different groups. Each group influence the technology development by defining problems and possibly including solutions.
In my opinion, the SCOT model also echos the Ashby's theory of Law of Requisite Variety (a controlling system must be at least as varied as the system it seeks to control ) in terms of creating various solutions to the self-defined problems of each social group in SCOT model.
In active regulation only variety can destroy variety. Ashby's principle has important implications for practical situations: since the variety of perturbations a system can potentially be confronted with is unlimited, we should always try maximize its internal variety (or diversity), so as to be optimally prepared for any foreseeable or unforeseeable contigency. This theory, as far as I see, has its implication in SCOT model where each group influence the technology development by defining various problems and possibly including various solutions. Thus, the variety of possible solutions destroyed the variety of defined problems through multilateral interaction so as to achieve the synergy of collective effects from each group on the technology development. Nevertheless, no matter what the innovation derives into, the new innovative technology again exert feedback to each social group. The technology development result at each stage may favor some social groups but might backfire some others as well. The erratic relationship between each social group's decision and the subsequent collective evolutionary result is because of the complexity of the system in SCOT model. However, if we zoom out of the SCOT model and regard all the multilateral interactions of the social groups as internal dynamics and aggregate all social groups as one sector, the technology innovation as another. Then I find the SCOT model also fits the Coevolutionary Theory. In the SCOT system, the coevolution of artefact innovation and collective decision from social groups is driven by reciprocal selection. Selection pressures provoke adaptation and thus it becomes feedback. The innovation result exert feedback to each social group, some beneficial while some adverse if we zoom in to look at each group. Then the social groups adapt themselves to the new technology and define new problems and seek for relative solutions. The collective decision from new solutions again direct the technology development into next stage. The whole coevolution process thus is driven by reciprocal selection.
By elaborating here, I somehow find that the core concept in Coevolutionary Theory "Decision makers are subjected to selection pressures from the physical system and the societal environment as much as they can exert selective pressures on them" more or less equivalent to, or rather, embedded in the statement in Ashby's theory of Law of Requisite Variety "a controlling system must be at least as varied as the system it seeks to control "
I put it this way,
a controlling system (decision makers) must be at least as varied (as much as they can exert selective pressures) as the system it seeks to control (subjected to selection pressures from the physical system and the societal environment)
Back to the relationship between government incentives and scientific research. I would like to conclude that in some situation there is also a reciprocal selection drive. The scientists receive not only grants from governmental agencies, but also an implicit selecting pressure. Those scientific topics favors the policy makers might have higher priority to be financially aided while those topics judged as not urgent or significant enough will be screened out. Thus, the discoveries of selected research topics might favor political interest or needs in subsequent policy making. In some extreme cases, the policy development will attract more young scientists who want to delve into the specific fields and begin their research on it. Some senior accomplished scientists may also step into the political hierarchy and become policy makers. Their opinions as politicians based on their previous research experience also influence the whole filed and future research direction. In this sense, government incentives and scientific discoveries are also driven by reciprocal selection.
Think up four ways in which government can increase the use of LCAs through external control and setting boundary conditions. Which way would you choose and why?
My elaboration above argues that in many situation, government incentives and scientific discoveries are under reciprocal selection drive. Now I take LCA tool as an example to explain how government can increase the use of LCAs through external control and setting boundary conditions.
Tuomas Mattila in his paper "Methodological Aspects of Applying Life Cycle Assessment to Industrial Symbioses " categorized the research questions of Industrial Symbiosis studies into five main groups and further assigned them into three big groups.
(the paper could be download here)
The recent International Reference Life Cycle Data System Guidelines for Life Cycle Assessment (ILCD 2010) use the extent of change to the surrounding economy as a criterion for categorization of LCA studies by decision context. The context will then influence the methods that should be used to collect the inventory (static vs. dynamic, scenarios vs. equilibrium
modeling) and to set the system boundaries of the supply chain.
The three decision contexts of the ILCD guidelines are presented in the following figure. In situation A, the LCA will be used to support a decision with only minor influence on the surrounding economy. In situation B, the decision to be supported may have significant impact on the regional economy, through, for example, increased or decreased production capacity. In situation C, no decisions are supported, but the focus is on static analysis of either an existing site or a hypothetical scenario.
In the field of LCA, two different methods have emerged for inventory collection: attributional and consequential analysis. The former looks at existing systems and allocates environmental
impacts to a certain production chain using accounting rules. The latter analyzes the changes (consequences) caused by decisions. Since the analysis of potential changes includes so many uncertainties and assumptions, some researchers recommend using attributional approaches, which at least are based on measurable data. Others, however, view avoiding the uncertainties as providing a false sense of security.
Thus, based on the above effort of categorizing the implementation of LCA on various study questions in Industrial Symbiosis study, and later the grouping of three decision contexts of the ILCD guidelines. I now present my argumentation of government influences in increasing the use of LCA through external control and setting boundary conditions based on the above categories.
1. Government could set environmental management goals for local enterprises and existing industrial parks or industrial symbiosis. Enterprises and Industrial Parks should be requested to publish their sustainability report to evaluate current environmental impact. For example, government could issue emission standards for carbon dioxide, waste water and other toxic materials on a life cycle perspective. Products from certain companies must comply with the standards issued by government in terms of energy consumption and material extraction behind the product itself. Industrial Symbiosis clusters are also required to evaluate their existing system to comply with the government standards. Those products which meets the standards might be able to labeled as "green product" while those industrial clusters meeting the standards could be labeled as "eco industrial parks". Thus by setting some standards as external control, government could encourage the use of LCA tool in calculating the environmental impacts which should be limited to certain level to meet the standards. In this situation, the LCA use falls into the group 1 "Accounting" and "Situation C".
2. In the expansion, no clear reference is available and a market analysis is necessary for identifying what would have happened if the expansion had not occurred. Applying the guideline of LCA to IS, it's suggested when improvement or expansion is analyzed either (1) it be demonstrated that the proposed changes do not change the surrounding system or (2) these changes be analyzed with consequential LCA. Government could thus set boundary conditions requiring that the expansion result of industrial symbiosis do not change the surrounding system or within an acceptable range by consequential LCA analysis. Thus, Government encourages the use of LCA for decision making by comparing current industrial network with the planned expansion. Implementation of the more decision-oriented LCA methods could ensure that progress in IS does not result in unexpected indirect effects throughmarket mechanisms.
3. Analyzing the implementation of Circular Economy is macroscale decision support and calls for consequential LCA (situation B in figure). According to the ILCD guidelines, a CE should be compared to the long-term marginal development that would have occurred without the CE (ILCD 2010). Macro-level LCA tools are used to analyze Circular Economy as it has macro-impact on economy. Government should thus clearly set boundary conditions and define the target of Circular Economy. Besides, government might also initiate subsidies to those companies who want to participate and benefit in the Circular Economy. Both government, strategies designers, policy makers and stakeholders all need LCA to evaluate the consequences of being a member of the Circular Economy.
