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Sistema de Información Científica
Red de Revistas Científicas de América Latina y el Caribe, España y Portugal
Rev. Int. Contam. Ambient. 23 (2) 79-94, 2007
Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Unidad Azcapotzalco,
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(Recibido marzo 2007, aceptado mayo 2007)
Key words: cleaner production, innovation, innovation theory, institutional learning, social experiments
This paper discusses the concept of cleaner production and proposes a new model to
stimulate cleaner production. in the frst section the historical development oF cleaner
production is sketched. It is indicated that the approach gained much attention in the
early ninety nineties, and generated an optimistic belief that cleaner production was
soon to become a new practice within industry. In the second section the results of
evaluation studies on cleaner production in Europe, USA, Australia and New Zealand
are presented. These studies indicate that the rate of implementation of cleaner produc-
tion is much slower than anticipated in the early ninety nineties. Section three presents
various innovation theories. All of them help to explain why the rate of implementation
is slower than anticipated, each pointing at slightly different aspects of cleaner produc-
tion as an innovation. In section four the various theories are combined. It is explained
how processes within companies are interrelated with institutional arrangements outside
companies, such as legislation, education and knowledge transfer. Based on insights the
combination theories it is proposed to organize social experiments to stimulate cleaner
production. These social experiments can be considered as a third generation model
to stimulate cleaner production, Following the demonstration projects as the frst gen
eration and the regional network-based approach as the second generation. The social
experiment is not to implement cleaner production in the narrow sense but to confront
actors more fundamentally with the consequences of cleaner production for their own
standards and ways of working. It adds the element of social change in order to create
a comfortable socio-technical cleaner production network.
Palabras clave: producción más limpia, innovación, teoría de la innovación, aprendizaje institucional,
experimentos sociales
Este artículo se refere al concepto de producción más limpia y propone un nuevo
modelo para estimularlo. En la primera sección se presenta el desarrollo histórico
de la producción más limpia, se menciona cómo este enfoque llamó la atención a
principios de los noventas, y generó una creencia optimista de que la producción más
limpia pronto se convertiría en una nueva práctica dentro de la industria. En la segunda
H. Dieleman
sección se presentan
los resultados de los estudios de evaluación de la producción
más limpia en Europa, EUA, Australia y Nueva Zelandia. Estos estudios indican que
el índice de implementación de la producción más limpia fue mucho más lento de lo
que se esperaba a principios de los noventa. La sección tres presenta varias teorías de
la innovación. Todas ellas ayudan a explicar por qué el índice de implementación fue
menor al esperado, también señalan diferentes aspectos de la producción más limpia.
En la sección cuatro se combinan las diferentes teorías mencionadas. Se explica cómo
están interrelacionados los procesos dentro de las empresas con las medidas institu-
cionales fuera de ellas, tales como la legislación, la educación y la transferencia de
conocimiento. Con base en las teorías combinadas se propone organizar experimentos
sociales para estimular la producción más limpia. Estos experimentos sociales se pueden
considerar como un modelo de tercera generación para promoverla, considerando los
proyectos de demostración como la primera generación y el enfoque basado en redes
regionales como la segunda generación. El experimento social no es para implementar
la producción más limpia en un sentido limitado, sino para confrontar a los actores más
profundamente con las consecuencias de la producción más limpia bajo sus propios
estándares y bajo formas de trabajo. Agrega el elemento de cambio social con objeto
de crear una red socio-técnica amigable de producción más limpia.
sessment’’, “Eco-Design”, “Industrial Ecology” and
more recently “Socially Responsible Entrepreneur-
ship” and “Sustainable Industrial Management”.
This paper focuses on the developments of cleaner
production: on its historical development and on a
number of evaluation studies that were mainly carried
out in the ninety nineties. The paper continues with
analyzing the results of evaluation studies within the
framework of innovation studies. The paper Fnishes
with proposing a new approach to stimulate the
implementation of cleaner production, based on the
insights of innovation studies.
Cleaner production to reduce industrial environ-
mental impact
Cleaner production is a speciFc approach to re
duce industrial environmental impact. The origin of
the approach is to be found in the American company
3M. In 1975 3M initiated its 3P-program: its “Pollu-
tion Prevention Pays” program. The philosophy of the
program was that any waste produced during the pro-
duction process is to be regarded as a misallocation of
input materials. The 3M-3P-program was designed to
work through the inputs of the employees. Employees
were encouraged to report options that could reduce
waste and emissions and could save money at the
same time. The company promised that any option
that would reduce costs would be implemented and
the employee would receive a reward for reporting
the option. In this way 3M was able to reduce con-
siderable amounts of waste and considerable amounts
of costs at the same time (Royston 1979).
Obviously the approach attracted attention from
various sides. In 1984 3M was awarded with the
Since the ninety eighties various approaches to
reduce industrial environmental impact are devel-
oped. Most of these approaches are a response to
the command-control legislation developed in the
ninety seventies in the industrialized world. Central
in the command-control legislative approach is the
environmental permit. The permit “commanded” the
industry to what levels the production of wastes and
emissions was acceptable, and how environmental
protection was to be organized within the Frm to
realize these levels. The environmental protection
agencies were supposed to control if industries were
complying with the content of the permits. The com-
mand-control approach started to be criticized for a
number of reasons. First industrialists claimed that
legislators were insufFciently capable of prescrib
ing what protective measures they should apply.