4. Perhaps, the most important resource in implementing an LCA study is the database. Government should also sponsor the research institute for establishing and updating the national and local database to foster the utilization of LCA tool. Besides, more and more LCA software have been development in recent years. Thus investment in R&D of LCA software and database construction is also a significant approach to increase the application of LCA.
5. Apart from above, government might also contribute in the propaganda and public education of Life Cycle Thinking to shape better customer behavior or social value concept system in order to lead us to live a sustainable living style.
GDF SUEZ's case study for analyzing Environmental Paradigms using M E Colby's Evolution Theory and M Thompson's Cultural Theory
There are two famous acknowledged Environmental Paradigms theories widely cited in academia, namely M E Colby's Evolution of Paradigms Theory and M Thompson's Cultural Theory. Both of them explained the relationship between human and nature. A summary is provided as following,
• M E Colby
Environmental Management in Development: The Evolution of Paradigms
– Frontier Economics
– Environmental Protection
– Resource Management
– Eco-development (industrial ecology)
– Deep ecology
• M Thompson
Understanding Environmental Values: A Cultural Theory Approach
In M E Colby's five paradigm theory, the five paradigms have their unique dispositions,
• Earth provides limitless supply of
– Physical resources
– Sinks for by-products of consumption
– Primary limitations imposed by availability of labor & capital
• Environmental problems as we know them are absent
• Sustainability is not a concern
• Policy strategy
– Future is created through a price system based on free choice.
– Free market --Governments act only as necessary to deal with unavoidable market imperfections
– Technological optimism --Technology is good, progressive, and can cure any problem it creates
– No pre-market assessments of technology
• Earth is a closed system.
• Human society and natural ecosystems have co-evolved.
– Nature has value and a .right. to exist independent of humanclaims of hegemony.
– Nature.s intrinsic value is hidden by economic activity.
• Sustainability is the wrong question as it comes out of human-centeredness.
• Policy strategy
– Human transformation of .self. to realize a harmony with nature.
– Technological pessimism; the value of technological innovation must be proven.
– Level of economic activity ultimately consistent with solar inputs.
Externality Control / Environmental Protection
• Earth is an open system.
– Waste and pollution can pose a problem
– Waste and pollution are economic externalities.
– Environmental problems are failures in the economic system.
• Sustainability is not a concern
– Future can be protected by interventions in the market.
• Policy strategy
– Technological optimism
– Pollution reduction and control through laws and regulations.
• Earth is a closed economic system.
– Exhaustion of resources is a matter of concern
– Mismanagement of resources is an externality to be internalized.
• Sustainability (weak) means maintaining the combined stock of human and natural capital
– Ecology poses a necessary constraint on growth
• Policy strategy
– Technological optimism/clean technology
– Economize ecology
– Correct market incentives / Get the price right.
– Incorporate all types of capital & resources into calculations for investment planning
Industrial Ecology / Eco-development
• Earth is a closed ecological system.
– scale / type of development ≠ long-term survival
• Human society and natural ecosystems have co-evolved.
– Nature has intrinsic value, revealed through economic activity.
• Sustainability = maintain stocks of both human and natural capital
• Decoupling of biophysical from economic growth – steady flow
• Policy strategy
– “Ecologize economy”
– Moral/ethical transformation to instill environmental concerns.
– Technological realism; precautionary principle to handle uncertainty.
– Life cycle framework; product policy, “Pollution prevention pays”
– Policy equity
While M E Colby's five paradigms give diverse assumptions of the type of human-nature interaction, there is another well noted perspective on environmental paradigms- , namely the M Thompson's cultural theory，which elaborates from the "Group" perspective and "Grid" perspective. In his cultural theory, the "Group" perspective focus on the extent to which an individual is incorporated (or perspective incorporation) into bounded units while the "Grid" perspective elaborates on the extent to which individual is influenced by externally imposed prescriptions.
Cited from Michael Thompson's publication Understanding Environmental Values: A Cultural Theory Approach , the cultural theory maps the disputes concerning human and physical nature in terms of a fourfold typology of forms of social solidarity as following.
cited from 'Understanding Environmental Values: A Cultural Theory Approach'
Two of these solidarities, individualism and hierarchy, have long been familiar to social scientists. Cultural theory’s novelty lies in its addition of the other two solidarities, egalitarianism and fatalism, and in its making explicit the different premises—the different social constructions of nature, physical and human—that sustain these four fundamental arrangements for the promotion of social transactions.
Below is the summarized cultural theory perspectives on environment. (for detailed explanation, please refer to Thompson's original paper)
– Lays down the rules
– Takes calculated / analyzed / controllable risk
– Optimistic: nature is stable until pushed beyond limits, World is controllable
– Institutions can be trusted to prevent going beyond limits
– Analytically based regulation
– Unconstrained innovator
– Risks create opportunities
– Optimistic: Nature is benign and resilient
– Institutions are not trusted
– Prefers market-based trial-and-error
– Disagrees with rules and exploitative attitude
– Reject risk-taking
– Pessimistic: Nature is fragile, intricately interconnected and ephemeral
– Institutions are not trusted
– Voluntary simplicity is only solution to enviro problems
– Sees no opportunity to take action
– See risk taking as necessary consequence of fate
– Pessimistic: Man and nature are fickle and unpredictable
– No management strategy
Choose a firm on which you have data for instance through a recent annual sustainability report. Analyse the underlying society-nature paradigm of this firm.
Enlightened by the comprehensive theoretical work, I now use the principals summarized above to analyse the the society-nature paradigm of a chosen company based on its sustainability report. I choose GDF SUZE for my case study here and try to interpret its sustainability report 2011 according to the environmental paradigm perspectives knowledge.
I choose GDF SUZE because I was deeply impressed by its ambition and responsibility of sustainable development four years ago when I carried out an internship in its branch in Shanghai Chemical Industrial Park. (Perhaps, I made an decision of picking it up again for case study due to my bounded rationality -- emotional effect)
Since its origins in the early 19th century, GDF SUEZ has been helping cities and businesses to meet the challenges linked to population growth, urbanization, higher standards of living and protecting the environment. The Group supports changes in society that are based as much on economic growth as on, social progress and the preservation of natural resources. GDF SUEZ develops its businesses (electricity, natural gas, services) around a model based on responsible growth to take up today's major energy and environmental challenges: meeting energy needs, ensuring the security of supply, fighting against climate change and maximizing the use of resources.
Generally, GDF SUZE is the No.1 player in the world or within Europe in the fields including electricity, natural gas, LNG, energy service and environmental service. From both the website of the company and its sustainability report we could read about the company's facts and profiles.
In a context of growing energy needs and dwindling natural resources involving increasing production costs, GDF SUEZ has a policy of growth underlying its sustainable strategy. The company defines sustainability at the core of it business strategy as it claims,
The GDF SUEZ businesses – natural gas, electricity, energy services and environment – are at the heart of the major challenges of sustainable development; conversely, the Group’s activities are increasingly structured around the drivers of sustainable development.