Secondly the permit system was very complex, as
environmental legislation became more diversiFed
and specialized to deal with various environmental
media such as air, water and waste separately, every
media asking for a separate permit. Thirdly only a
small percentage of permits was accurate and effec-
tively controlled and updated.
Industry responded by developing various sys-
tems and approaches that were “market-based” and
”self-regulatory”. The ISO management systems are
probably the best-known response and everywhere in
the world industries implemented systems to regulate
themselves following the ISO-framework. Other ap-
proaches developed in the ninety eighties and ninety
nineties are “Cleaner Production”, “Life Cycle As-
World Environment Center’s First Annual Gold
Medal for International Corporate Environmental
Achievements. In approximately the same period
the Dupont-company decided to create a manual
to facilitate its plant managers to engage in pol-
lution prevention. This manual was designed for
in-company usage and was adopted by the USA
Environmental Protection Agency and published in
1988 as the Waste Minimization Opportunity As-
sessment Manual. Little by little cleaner production
was accepted in the USA as a viable and effective
approach. Interestingly the manual was not soon to
be used in the USA, and its frst and systematic usage
was realized in Europe. The frst project was launched
in Landskrona in Sweden, and the second and most
comprehensive one in the Netherlands.
In 1989 two Dutch universities and the Dutch
Organization of Technology Assessment engaged in
a demonstration project to test the US/EPA Manual,
and to develop a set of tools to facilitate industry,
governments and consultants to use the 3P-approach.
This project called PRISMA resulted in an improved
version of the US-EPA manual and in various publi-
cations describing how the manual could be used (de
et al.
1990, Dieleman
et al.
1991). One year later
UNEP started a cleaner production program using
the methodology and experiences of the PRISMA-
project. Since 1992 the United Nations Industrial
Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has been
disseminating the concept and the methodology
worldwide. In various countries (especially in devel-
oping countries) UNEP established national cleaner
production centers that have the objective to develop
projects in various sectors of industry. Centers can
be found in 24 countries, among which Brazil, Costa
Rica, China, Ethiopia, India, México, Sri Lanka,
Tanzania, Tunisia, South Africa and Vietnam.
The methodology used in cleaner production (CP)
projects is centered on the identifcation and imple
mentation of so-called cleaner production options or
opportunities. The defnition oF cleaner production as
used by UNEP re±ects the essence oF the methodol
ogy. The essence oF the methodology is frst oF all
to identify sources of the production of wastes and
emissions inside the production process. Once such
sources are identifed the next step is to think about
all possible ways to eliminate or reduce those sources.
Once a variety of potential options is generated the
methodology prescribes to engage in feasibility stud-
ies to assess the economic and environmental con-
sequences of the options. Finally those options that
prove to be Feasible From an economic and a fnancial
point of view are put forward for implementation.
These subsequent steps can be characterized as (1) a
planning and organization phase, (2) an assessment
phase to identify wastes and emissions and options
for change, (3) a feasibility analysis phase and (4) an
implementation and continuation phase (
Fig. 1
At the end of the ninety eighties and the early
ninety nineties cleaner production rapidly gained rec-
ognition worldwide. Various demonstration projects
showed positive results and optimistic believe was
to be found that Cleaner Production was soon to be
applied on large scales in many industrial sectors.
Results of cleaner production demonstration
Since the mid of the ninety nineties it became
little by little known that the optimism was somewhat
premature. Various evaluation studies indicated that
the implementation of cleaner production faced vari-
ous barriers and was progressing rather slowly. These
results are shown in various evaluation studies in all
parts of the world (
Table I
In 1995 the Dutch research institute EIM con-
ducted one oF the frst evaluation studies into the
implementation of cleaner production (EIM 1995).
The study showed that a majority of Dutch companies
Recognizing the need to
prevent pollution
Planning and
new areas
and targets
of process
Feasibility studies
Fig. 1.
Phases in a Cleaner Production project based on the
US/EPA manual; source: Dieleman and de Hoo (1993)
H. Dieleman
did not implement any CP-options in the period be-
tween 1990-1995. Almost simultaneously Bressers
concluded that only 40 % of the options generated
in CP-projects were really implemented (Bressers
. 1995). The results match with an evaluation study
carried out in Graz in Austria to analyze Austrian
ECO-PROFIT project 1997 (Breuer 1997). Based
on a number of evaluation studies, De Bruijn
et al.
conclude in 1996 and 2000 that (especially smaller
and medium sized) companies often lack the capa-
bilities to implement CP-options. They make a plea
for more collaboration and partnership (De Bruijn
et al.
1996, 2000).
Dieleman devoted his PhD thesis to an evalua-
tion of the PRISMA-project (Dieleman 1999). His
thesis is a longitudinal in-depth study following 5
of the PRISMA-companies in the period of 1989
until 1996. He concluded that these 5 companies
did implement less than 50 % of the options gener-
ated during the project. The reason was not that the
companies conscientiously decided not to implement.