According to its sustainability report page 21, the company claims three complementary principals of its sustainability development strategy:
The ﬁrst is that it contributes to preventing ESG (environmental, social and governance) risks in the general sense, such as ethical, environmental, social or safety …… The second objective is the design and deployment of new activities that meet the requirements of sustainable development …… The third objective underpins the Group’s long-term future: to encourage
the stakeholders, both internal (employees) and external (end clients, public authorities, investors, rating agencies, etc.) to back the Group’s corporate project.
According to the company's sustainability report 2011, we could see the company implement its sustainable development strategy through six perspectives: governance, economy, environment, human resource, human right and stakeholders. To achieve its goal, the company payed its sustainable efforts in many ways including,
• fighting climate change
• responding to society's expectations
• guaranteeing ethic principals
• developing human capital
• promoting health and safety
• promoting ethical conduct
• limiting exposure to climate change
• listening to and have a structured dialogue with every stakeholder
• guaranteeing industrial security and facility safety
• conserving biodiversity and saving water resources
• acting as a social responsible company
• developing the group's attractiveness and effectiveness
• developing social cohesion within the croup
• complying with UN Global Compact principals
The Group contributes to rethinking and modifying its production to limit the environmental impact and exposure to climate change.
In the renewable energy sector, GDF SuEZ had installed capacity of 16,121 mW at the end of 2011. At 11,332 mW, the Group is the leading hydroelectric operator in France and Brazil, where it is continuing to develop large-scale projects. GDF SuEZ also has a production capacity of 918 mW in biomass and biogas, in Europe (where it is a leader with two world-scale facilities of 180 mW and 190 mW, the latter under construction), the united States and latin America. Wind energy is also a priority, with capacity of 3,792 mW, making the Group the leading operator on the French and Belgian markets and the second in Portugal.
While GDF SUEZ is the dominant electricity producer in Europe, its emission of CO2 has been controlled in a relative low level thanks to its rigid environmental impact limiting measures.
Here is a figure cited from its sustainability report page 39,
Comparing the Group's Environmental Indicators in 2009, 2010 and 2011 via their annual Environmental Indicator Repoart (2010) and the Sustainability Report 2011 page 65 (Environmental Indicator), we could easily draw solid conclusion that the Group is improving its environmental performance.
Let's just pick some indicators as examples for a scrutinization of its environmental impact control effort.
Except from its endeavor of limiting exposure to climate change, the Group also contributes its self in protecting biodiversity in cooperation with France Nature Environnement (FNE), International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (FRB) and etc. GDF SUEZ Environment reinforced its analysis and understanding of the risks and opportunities linked to the management of ecosystems and biodiversity. GDF SUEZ also represents a major force in promoting the sustainable management of water resources. (http://www.gdfsuez.com/en/commitments/climate-environmental/preserving-water-reducing-air-pollution/)
GDF SUEZ is committed to:
In 2011, the Group Executive Committee approved ten Sustainable Development Objectives which could be seen from its Sustainability Report 2011, page 27
GDF SUZE also published its '12 Commitments for General Environment Plan' which could be summarized as following,
1. To provide solutions that meet the ambitious goals of Grenelle objectives for building environmental and energy efficiency.
2. To participate in the transition to carbonless energy in France and abroad.
3. To propose competitive and environmentally friendly solutions for the transport of people.
4. To favor circular economy, based on waste reduction, reuse and recycling.
5. To focus R&D on sustainable development.
6. To reduce unnecessary waste by improving drinking water system efficiency.
7. To develop public-private partnerships.
8. To integrate biodiversity into Group site management in France by the end of 2009.
9. To hire 114,000 employees by 2014.
10. To continue efforts to reduce its impact on the environment and to encourage employees to be sustainable development ambassadors.
11. To pursue an active dialogue with stakeholders at every level of Group governance.
12. To persuade shareholders of the value of the Group’s sustainable development strategy as an asset.
All the above arguments and other information provided in the Sustainability Report has demonstrated GDF SUZE's great effort in controlling its environmental impact as well as implementing principals in industrial ecology.
GDF SUEZ puts responsible growth at the heart of its activities and capitalizes on its strengths and businesses to afﬁrm its exemplary status internationally in the area of sustainable development. The Group issued its Sustainable Development Policy and established a sustainable development department to facilitate implementing those matured policies (Sustainability Report ,page 25 & 29). The three focuses of its sustainability policy are Markets, Employees, External Stakeholders, namely 1) to anticipate and satisfy market expectations, by designing targeted offers for energy efﬁciency, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to contribute to the creation of the sustainable city. 2) to reduce the impact of the Group’s activities and respond to the expectations of stakeholders. 3) The exemplary working conditions, professional fulﬁlment of the employees, and diversity and equality of opportunity for access to employment are imperative for the Group.
Also, GDF SUEZ complies itself with the UN Global Compact Principles to shape a better global sustainable impact. GDF SuEZ signed up to the Global Compact in 2000 and chairs the French network of the Global Compact. As a major world-scale industrial company, GDF SuEZ is concerned with respecting the ten principles of the UN Global Compact by setting responsible growth at the heart of its strategy in all its businesses。
Besides, GDF SUEZ bears in his core value the principle of 'Awareness and Structured Dialogue with Every Stakeholder'. SUEZ shoulders the global responsibility of steering the global economy towards more sustainable growth models. The Group is concerned with initiating, stimulating and maintaining a proactive dialogue with its stakeholders and reinforcing its partnerships. A particular feature of GDF SuEZ’s awareness and dialogue approach with its stakeholders lies in an active policy of developing strong partnerships with local and international associations. The Group also involves with global think-tanks and keeps in close contact with EU institutions.
Moreover, apart from caring its external interactions and shaping global sustainability leadership, GDF SUEZ also minds its internal dynamics by developing social cohesion within the Group. The company puts its efforts in raising awareness of CSR in terms of promoting professional equality, providing access to employment for disabilities, preventing phychosocial risks, promoting ethical conduct and developing a real corporate culture. Impressively, the Group also sets goals for improving the women's status in the internal dynamics.
4 OBJECTIVES FOR 2015:
• 1 in 3 senior managers appointed will be a woman,
• 25% of executives will be women,
• 30% of recruitments will be women,
• 35% of «high-potentials» will be women.
Beyond ﬁnancial criteria, it is essential to take ESG factors into account in the development of the company to ensure its sustainability and proﬁtability. GDF SUEZ stays in close dialogue with SRI inventors and analysts. The Group listens to the various calls from fund managers and specialist analysts – especially on questions concerning the ﬁght against climate change, HSE (health, safety and environment) policy, governance, the social and environmental programs accompanying the Group’s major industrial projects, and more generally, on the strategy and organization of GDF SuEZ regarding sustainable development.
The ESG ratings of GDF SUEZ generally reflects its sustainability performance.
In my case study of GDF SUEZ sustainability, I would like to scrutinize its human-nature performance with both the M E Colby's Five Evolutionary Paradigms Theory and M Thompson's Cultural Theory and then try to compare the results from the two theoretical analogy.
Using M E Colby's Five Evolutionary Paradigms:
Apparently, we should first preclude the Frontier Economics and Deep Ecology. Since Frontier Economics considers earth as limitless supply of resources and limitless sink of by-products of consumption. Environmental problems are absent and sustainability is not a concern. However this is in contrary to GDF SUEZ's core value which is to promote sustainability in its industrial production. Then the Deep Ecology emphasizes self-sufficiency and minimum production with a technological pessimism perspective. Nevertheless, this is not the case with GDF SUEZ as it's one of the dominant energy and electricity producers in the world and technology innovation is embedded in the core value of its development strategy.
Then the question remains whether the Company is in the paradigm of environmental protection, resource management or eco-development. My conclusion is the Company's sustainability reflects an integration of these three paradigms, perhaps with more weight on the eco-development paradigm. Those endeavors paid to limit the exposure of climate change and emissions reflects partially "end-of-pipe" treatment. The promotion of renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency and using renewable resources to gain more profits to some extent demonstrates the Company's practice of economizing ecology. The company also contributed to the conservation of natural resources in terms of conserving biodiversity and saving water resources.
Albeit I admit the GDF SUZE sustainability performance shows image of both Environmental Protection and Resource Management paradigms, its high appreciated endeavor toward eco-development should never be ignored. We have seen plenty of evidences of eco-development in its practices of social, economical and environmental dimensions. The Company treats earth as closed ecological system and weights nature conservation as important as economical growth by shaping an responsible growth strategy. The Company's compliance with UN Global Compact reflects an social equity and global environmental concern. Besides, the strong stakeholder awareness is a sign of achieve common benefit. The company's close dialogue with institutions, think-tanks and SRI inventors and analysts enables itself to make a comprehensive sustainable development strategy. The technical innovations from its cooperation with institutions raised the energy efficiency or substitute the old production with innovative designs, which makes the decoupling of economic growth from resource consumption possible. Besides, the company's effort of promoting ethical conduct shows an transformation to instill environmental concerns. Last but not the least, the company's effort in re-shaping its production line and substitute the raw material resources reflects the 3P philosophy (Pollution Prevention Pays).
In conclusion, I argue that the GDF SUEZ's society-nature paradigm lies in the overlap area or a combination of Environmental Protection, Resource Management and Eco-Development. As Michael E. Colby illustrate in his publication, the paradigm evolution results from the non0linear evolution progress integrating Frontier Economics and Deep Ecology. It's hard to define clear boundaries for the Environmental Protection, Resource Management and Eco-Development paradigms and they do have overlap, just as what we observe from GDF SUEZ's case.
Using M Thompson's Cultural Theory Paradigms:
In the Cultural Theory of environment paradigms, we could easily first conclude that Fatalist and Egalitarian are not the Company's paradigm. This is because Fatalist believes man and nature are fragile and there is no management strategy while the Egalitarian believes that nature is fragile and voluntary simplicity is only solution to enviro problems.
Then again, I argue that the Company's society-nature paradigm reflects both faces of Hierarchist and Individualist. From the Individualist face, the "market-based trial-and-error preference" principal sounds plausible as the Company always pursuits maximizing profit and market-based trial-and-error is indeed one of the routine practice of the Company. From the Hierarchist side, I see the plausible reasoning of "takeing calculated / analyzed / controllable risk" just as the Company calculating the ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) risks before any action is taken. Nature is stable until pushed beyond limits and institution can be trusted to prevent going beyond limits. So it sounds reasonable that in the Hierarchist paradigm, the Company takes its responsibility to conserve nature resources and promote eco-production so as to prevent going beyond limit. All these assumptions sound reasonable.
However, a confusing point to me is that both Hierarchist and Individualist paradigms consider nature benign and resilient or at least resilient before "going beyond limits". But I find this confusing because it sounds pretty like "Frontier Economists" which treats nature limitless supply of resources and limitless sink of by-products of consumption. This is the only remaining concern I still have before I conclude that the Company's paradigm is across Hierarchist and Individualist.
NOKIA seeks to extend its sustainability strategy into its supply chain -----> Chinese suppliers have to fit with criteria established by NOKIA
•Where would you situate this trip in the Holling cycle (system boundary: Nokia & its supply chain)?
•Is this an effective way of diffusing sustainability criteria?
•How would another coordination mechanism improve on this?
A documentary video was presented during the lecture to show how NOKIA incorporated its sustainability criteria, especially after an visit to its cable and charger supplier in Shenzhen, China. Before the trip, NOKIA management board had an debate on the process of inauguration of the sustainability criteria. They decided to make a trip themselves to investigate its supply chain. During the trip, the auditors from NOKIA and a consulting firm observed social issues pertaining to poor working conditions, overtime working, employee welfare, employee health issues which do not satisfy their sustainability criteria. Therefore, NOKIA would like to extend its sustainability strategy into supply chains to conform to their decent goals.
Before answering the questions, why don't we have a retrospection of the heuristic Holling cycle ?
The Holling Adaptive Cycle concept was built upon the concept of “Panarchy”. Panarchy is the hierarchical structure in which systems of nature and human, as well as combined human-nature system and social-ecological system are interlinked in never-ending adaptive cycles of growth, accumulation, restructuring and renewal.
Above is the stylized 2D representation of the Holling Cycle. In which, the arrows show the speed of the flow in the cycle. Short, closely spaced arrows indicate a slowly changing situation; long arrows indicate a rapidly changing situation. The cycle reflects changes in two properties: the y axis (the potential that is inherent in the accumulated resources of biomass and nutrients) and the x axis (the degree of connectedness among controlling variable). (Holling, 2001)
Two properties of three characterize the 2D adaptive cycle and the states of the system depicted---potential and connectedness. (Holling, 2001)
● The inherent potential of a system that is available for change, since that potential determines the range of future options possible. This property can be thought of, loosely, as "wealth" of a system.
● The internal controllability of a system; that is, the degree of connectedness between internal controlling variables and processes, a measure that reflects the degree of flexibility or rigidity of such controls, such as their sensitivity or not to perturbation.
● The adaptive capacity; that is, the resilience of the system, a measure of its vulnerability to unexpected or unpredictable shocks. This property can be thought of as the opposite of the vulnerability of the system.
Based on the cognition we have on the adaptive cycle here, I would like to analyze the NOKIA case now,
•Where would you situate this trip in the Holling cycle (system boundary: Nokia & its supply chain)?
As shown in the video, NOKIA organized a trip to one of its suppliers in Shenzhen, China to assess the sustainability of its supply chain with the involvement of one Dutch consulting firm. To situate this trip in the 2D Holling cycle, we apparently take into account of two parameters--potential and connectedness, namely how the ecological, economic, social and cultural capitals are accumulated and how the connectedness increased to a rigidity to such an extent of becoming an accident waiting to happen.