The reason was much more that never a conscientious
decision was taken to implement them. In order to
understand this Dieleman focused on understand-
ing the rationality of the economic behavior inside
the companies. He matched the in-depth informa-
tion of the 5 cases with results from the previously
mentioned EIM-study and with various economic
theories of rational behavior. His main conclusions
were as follows. First of all decisions are very much
infuenced by random events: a letter From a legisla
tor, a talk with a colleague, reading an article in a
journal and so on. Economic behavior is not so very
conscientious. People inside companies follow day-
to-day developments and make decisions according
to the infuences they receive on a day-to-day basis.
In making concrete choices they usually follow
established routines and known ways of problem
solving and try to avoid too much risk. It means that
the day-to-day random infuences are interpreted in
the perspective of known ways of problem solving.
When a stakeholder tells them to handle a certain
environmental situation and they are experienced
in pollution control, the decision will often be to
invest in a pollution control, even when pollution
prevention is actually paying and pollution control
is not. He advises to focus less on “convincing” and
“demonstrating” the bene±ts oF cleaner production
and to focus more on making cleaner production a
normal part of day-to-day activities (Dieleman 1999
and Dieleman and Cramer 2004).
In 2002 Michael Overcash presents a review of
USA based pollution prevention initiatives over the
period of 1976 to 2001 (Overcash 2000). His over-
all conclusion is not over-optimistic. He makes a
distinction between large, medium-sized and small
He concludes that within large companies a
fundamental and profound shift towards the use of
pollution prevention has been made. Despite of that
the implementation process is after 25 years only in
the middle and signi±cant opportunities remain. ²or
medium-sized industries he concludes that industry
representatives have been able to identify widely
Dutch research institute EIM
Hans Bressers
et al.
Eco-Pro±t Project Graz
Hans Dieleman
Theo De Bruijn
et al.
Most companies didn’t implement any options between 1990-1995
in various project 40% of the options generated are implemented
About 40 % oF the options are implemented in Graz’ Eco-Pro±t Project, Austria
Evaluation PRISMA: less than 50% options realized after 5 years
Many evaluation show that Industries lack capabilities for implementation
Michael Overcash
US Pollution Prevention Round
Evaluation of 15 year Cleaner production in the USA:
- in large industries a shift towards CP is noticeable
- medium sized industries are interested and many options are identi±ed
in small industries, the process is ‘tentative’
70% of the companies have no resources for implementation
40% of the companies have too high rate of staff changes and have a lack of
management commitment
Rene van Berkel
National Evaluation Cleaner
In Australia CP approach remains unnoticed to many in business, government and
the community
The CP approach misses a good institutional framework
useful process and material changes. For the small
companies he concludes that “progress through
2001 has been tentative” (Overcash 2002). This
conclusion has important policy implications since,
as Overcash is pointing out, most State and Federal
Pollution Prevention Programs have been aimed at
these small businesses. Apparently their effectiveness
has not been very high. The US Pollution Prevention
Round Table (2003) publishes an assessment of the
1990-2000 decade in a 2003 report.
The assessment was based on a nationwide sur-
vey. The Roundtable provides various numbers and
mentions that many tons of pollutants have been
prevented and much money is saved, but the report
does not really put these numbers in perspective. It
does conclude however that 70 % of the respondents
said that they had a lack of resources to carry out
their activities, and 40 % complained of the high
rate of staff changes and lack of management com-
In 2003 New Zealand published a comprehensive
evaluation study of its cleaner production initiatives
(there labeled as Resource Stewardship and Waste
Minimization) (Stone 2003). In order to stimulate
implementation the country developed 2 strategic
programs. The report concludes that many efforts
have been taken in the seven sectors. What is missing
however is a good institutional framework to make
the strategies work more efFciently and especially
ways to learn from previous experiences. Rene van
Berkel concludes that cleaner production has de-
veloped into a comprehensive approach. Looking
however at the situation in the Far East, notably in
Australia and New Zealand, he observes that the
approach remains “un- noticed to many in business,
government and the community alike” (Van Berkel
The Project UNEP conducted a global evaluation
at the turn of the century. The evaluation was carried
out on a regional basis, distinguishing the different
continents and key regions on several continents.
The overall conclusion was that “Cleaner Production
is underway in virtually all parts of the world. Prog-
ress is made and the concept itself is more and more
getting integrated in other approaches. Despite the
progress made in the last decade, the rate of imple-
mentation is slower than initially expected and much
more still remains to be done for wide scale imple-
mentation of Cleaner Production” (UNEP 2002).
UNEP observed in its Cleaner Production Global
Status Report (2002) that demonstration projects have
a tendency to focus too much on the implementation
of proven technological changes. To change this
UNEP proposed that CP projects should focus more
on systems and life cycle thinking, and should aim
less at “technical retroFtting”. To realize this new
focus UNEP started
transform their regional
Cleaner Production Centres into Strategic
Units that have to identify region speciFc implemen
tation strategies.