NOKIA, through its endeavor of looking for its suppliers, locating its supply chain, broadening Chinese market and establishing mutual trust and communication with Chinese local suppliers, experienced a slow but progressive accumulation of resources and capital. All these work, which is done prior to this specific trip, falls into the category of the r phase. In my perspective, I would like to mark this trip exactly in the K phase, which means before this trip much effort has been paid to accumulate capital and this progress is slowly changing situation. During the exploitation to conservation phase, the plants of the Shenzhen supplier had been built; the manufacturing equipment had been purchased; workers had been recruited and accordingly wages had been paid; the communication of NOKIA and the supplier had been established and the material and products had been transported; perhaps external pressures and incentives had been received by both NOKIA and the supplier in terms of transaction cost and governmental policies... All these facts imply the capital or wealth had been accumulated and the potential went from active to passive. Meanwhile, the connectedness between NOKIA and the local supplier increased to more rigidity. While the Shenzhen local supplier expanded their factories and built the dorms, more employees had been recruited thus more products could be manufactured, thus the connectedness increased to more rigidity.
However, this trip exposed the crisis of sustainability of the supply chain of NOKIA. During the trip, the consultant and NOKIA representative investigated the supplier through aspects like manufacturing efficiency, employee welfare, management structure, social impact etc. They dig out some problems: the workers are paid below minimum wage, workers are often maltreated, poor work condition and safety concerns.
"Every growth carriess a seed of decline." I believe the sustainability crisis from a certain perspective reflects the decline of the system function and the feasibility. Taking NOKIA and its supply chain as system boundary, this point implies the system becomes too unflexible and unliberal and comes to a crysis waiting to happen. Due to the lack of monitoring and communication between NOKIA and its suppliers, the performance of the supplier rarely received feedback from NOKIA and thus became rigid and robust. Then the resilience of the system decreased through out the conservation phase.
Holling in his paper Understanding Complexity of Economic, Ecological and Social Systems defines that the resilience is another dimension of the adaptive cycle. Resilience shrinks as the cycle moves towards K, where the system becomes more brittle. In this case, the resilience drops to a certain point where sustainability crisis arose within NOKIA's supply chain and this crisis could cause a collapse of the supplying chain system. The trajectory then moves abruptly into a back loop from K to V.
Thus change and variety on NOKIA's management strategy are needed. Current supply chains should be restructured and extant resources should be reassorted. This phase confronts the theory of back loop which is from Ω - α. This trend is reflected in the video when at the board meeting, the auditor gave an report to NOKIA management board and they apparently knew what to do to make a difference.
•Is this an effective way of diffusing sustainability criteria?
The effort that NOKIA has paid in diffusing sustainability criteria to its suppliers is appreciated. However, the situation is far from satisfactory according to the documentary video. As the representative of NOKIA says during her final assessment bilateral with the supplier management, they are embarking this new adventure on sustainability management and they intend to show to their stakeholders that NOKIA is now doing something towards sustainability. Yes, they still have a long way to go.
I would also like to embed NOKIA's new effort into the Holling's Cycle. Their new sustainability strategy and criteria reflected their renewal and innovation in the α phase. The rising endeavor on sustainability criteria could be considered as testing of innovation during the reorganization phase. Once they succeeded, they would further implement it and achieve new growth.
While acknowledging NOKIA's effort, we should also bear in mind that "locality" is one of the main principle of industrial eco-system according to Jouni Korhonen's theory in his publication Four ecosystem principles for an industrial ecosystem. "The ‘actors’ in the ecosystem adapt to the local environmental conditions and cooperate with their surroundings in diverse interdependent relationships. Ecosystems need to respect the local natural limiting factors". Thus I would argue that NOKIA shouldn't blindly impose its Scandinavian sustainability criteria directly to Chinese suppliers. The working conditions and local employment market as well as government legislation are all the local limiting factors. To improve the welfare of employees and to rectify current worker abuse and gender inequity all sound good. Nonetheless, whether this beyond compliance effort could achieve positive result depends on whether NOKIA itself could influence the industry and achieve legitimacy outcomes.
If NOKIA could shape new values in the market for which confronts with its sustainable product strategies. It is dedicated to establish a new technological trajectory. Then NOKIA can be seen as institutional entrepreneurs who seek to form a new organizational field with its own selection and transmission mechanisms. If that happens, the NOKIA's sustainability criteria could impose selection pressure to its competitors and other companies in this industry might want to mimic NOKIA's criteria. NOKIA then received benefit from the legitimacy perspective.
Finally, I would like to conclude by a principal in the ancient Chinese military treatise <The Art of War> written by Sun Tzu (544 BC - 496 BC)--------- “知己知彼 百戰不殆”. It means “
If you know yourself and your enemy, you’ll never lose a battle. ”
The wisdom by ancient Chinese military master Sun Tze taught us "before you make a decision or strategy, always investigate yourself and your enemies and balance the trade-off." So for NOKIA, they should bear in mind, their competitors in Asia like HTC and Samsung might have different management and sustainability criteria with them. Most importantly, HTC and Samsung are Asian brands and they know much more about local situations. NOKIA should be cautious in taking every step in managing their Asian supply chains.
•How would another coordination mechanism improve on this?
There are quite some coordination mechanisms that NOKIA could try to implement while each may have its own advantages and limitations.
Notwithstanding several arguments could be raised to analyze this, I want to highlight with hitting the essence of the question itself. To me, the question remains what is the basic contradiction (question ) to be solved ?
The basic contradiction (question ) is that NOKIA and its suppler execute different sustainability criteria and management strategy based on different social values. To solve this problem, there are only two possibilities,
1) One party accept other's value/performance/system.
2) Two parties compromise to a 'grey area' where both social ethics and profits could be achieved.
Above we discussed the possibility that NOKIA learn from or mimic its local Asian competitors for local empirical methods in coordination with its supply chain. However, NOKIA could also do it in his own way to "make a difference" in Asia.
This comes to Isomorphism. NOKIA could implement coercive pressure to its suppliers and force them to adopt new sustainability criteria. While it sounds an adventure full of hardship, NOKIA could still benefit from building its unique reputation and legitimacy welfare in China. Or NOKIA could invite the General Manager and the management board of the factory to visit its European factories and share its normative manufacturing experience. Perhaps NOKIA could even inaugurate an training session for the mid-level managers in Chinese factory to change their cognition on sustainable production and corporate social ethics. By doing this, NOKIA trains professionals and send them to managing local factories in China. This conforms with the normative pressure in the isomorphism theory.
Leadership companies understand the value of assessing their social and environmental performance on a regular basis. From the informal query “how are we doing?”, to scheduled
surveys, to formal audit processes conducted by outside experts, companies are seeking information about how they are viewed and how they are progressing in meeting the expectations of investors, employees, customers, business partners, and community leaders
on a range of corporate social and environmental responsibility issues. Companies that produce these reports show a resource commitment to the issues and a willingness to be transparent. While no company completely discloses all of their information, companies that make stakeholders aware of their policies and procedures build trust. Reporting allows investors, employees, consumers and regulators to make informed decisions.