This new strategy aims to build strategic alliances
to create favorable conditions for cleaner production
implementation. The new strategic framework inte-
grates most if not all of the key actions and actors
needed to change successfully to cleaner production
Fig. 2
). It distinguishes among four key groups of
actors (business/industrial, academic/research, gov-
ernment and community), identiFes what actions to
take to stimulate cleaner production and links these
actions to the four key groups of actors.
Many contemporary approaches to cleaner pro-
duction work as sketched in the UNEP framework.
They are often organized as regional projects in-
volving various stakeholders in networks that work
together to favor the implementation of Cleaner
Explaining the results of cleaner production
Many reasons may be hold accountable for the
rate of implementation of cleaner production. Some
explanations used in the evaluation studies are “a
lack of capabilities“, “a lack of resources“, “a lack
of management commitment”, and
“a lack of an
appropriate institutional framework”. Some reasons
focus on processes inside companies, others on the
institutional environment around companies. Each
of them can be looked at as reasonable explanations
for the rate of implementation that is lower than
initially expected.
The explanations are however partial. Some refer
to characteristics of companies, other refer to the
institutional framework around the companies. An
obvious question is how the characteristics inside the
companies and the characteristics of the institutional
framework around the companies are related and
mutually interdependent. Secondly the explanations
are also rooted in various theoretical bodies of knowl-
edge, which makes it more difFcult to understand
them in one comprehensive perspective.
That is why in this section innovation theory is
used to frame the various explanations in a theoretical
framework. A reason for using innovation theory is
that this group of theories offers the possibility to fo-
cus more explicitly on the technological dimensions
of the change process towards cleaner production.
H. Dieleman
Innovation theory is at the same time a rich feld or
group of theories. It offers the opportunity to frame
the previously mentioned explanations in a theoreti-
cal framework and gives at the same time some op-
tions to realize a more comprehensive explanation.
Four perspectives will be presented. These per-
spectives all have slightly different views on the
process of innovation and provide slightly different
explanations. They can be considered to be comple-
mentary, each focusing on the innovation process
from a different perspective.
Perspective 1: CP as a learning and change process
in companies
A frst perspective draws attention to the process
of implementation of innovations in existing produc-
tion processes. It is rooted in the work of Nathan
Rosenberg and his books
Inside the black box
Exploring the black box
(1992). These works
can be regarded as milestones in innovation theory
(especially in the relation between technology and
organization) and has been cited and used ever since
they were released.
The key message in the books is that innovations
in organizations need to be tailored to the specifc
characteristics of an organization in order to be suc-
cessful and useful. With this message Rosenberg
challenged the idea that the success of an innovation
depends on the inherent features of the innovations.
By contrast he shows that innovations are in the
beginning far from being perfect and need various
adaptations and modifcations. The success oF inno
vations largely depends on the extent to which they
are successfully integrated into existing organiza-
tions. Rosenberg used two concepts to describe the
process that is needed to integrate and tailor innova-
tions: “learning by doing” and “learning by using”.
Learning by doing is a process to change and improve
existing production technology. Learning by using is
a process of integrating new technology in the exist-
ing production process.
According to Rosenberg innovation is a learn-
ing process, with the emphasis on both “learning”
as well as on “process”. Modifcations oF existing
technologies and procedures inside organization
take time. Almost never a change can be regarded
as “accomplished” immediately. What is needed is
experimentation that can answer questions like: is the
innovation functioning as expected and anticipated?
What additional modifcations are needed to make the
innovation performing as envisioned, in the existing
production process, in the working procedures of
workers operating with the innovation, anywhere
else? Only by using new technologies the organiza-
tion can learn how to use the innovation to its fullest
potentials and to make it a successful innovation.
CP crierted
Cleaner Production
Sustainable Consumption
CP defin to
include SC
CP as a
Std. Approach
CP and
To SBus
Services &
Concept of
CP Demo
Move Info
to knowledge
Health &
& Co-op
CP in
Education &
Sector Associations
Financial Institutions
Trade Associations
CP professionals
Academic & R&D
Technology Transfer
Local Govt. Auth.
Various other ministries
Intl Dev
Env. NGOs, Trade Unions
Consumer Interest Orgn.
Fig. 2.
UNEP strategic framework of the Cleaner Production Strategic Business Units
(source: UNEP 2002)
Rosenberg emphasizes that it is practically impos-
sible to have answers to all of these questions when
an innovation is developed on the drawing table. In
practice and through experimentation it is possible
to answer these questions. And while answering the
questions the innovation gets integrated. And while
the innovation gets integrated the organizations learn
how to use the technology. This learning process is
by necessity a process of learning by doing or using.
Disregarding this learning process is looking at a com-
pany as a black box and a key aspect of innovation is
overlooked: the process of learning. Rosenberg chal-
lenged consultants that advice companies to invest in
new technologies (for instance cleaner technologies)
without accompanying the implementation process.
Innovation should be regarded as a process in which
various levels of an organization need to learn through
their involvement in the change process.
The work of Rosenberg is very relevant for
cleaner production. As described in paragraph 2,
cleaner production is a process in which product and
process modifcations are the outcome oF a process oF
assessments, feasibility studies, experimentations and
implementation. Cleaner production demonstration
often initiate the heuristic search processes
inside companies and end with a list of potentially
feasible options. Usually it is up to the companies
themselves to actually implement the options. These
types of CP-projects usually start a
process inside the
companies and make assessments together with the
representatives of a company. In these assessments
the specifc problems oF a company are identifed. In a
next step the project develops and discusses with the
company representatives various options for change.
Subsequently some of the selected options are studied
and evaluated for implementation. Experimentations
and feasibility studies are an integral part of good
By applying this methodology it may look like the
projects acknowledge the importance of the learning
process inside companies and in fact to a certain
level they do. But too often the crucial phase of the
real implementation process is not a part of these
CP-project. When Bressers, Breuer and Dieleman all
fnd that less than 50% oF all options generated are
implemented (even after a period of 5 years in the
case oF the fndings oF Dieleman), the explanation is
not necessarily a lack of commitment or resources,
but the simple fact that implementation is a learning
and change process that cannot be taken for granted
but is too often not integrated in the CP demonstra-
tion projects, and especially not the frst generation
Perspective 2: CP hampered by a pollution control
institutional framework
The second perspective draws on the evolution-
ary economic innovation studies of Richard Nelson,
Sydney Winter and Giovanni Dosi, and the studies
of Bengt-Åke Lundvall on the role of institutions
in innovation processes. Nelson and Winter (1982)
explain in their ground braking work
An evolutionary
theory of economic change
how innovations develop
along certain established technological trajectories
within technological regimes. Dosi (1982) followed
up on that work by enlarging the concept of a “tech-
nological trajectory” towards the concept of the
paradigm, encompassing technology and institutions
in basically one concept. Lundvall (1988) created
the concept of “institutional trajectories” that are
centered on the role of institutions in society.
Trajectories, regimes and paradigms are con-
structed around certain technological solutions or
applications that have become standard and refer-
ential. A combustion engine for instance is a tech-
nology to generate power. Once this technology is
applied in certain specifc ways like the engine oF a
car, innovations usually focus on the improvement
of that technology. Potential alternative technologies
that can generate power in different ways are easily
ignored or overlooked. As a result innovation is of-
ten path-dependent. A trajectory results in routines
and in the accumulation of expertise in a certain
perspective. This perspective is highly in±uencing
and canalizing subsequent search processes. This
explains for instance why so much effort is put in
the past decades in making the existing combustion
engine cleaner and more Full eFfcient, and so much
less effort is put in developing an alternative engine
based on for instance hydrogen and the fuel cell. Dosi
(1982) places some more emphasize on the role of
institutions in the development of regimes. Little by
little it is not any longer the research-community that
thinks similarly along certain pathways, but other
institutions in society follow and adapt themselves
to the dominant technology. Within the example of
the combustion engine it means for instance that
legislation centers primarily on that type of engine.
The amount of tax is based on the number of cylin-
ders and/or the cubic centimeters inside the engine.
Environmental legislation focuses on emission
standards for this type of engines, and so on. Lund-
vall emphasizes how institutions in general have a
tendency to focus on their own preservation and how
this complicates the switch from one technological
perspective towards another. As a result societies
can get “locked in”certain trajectories or regimes
H. Dieleman
and the development and application of alternative
approaches is limited and slowed down.
Some of the reported explanations for the slower
rate of implementation refer to the institutional en-
vironment of cleaner production. De Bruijn
et al.
(1996) made a plea for more collaboration and part-
nership while Stone (2004) was pointing at the lack
of an appropriate institutional framework to facilitate
and stimulate cleaner production. Hofman (2003)
and Dieleman (1999) looked more closely at cleaner
production from this point of view, and identiFed the
existence of a pollution control regime. A pollution
control regime exists when the standard approach
in treating industrial pollution is to apply end-of-
pipe treatment technology and when most major
institutions have got locked in this standard way of
dealing with waste and emissions. Dieleman (1999)
concludes that many CP-projects in essence prove
that a pollution control regime exists. When a dem-
onstration project can identify many CP-options it is
an indication that companies are not seeing existing
pollution prevention opportunities. They are “blind”
for pollution prevention since solutions for waste and
emissions are almost immediately phrased in terms
of end-of-pipe and treatment technologies. The big
achievement of many CP-projects is that they open
the minds of industrialists. The projects make them
see the possibilities of an alternative approach. The
success of many pollution prevention demonstration
projects is exactly here: they demonstrate the pos-
sibilities and feasibility of a preventative approach
that is often overlooked.
It is important that CP-projects recognize the
dynamics of pollution control regimes. This means
that they have to complement their actions inside
companies with at least two additional activities: Frst
involve most of the major stakeholders of a company
in the project; and second work with the company
and its stakeholders over a considerable amount of
time. The reason to work with the stakeholder is the
following. A regime not only exists inside companies
but is to be found in the institutional environment of
the companies as well. And this is exactly the reason
why the implementation of options is hampered and
the continuation of cleaner production in companies
is often lacking: the institutional environment is not
cooperative and can be counter productive. Suppliers
of new technologies, consultants, research organiza-
tions, education and governments all are partners
in the choices for certain solution of environmental
problems. When most of these partners are trained
in pollution control instead of pollution prevention,
they will advice and sometimes even prescribe
companies to invest in treatment technology. In
order to build up a new standard approach in a new
regime it is necessary to work with the institutional
environment over a considerable amount of time,
so new routines and new heuristic search processes
can establish themselves and become a self-evident
new standard. Many contemporary CP-projects
are in fact working more closely with the relevant
stakeholders to involve them in the change towards
cleaner production.