Perhaps, NOKIA could establish an bilateral communication system with its suppliers and request annual reports from suppliers for evaluating their performance. Auditors could make annual trips to suppliers to assess their compliance with the criteria. Also, one thing I would encourage NOKIA to do is to make their sustainable criteria explicit and publicly available, possibly on their website, so that their suppliers could frequently introspect themselves with these criteria and principals. Employees who work in suppliers should also be informed with the criteria so that they know whether themselves are maltreated under the governance of the supplier management. With clear criteria, those employees could form self-organization or self-governance to protect their rights.
Holling C.S. (2001); "Understanding the Complexity of Economic, Ecological, and Social Systems"
Ecosystems (2001) 4: 390–405
Jouni Korhonen (2001); "Four Ecosystem Principles for an Industrial Ecosystem" Journal of Cleaner Production 9 (2001) 253–259
Aseem Prakash (2001); "Why Do Firms Adopt ‘Beyond-Compliance’ Environmental Policies?
Business Strategy and the Environment 10, 286–299 (2001)
Nathan E. Hurst (2004); Corporate Ethics, Governance and Social Responsibility: Comparing European Business Practices to those in the United States
Florian Lüdeke-Freund (2009); Business Model Concepts in Corporate Sustainability Contexts -From Rhetoric to a Generic Template for “Business Models for Sustainability”
SSPMY Social Systems Policy and Management
1. Choose a newsitem about an event in which the actions of a firm or governmental agancy play a crucial role.
● write a plausible account of how these actions might be the result of rational decisionmaking.
● write an alternative equally plausible account, showing how these actions might result from a boundedly rational organization.
The Evolution of Timberland Product Labeling
- Sustainable Earthkeeper Phylosophy
Timberland, one of my favorite brands, is famous for its quality, sustainability and expensive price. I would like to take this case as example for reasoning why sustainable labeling decisions are made by the company's management.
More and more, today’s consumers want to know what kind of environmental footprint is being left by the products they buy. In 2006, Timberland began putting that information on 30 million footwear boxes: by placing a “nutritional label” on every box to educate consumers about the product. Where it was manufactured. How it was produced. And its effect on the environment. To create the label, three critical areas are highlighted: Information about the manufacturing plant. The impact of manufacturing on the climate. And the impact on the community, including such factors as the number of hours of volunteer service performed by Timberland employees to “Make it better” in the community. Timberland also puts a message inside the box asking consumers to consider what kind of footprint they themselves are leaving and encouraging them to become proactive in the effort to protect our planet. Under this initiative, footwear boxes are also crafted from 100% post-consumer recycled waste fiber, using no chemical glues. Only soy-based inks are used to print the labels, which are the first of their kind in the industry.
The Timberland Company’s popularity has expanded amongst the casual consumer since 1918. The well-known product of the hiking boot turns eco-friendly, finding its mark in the retail sector and proliferating products from waterproof hiking boots to innovative environmentally-friendly worldwide stores. The Timberland Company has shown its sustainability effort and its impacts on the retail industry with great influenced concepts of nature transforming the way we not only conserve energy, but how one’s fashion becomes conservative-naturally. The Timberland brand has a remarkable philosophy stated well by Timberland’s President & CEO Jeff Swartz, which involves not only community engagement, but its offering of environmental conscious products, and it’s very profitable supply chains. Jeff Swartz calls these elements the, “Earthkeepers philosophy.” Mike Harrison, Timberland’s Chief Brand officer expressed his advocacy campaign for nature conservation with the proliferation of the Earthkeeper boot, and bringing a full-line of merchandise that has become very profitable for Timberland. According to, Stratham, N.H (The Business Wire) reports the bottom line equaled in the second quarter revenue at $240.1 million, a 27.1% increase compared with revenue of 189.0 million for the same period of 2010.
This outdoor brand was developed with the intention to be sustainable with retail stores using less energy as they are LEED certified, and the manufacturing of products that can be completely dissembled and recycled, eco-conscious good. Another interesting fact about this retailer is that has its own Nutrition Label, the first of its kind for the retail industry, which includes how the product was produced, manufactured, and the impact on the environment. I find this very exciting, for I have always loved this modern hiking boot made by Timberland. Go to timberland.com to shop, learn, and become environmentally educated on how one retailer in the industry is consciously aware of its surroundings.
First, I would like to write a plausible account of how these actions might be the result of rational decisionmaking. Here I would also incorporate my reasoning according to my knowledge on evolutionary explanations of strategic decisionmaking of firms after reading the Chapter 8 of the reading material ( An evolutionary approach towards the strategic perspectives of firms ).
Timberland's eco-consciousness results from its sustainable product strategy. I believe Timberland firstly tried to capture and appeal the customer's psychology. As customers always want to know what material has been used for the product and whether it worth the price. By taking the opportunity of informing customers the materials of the product, Timberland tries to educate people how its manufacturing is consciously aware of environmental impact and how people should confront themselves with this sustainable theme.
From this case, we could see Timberland is paying high attention on Corporate Social Responsibility. By placing a “nutritional label” on every box to educate consumers about the product, Timberland educates people the impact of manufacturing on climate, environment and community. It conveys to the public the company's awareness of "Profit, People and Planet". The triple bottom line is nevertheless one of the core values within social perspectives in Industrial Ecology. As we could see from the above Footprint label, Timberland precisely evaluates the product's environmental impact by calculating the energy consumed and renewable energy percentage in the consumption, which is very impressive to me actually. To be honest, I like this brand not only because of its high quality of product but also because the co-emotion of sustainable life. I think the sustainable label transforms the way we not only conserve energy, but also how one’s fashion becomes conservative-naturally.
In terms of decisionmaking, the CEO of Timberland, Jeff Swartz calls it “Earthkeepers philosophy.” Apart from capturing the customers' psychology, Timberland's commitment to stakeholder engagement has helped embed innovation across the company and the entire footwear industry. It has helped make the Timberland brand increasingly synonymous with social responsibility and transparency. I would also like to highlight that the stakeholder analysis is also one of the key concept in Industrial Ecology.
In 2006, for example, stakeholders reviewed Timberland’s “Green Index” and “Nutritional Label,” which measures and discloses the impact of its footwear with regard to climate, chemical use, factory conditions and resource consumption. Timberland makes the sustainable decisions to confront themselves with better service for stakeholders. They did the following things to fully implement its sustainable strategy on the stakeholder dimension.
Now, I would also like to reason a little bit on this case from what I learned on the
"evolutionary approach towards the strategic perspectives of firms".
Novelty is created through the internal dynamics of the firm: the processes of framing, positioning, routinizing, and problem solving. In the competitive market which analogize with the biological evolution, I would say the selection pressure is the public fashion and customers preference. In terms of the mechanisms of Firm Level Retention and Change, Dr. Boons grouped the the corporations as three kinds: 1) Stable Firms; 2) Dynamic Firms; 3) Transformative Firms. According to my learning, I would reason here that Timberland falls into both category of Dynamic Firms and Transformative Firms. From the Dynamic Firm perspective, Timberland has routines for seeking new opportunities in terms of technological innovation, which it then translates into operative routines and activities. While incorporating the Transformative Firm characteristics, Timberland is trying to shape new values in the market for which confronts with its sustainable product strategies. It is dedicated to establish a new technological trajectory. In that sense Timberland can be seen as institutional entrepreneurs who seek to form a new organizational field with its own selection and transmission mechanisms. By introducing a new sustainable value into the market, it puts selection pressure to its competitors.The Eco-labeling is such an innovation by Timberland and it would highly influence the market and this industry.
We also talked about mechanisms of transmission in the strategic perspectives of firms. I'd like to say for competitors of Timberland, a transmission might need to be adopted. From the four mechanisms of transmission: coercion; imitation; through taxes and subsidies; through external consultation or professional network, I believe the imitation mechanisms might play an important role.
Now I try to explain why Timberland's sustainable strategy decision-making could be from a bounded rationality. Although this could be pretty hard as I have elaborate a lot on its rational decisionmaking possibilities. Nevertheless, one of the points on bounded rationality is that at the management level, emotions play a significant role in decision-making. Though I tried to avoid taking emotion into account for strategic decisionmaking on the firms, I was deeply impressed by the biography of the CEO of Timberland, Jeffery B. Swartz. Jeff is third generation of the Swartz family to lead Timberland. He received an MBA from Dartmouth in 1984, and a BA in Comparative Literature from Brown in 1982. Jeff is one of 19 founding CEOs selected for President Bush’s task force on national service called Business Strengthening America. He is on the board of directors for the Climate Group, Share Our Strength, Honest Tea, City Year, the Harlem Children’s Zone and Limited Brands, Inc. In addition, Jeff is a member of the World Economic Forum and the Two/Ten Foundation, an organization providing charitable funds and services to individuals in the footwear industry. In 2002, he received the Two/Ten Foundation’s T. Kenyon Holly Memorial Award for Humanitarian Achievement.
Thus From Jeff's bio, I could see his contributions to sustainable economy and eco-business. If any bounded rationality should be assumed, I would love to say it's the CEO Jeff's dedication to sustainability that promoted the sustainable strategy of Timberland and finally influence the whole market as well as customers' awareness of environmental impacts of their purchases.
2. Describe your learning experiences with the EMS exercise.
“Platform inc. is a firm that designs and assembles platforms used for oil drilling. The CEO is committed to environmental excellence of her business, which is an important player in the international market. As a result, the firm has started R&D to develop platforms suitable for off-shore wind turbines. Also, top management is interested in thinking about alternative business models that involve product service systems (PSS) and recycling and remanufacturing. To underpin these activities, the CEO has decided that information on environmental impact needs to become incorporated in the decision making of the firm.
As a starting point in the process of developing an Environmental Management System, the CEO has asked four core departments (Production, EHS, Marketing and Design) to provide the following:
- a vision of what excellence means, and the role of the departments in making that a reality;
- a specification of what information the departments need, and can provide, as input and output of the EMS;
- a specification of what information needs to be collected routinely”
During last lecture of the Social Systems Policy and Management, industrial ecology students are divided into four groups representing four departments of the company, namely Production, EHS, Marketing and Design. Students are required to establish an Vision for each department and decide what kinds of in-put and out-put information are needed and how these information interacts with each other on a inter-department level.
Before describing the experience, I would like to elaborate again on the definition of EMS. Environmental management system (EMS) refers to the management of an organization's environmental programs in a comprehensive, systematic, planned and documented manner.
So, how comprehensive can it be ? how systematic could it operate ? how could it be planned within a company with different departments ?
The answer is coordination and an appropriate model.
I would like to describe my reflections during the entire EMS exercise from two perspectives:
1) The Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle of EMS;
2) The Horizontal Hierarchy in Corporation Management.
First, the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle is an continuous self-reviewing and self-refining closed loop. It requires an organization to consistently scrutinize its process and communication channel. By checking its process the organization adjust its manufacturing or service to the plan and avoid any mistakes. By checking its communication channel, the organization guarantees its channel to receive feedback.
Thus the model is continuous because an EMS is a process of continual improvement in which an organization is constantly reviewing and revising the system. In the class exercise, our group was assigned to act as the market department. We had a fierce discussion on what in-put and out-put information should be. Before the final comments from Dr. Boons, I didn't realize that the in-put and out-put information should match the needs and outputs from other departments. It is really critical to clarify the common ultimate goal of the whole corporation before each department take actions in their own fields so that each of them could tailor their information mobility and resources. The "routines" basically explains when and how to collect the information. If there is a huge mindset gap between different departments, the whole process cannot go on and it should self-review the gap thus further coordination could be carried out. In this sense, we acknowledge that the employees in a company should bear in mind how he/she should provide efficient and significant output which is good to the whole, not just to his own department. I believe that's also the reason many junior manager trainees should be circulated between different departments within a corporation to learn the mindset and knowledge boundaries of different departments.
The second perspective I thought of during the exercise is the Horizontal Hierarchy in Corporation Management which I learned in one Project Management course. In today's progressive business environment, many leaders opt to implement a horizontal or "flat" hierarchy in their companies. Leaders who integrate this structure into their organizational culture typically approach leadership with an inclusive style. In a horizontal hierarchy, employees gain an insight and understanding of such resulting in the fostering of team commitment that they may not have received in a top to bottom kind of structure. Even if employees are in different departments, they are sometimes assigned to a special projects with participation from different departments. And in this special project, there must be a project manager who is in whole charge of the diversified team and does not necessarily report to department managers. In this case, he should communicate well with employees coming from different departments. So within this niche, employees should speak the same "language" and understand what each other needs. So in a horizontal hierarchy and horizontal management, information could be shared better and the input and output information is more than convenient to be exchange.
In addition, the horizontal hierarchy allows members of all levels (both employees and managers) the ability to participate and get a first hand understanding as to why and how decisions are made. Under this kind of organizational framework, rarely are people left out and feel alienated from their companies.
During the month of October of 1962, the United States and The Soviet Union were accelerating rapidly toward nuclear war. How can one understand why these countries would jeopardize their countries and its citizens in such a way? One way to explain how decisions are made in international politics is the Rational Actor Model. The Rational Actor Model is used to understand the decisions that a nation-state or organization makes. This model uses as a basis for investigation that the persons involved are rational characters. With this basis, one can investigate and discuss the issues and decisions that were made during the Cuban Missile Crisis and even the decisions made prior to the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Ration Actor Model (RAM) makes many assumptions to deliver the best possible explanation of a nation’s actions. “Each assumes that what must be explained is an action, i.e., behavior that reflects purpose or intention. Each assumes that the actor is a national government. Each assumes that the action is chosen as a calculated slution to a strategic problem. For each, explanation consists of showing what goal the government was pursuing when it acted and how the action was a reasonable choice given the nation’s objective.” These assumptions help key in on the foundation of the RAM, which is that the actors are rational. This model only looks at the individual in charge of the country as the basis of development. This model does not include the role that the organization of the country or the politics of the country plays in the decision making of the nation-states. This model only recognizes the leader. The leader can then be examined for the decisions he makes assuming that he makes rational decisions. This foundation is “the assumption of rational behavior – not just of intelligent behavior, but of behavior motivated by a conscious calculation of advantage, a calculation that in turn is based on an explicit and internally consistent value system.” With this definition of a rational leader, one can easily determine the choices the leader will make.