When CP-projects do not acknowledge the dy-
namics of pollution control regimes and trajectories
it is more than likely that the effect of one CP-project
is limited in scope and in time.
Perspective 3: CP as an innovation-diffusion
The third perspective draws on the work of Ev-
erett Rogers (1995). Rogers is the father of the idea
of innovation diffusion. In his work that spans the
period of 1962 to 1995 he studied hundreds of in-
novation processes. One of Rogers’ Fndings is that
many of these processes follow an S-curve. At Frst
the innovation-diffusion rate is slow. After some
time the innovation diffusion process accelerates
and in a subsequent phase the adoption and diffu-
sion rate slows down again. What happens is that
at Frst a small group of innovators engage in new
technologies or new practices, followed by a group
of early adopters that is slightly bigger but still small.
An innovation really diffuses when the majority of
people starts to use it. Rogers makes a distinction
between an early and a late majority as two groups
with slightly different characteristics. Relevant is
that when these two groups decide to accept an in-
novation it becomes really accepted in a group or a
society. Finally there is a group of “laggards” that
refuse to accept the innovation for a long time and
sometimes as long as possible. A safety belt or the
practices of separate collection of waste are examples
of innovations that follow quite ideal-typically this
pattern. They are accepted with enthusiasm by a few
and only later more collectively accepted by larger
groups. Some people however continue to refuse to
wear a safety belt or to engage in the separation of
wastes, even though it has become a new standard
in a certain community.
Unless the other scholars discussed in this article,
Rogers does not approach innovation as a search pro-
cess. Consequently he is less concerned with explain-
ing the rate of diffusion and adoption by pointing at
the characteristics of the search process. Rogers pays
much attention to the role of change agents in the in-
novation diffusion process. Mass media can function
as change agent, and so can government, consultants,
and heroes like singers or football players. Rogers
points out that mass media play important roles in
many innovation processes. Continued and targeted
information in general is very inFuential in getting
a majority accepting an innovation.
The work of Rogers is hardly ever applied to
explain the rate of implementation of cleaner produc-
tion. Yet it potentially bears some interesting insights.
A ±rst observation based on the innovation-diffusion
body of knowledge is that the pattern of diffusion of
cleaner production is quit archetypical or “normal”.
When almost all innovations follow the same pattern
there is no reason to assume that it should be differ-
ent for cleaner production. It is not at all unreason-
able to assume that the ±rst generation CP-projects
have reached the group of the early adopters. The
challenge is now to reach the group of the major-
ity. ²ollowing Rogers this means ±nding the proper
change agent(s) to accelerate the rate of diffusion of
cleaner production.
It is reasonable to assume that these change agents
need to have a certain authority and legitimacy.
Governments, legislators and branch organizations
could play an important role in stimulating cleaner
production, not only by means of participating in CP-
projects (as is one of the recommendations within the
previous perspective 2), but also as change agent and
as protagonist of the cleaner production approach. As
et al.
(2000) observe, cleaner production is
until now mainly a bottom-up approach based on the
execution of demonstration projects. The assumption
in these projects is that due to the inherent positive
features of cleaner production (“it pays”) the diffu-
sion would follow more or less automatically. This
proves to be not the reality. The inFuence of appro
priate change agents may be needed to bring cleaner
production to a next level of diffusion.
Perspective 4: CP as a process of building new
socio-technical networks
Perspective 4 draws on the work of the sociologists
Bruno Latour (1987), Michel Callon (1987), Wiebe
Bijker and John Law (1992). The key assumption in
this perspective is the idea of the social construction
of technology. The assumption challenges the idea of
technological determinism in which humans have to
adopt themselves to technological progress that is au-
tonomous and inevitable. Studies in this perspective
focus on the concept of
“socio-technology”. Callon
and Latour, founders of the so-called Parisian school
in the sociology of innovations, have developed this
concept into a very speci±c direction that is provoca
tive but yet widely accepted.
For Callon and Latour innovation is not a process
of inventing, modifying or applying new technology.
By contrast it is a process in which people and tech-
nologies mutually adapt to each other. And because
of that they both change, more or less at the same
time. Technology and humans “translate” each other
and in this process of ‘translation’ they both change
to become better suited to each other. At least two
of the implications of this theory are relevant for
cleaner production, one on a micro-scale and one on
a network-level.
The ±rst implication (on micro-scale) refers to
the actual translation process of humans and technol-
ogy. To explain some relevant characteristics of this
process Latour, like Rosenberg, uses the term “black
box”. Yet he applies this concept in a completely
different way. In his terminology “blackboxing” is a
verb and an activity to make the translation between
humans and technology successful. A translation is
“blackboxed” (and the innovation successful) when it
generates no problems or discomfort and is perceived
as a new self-evident and logical reality.
This concept is relevant since cleaner production
options are often
blackboxed. As a result workers
in companies do not feel comfortable with the op-
tions and the level of acceptance is low. An example
may help to illustrate this. A Dutch environmental
regulator prescribed a metal processing company to
invest in an air-±lter to reduce the concentrations of
solvents to the air. The CP-project in which the com-
pany was involved by contrast advised to switch from
solvent-based paint to water-based paint. In doing so
the investment in a ±lter could be avoided and other
advantages could be realized, such as better working
conditions. The companies’ environmental engineer
was hesitant however as changing to water-based
paint implied that the workers needed to be trained in
using this new paint. As an environmental engineer he
was experienced and comfortable in managing envi-
ronmental data and managing treatment technologies.
He had no experience in training his colleagues and
supervising them in the new working procedures of
using water-based paint. He did not feel comfort-
able at all in engaging in this new role. The option
was not blackboxed and the environmental engineer
postponed the change towards water-based paint as
long as possible. In the end the switch to water-based
paint was not realized.
This example illustrates that implementation of
options is more than technical change. It implies that
people have to rede±ne their roles, responsibilities,
H. Dieleman
their relationships with existing technologies, with
other people and eventually redefne themselves.
When CP-projects do not sufficiently take this
process of mutual adaptation and blackboxing into
consideration the implementation of an option can
easily fail.
More or less the same processes can be observed
on the level of networks of people and organizations.
Latour refers in this respect to the process of building
socio-technical networks. Here as well translation is a
central mechanism. On the level of networks humans
technologies interact to fnd new ways oF co-ex
isting together (translation). In such a process various
actors redefne each other and themselves. When this
results in blackboxing a new socio-technical network
is born with a new socio-technical practice. Also this
notion has important implications for cleaner produc-
tion. Usually the cleaner production approach is not
consistent with the traditional ways of working of
legislators and permit givers. This can very well ex-
plain why the environmental management approach
is more easily accepted among legislators. The envi-
ronmental management approach is oriented towards
providing environmental information with much less
emphasis on improving or changing production pro-
cesses. In that sense the approach is more suited to the
traditional regulatory practice and routines of permit
givers and inspectors. They feel more comfortable
judging provided information than judging whether
a production process can be signifcantly improved
or not (see: Boons
et al.
These sociological and socio-psychological as-
pects hold strong explanatory powers for understand-
ing why cleaner production implementation-rates are
lower than initially expected.
Interrelating the different perspectives
The four perspectives presented in section 4 are
based on various innovation theories, and focus on
particular aspects of innovation processes. They can
be considered as being complementary to each other.
At the same time these perspectives in innovation
theory coincide very well with the various phases in
the cleaner production methodology: the assessment,
the generation of options for change, the feasibility
studies, the implementation of the options and the
repetition the process.
The frst steps in cleaner production are the as
sessment and the search processes for options and
solutions. Perspective 2 of section 4 explains why
these search processes are heuristic search processes.
They are based on expectations: one searches for
certain solutions because one has experience from
the past that certain solutions will be found in certain
areas. The challenge of cleaner production is that
it tries to change heuristics. It tells industries to no
longer look for end-of-pipe treatment technologies,
but to start to look inside the production processes.
Obviously industries have initially little expectations
and need some guidance to carry out the new search
procedures. One of the characteristics of CP-projects
is that they provide companies with guidance and
faith. A next step is to generate options and to do
feasibility studies. The dynamics in these steps are
well explained by perspective 1: it is a matter of trial
and error and of learning by doing. As more sector
specifc studies were published during the ninety
nineties this part of the projects became a little bit
more easy to accomplish. That is why the frst 3 steps
usually can be accomplished during CP-projects.
The subsequent step is the implementation
process. As the evaluation studies showed, the
implementation of options often lacks behind the
expectations. Perspective 1 shows why the cleaner
production feasibility studies are in essence studies.
They may provide enough ground to make a go/no-
go decision, but it does not mean that the options
are easily “implemented”. Perspective 1 is clearly
showing why and holds strong explanatory power.
Yet, perspective 2, the existence of a technological
regime in the institutional environment, is relevant
here as well. The perspective shows the importance
of the institutional environment of companies, and
shows that innovation in companies is a matter of
collaboration of various stakeholders and actors.
Therefore it is essential to involve these stakehold-
ers in cleaner production projects. This is clearly
represented in the new UNEP framework.
And this is happening more and more often. One
of the important changes in cleaner production is
the increased involvement of stakeholders in the
projects. In the literature dealing with the topic of
environment and industry (cleaner production, en-
vironmental management, industrial ecology, life
cycle approach, etc.) a consensus can be found that
much more attention should be given to the busi-
ness environment of companies, and that the major
stakeholders of companies should be involved in the
cleaner production change processes (cf. Phillips
1999, Dieleman 1999, Ashton
et al.
2002, UNEP
2002, Dieleman and Cramer 2004 and Baas 2005).