The formal way of laying out the RAM is by using four key concepts. To determine the cause of a nations actions, one must analyze: (1) the Goals and Objectives of the Nation, (2) the Alternatives, (3) the Consequences, and (4) the Choice the nation made. With these four concepts, one can analyze the nation leaders development of making a decision by using the RAM.
In the case of the Cuban Missile Crisis these concepts work well to establish the cause and effects of the Crisis by looking at the nation leaders development of their decisions. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States’ leader was President John F. Kennedy. When Kennedy heard that Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, had established nuclear missiles in Cuba, he knew that Khrushchev was challenging his own goals and objectives for the United States. The first concept of the RAM is to determine the Goals and Objectives of the nation. Kennedy’s goal was to prevent communism in the western hemisphere. Kennedy tried many times to overtly get rid of Castro and/or its government, but failed. Due to these threats from America, Castro called upon its larger ally, Khrushchev, to help him defend his small island from Kennedy. Khrushchev responded by sending a “180 SA-2 missiles to Cuba and a battery of Soviet coastal defense cruise missiles, along with trainers, and the deployment of a regiment of regular Soviet troops.” This government, alliance, and now a military buildup was in direct conflict with the goals of Kennedy. With Kennedy’s goals being challenged he had to respond.
In response to the Soviet missiles in Cuba so close to America, Kennedy had a couple of options. The first of which is just to do nothing. American, up till then, had always been under the target of Soviet missiles. In addition, America did not want to escalate to nuclear war. America did not want to make an action that would set off a chain reaction of events that would lead to such a catastrophe. A second option was to put diplomatic pressures on the Soviets. This option would entail giving Khrushchev an ultimatum or bringing up the issue to the United Nations or the Organization of American States to see if those organizations would get involved with getting rid of the missiles. A third option was to secretly approach Castro to defect against the Soviets. This would make sure that Castro understood that it was either “split or fall” to the United States. A fourth option was an invasion of Cuba. This was considered a last resort, but it would make sure that Cuba could not or would not be occupied by Soviets or their missiles. A fifth option was to conduct an air strike on the missile sites. This option would take out all defense sites as well as the missiles and the capabilities for the Soviets to launch those missiles. A sixth and last option was a naval blockade of the coast of Cuba. This option would not allow any ships to pass, especially Soviet ships, through a blockade, thereby stopping the flow of supplies for more Soviet troops or missiles into Cuba. Kennedy had many options at his disposal but to determine which one to choose, RAM must look at the consequences.
The third concept of RAM is to discuss the consequences of each alternative. The unfortunate thing about these alternatives is that since both countries were dealing with nuclear war, there was not much room for many different consequences. If everything went well with the option Kennedy chose, the missiles would be moved from Cuba and out of the western hemisphere peacefully. However, if the wrong option was taken Kennedy could lose not only the loss of the American people’s respect and support, but the lose of thousands in battle or the lose of millions in thermo-nuclear war. Both of those later consequences still did not guarantee the possibility of actually achieving the goal of getting rid of communism in the western hemisphere. The thirteen days it took to decide this confrontation was very stressful due the magnitude either could lose if Kennedy or Khrushchev made a wrong decision.
The fourth concept of RAM is to discuss the choice the nation state made. In the end, Kennedy decided to go with a blockade of Cuba. The following passage explains why Kennedy decided the blockade.
“Either way, the blockade had several advantages: (1) It was a middle course between inaction and attack, aggressive enough to communicate firmness of intention, but still not so precipitous as a strike. (2) It placed on Khrushchev the burden of choice for the next step. He could avoid a direct military clash by keeping his ships away. (3) No possible military confrontation could be more acceptable to the United States than a naval engagement in the Caribbean. At our doorstep, a navel blockade was invincible. (4) A blockade permitted the United States, by flexing its conventional muscles, to exploit the threat of subsequent non-nuclear steps in each of which the United States would enjoy significant local superiority.”
In the preceding passage, we understand why Kennedy made the decision he made. This is how the RAM helps an analyst find out why the decisions that are made between countries. By systemically going through the four concepts of the RAM, one can consistently understand international politics.
To prove the validity of this model, we can use these four concepts on another example. The RAM can be used on the events leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg. In this example, the United States and the Confederate States of America were engulfed in a very costly war. The Actors in this Model were President Abraham Lincoln and President Jefferson Davis. Both felt their countries were tired of war. In addition, both felt that if they could not be decisive in battle soon, that the war would ravage much too long for either to be claimed the victor.
Using the four concepts of RAM we study the first concept being to look at the Rational Actors goals and objectives. Davis was especially exhausted of the war. Resources for the war were running low. However, he had in charge of his army a great and qualified general. General Robert E Lee motivated, inspired, and led the troops to accomplish goals the South did not imagine they would actually do. With these events, Davis’ goal was to end the war soon.
Davis had a couple options to fulfill his goal. First, he could give up the new nation and not fight any longer. Since the fighting had taken such a toll on the people and economy of the Confederates, a viable option was to dissolve the country. Another option was to contact Lincoln to start a treaty process by which peace could be finally settled on the discussion table instead of on the battlefield. And lastly, Davis could go for broke and destroy the United States by killing the Army of the Potomac and destroying Washington DC. These three options were different choices Davis as a rational actor had to decide upon.
The consequences of the alternatives were varied. If Davis gave up the notion of a new nation, he would be letting down his country and his people that supported him to deliver a new nation. If Davis went for a peace talks, the Confederacy could wind up with its own nation. And lastly, if Davis decided to continue the war but at a more intensive level, he could win and ruin the United States, lose miserably in battle, or continue the stalemate that had been going on for so many years.
The choice Davis made was to fight. Analyzing all the options Davis decided to wield his most trusted General to draw out the Army of the Potomac in open battle, crush it, and then sac Washington DC for a decisive and final blow to this war. Davis was confident due to past performance that his general could deliver another victory for the Confederates. In so doing, the Confederates and the Union met at the Battle of Gettysburg, which later became known as the turning point in the war. At this battle, under direction of President Davis, General Lee tried without avail to crush the Union. In this example, the RAM was used to determine the choices the leader made for his country.
The Rational Actor Model is a good tool for analysts to determine the choices and reasons behind those choices. Both in the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Battle of Gettysburg, one can fully understand the event when one examines the rational characters involved and applies the four concepts to determine their goals and objectives, alternatives, consequences, and the choice the leaders made.