That is why contemporary approaches do involve
stakeholders much more, often organized in regional
network-based projects. Specifcally with the context
of promoting cleaner production, the United King-
dom has some 75 Waste Minimization Clubs since
the early ninety nineties. These clubs involve various
regional actors in waste minimization demonstration
projects (cf. Phillips
et al.
1999). Canada has a similar
initiative, called Enviroclub. The city of Rotterdam
in the Netherlands had for many years its Sustain-
ability Club. In this club, initiated by the Erasmus
University of Rotterdam, industry, government and
academia worked together to develop strategies
and practical sustainable projects for the Rotterdam
region (Baas 2005). Many other regional initiatives
to promote cleaner production can be added to these
examples. To a larger or smaller extent, these clubs
and initiatives work together to complement each
other in providing the necessary actions, informa-
tion and conditions to favor the implementation of
cleaner production.
This is a major improvement but is potentially
also a source of new problems. When the stakehold-
ers and the institutional environment work within a
pollution control regime, they will not support cleaner
production. In this scenario, a network-based ap-
proach can make the implementation more difFcult.
Then, the situation for workers outside companies is
like the situation of those inside companies. They all
will have little experience and know-how of cleaner
production, and they all, consultants, researchers,
regulators and suppliers alike, will need to learn to
work within the new regime of cleaner production.
Perspective 1 and perspective 2 are really comple-
mentary in their explanation of the rates of imple-
mentation of cleaner production.
Perspective 4 of section 4 describes quite similar
processes with other concepts, and offers some practi-
cal ways to change the situation. It emphasizes that an
innovation process is not only a process of implemen-
tation of new options. It is at the same time a process
in which people and technologies translate each other
and form new socio-technical networks. The so-called
implementation process should not be called imple-
mentation process but translation process as this word
is more accurately covering the reality. Not only pro-
duction process technology needs to be changed, but
in this process humans need to redeFne themselves as
well. Perspective 4 is adding additional information to
the image sketched on the basis of perspectives 1 and
2 and can be considered as complementary to those
two perspectives as well. The three perspectives to-
gether show the importance of the implementation or
“translation”. And as this phase is often not integrated
in CP-projects it provides a powerful explanation for
the disappointing rates of implementation as shown
in the evaluation studies.
The Fnal step in the cleaner production methodol
ogy is the step of repeating the process. Most of the
evaluation studies pay little attention to this part of
cleaner production. Dieleman (1999) did ask com-
panies if they had repeated the process and if they
had generated new options. The answers indicated
that no new options were generated in the Fve years
after the completion of the projects.
Various mechanisms can stimulate a repetition
of the process. Positive feedback coming from the
projects is one reason why companies may want to
decide to do a new round of assessments and option
generation. Stimulation or pressure coming from
actors around the companies is another mechanism
to stimulate a repetition of the process. Since major
change agents holding authority and credibility such
as legislators and consultants do not contribute to dif-
fuse the approach on larger scales (perspective 3 of
section 4) there is apparently not sufFcient impetus
to repeat the process. This is relevant for companies
that participated in CP-projects and for potential new
companies not yet involved in the methodology. This
may explain why the approach remains unnoticed to
many in businesses and in government, as van Berkel
observes to be the reality in Australia.
In a concluding way the four perspectives present
various explanations for understanding the dynamics
of cleaner production projects. Perspective 3 sheds
light on the dissemination of the concept through
promotion and publicity. The other three perspec-
tives focus more directly on the process of changing
companies and their business environments. The
lesson to be learned, combining the perspectives
1, 2 and 4, is that (1) the changes towards cleaner
production are of a “learning-by-doing” nature and
involve experimentation, that (2) companies and their
business environments both need to be involved in
the experimentations and that (4) when cleaner pro-
duction is a rupture with traditional ways of working
and traditional ways of problem solving, processes of
“translation” are needed for all actors involved.
Towards social experiments to promote cleaner
The lessons we can learn from innovation theory are
to a certain extent incorporated in more contemporary
cleaner production projects. This is especially true for
the involvement of various networks of stakeholders in
the projects. A next step is to Fnd ways to incorporate
the combination of the lessons in cleaner production
projects. This means combining at the same time (1)
involving networks, (2) experimenting and learning by
doing and (3) translating networks and actors within
the new cleaner production way of working.
H. Dieleman
This section explores a model that can incorporate
the combined lessons of innovation theory. The mod-
el is that of social experiments, that can be regarded
as third generation cleaner production projects. The
frst generation model to promote cleaner production
was the demonstration project. The second generation
is the more contemporary regional network-based
approach, involving various relevant stakeholders.
The social experiment, the third generation, is even
broader in scope than the regional network-based
approach. The social experiment model does involve
stakeholders and translate these stakeholders within
the cleaner production way of working. The aim is to
blackbox an entire network of actors within a cleaner
production way of working.
The starting point and initial question is: what is
needed to make companies engage in cleaner produc-
tion in an ongoing way? Obviously the frst answer is
that companies need to engage in assessments of their
own production processes and products. They need to
explore possibilities to change, generate options and
see if those options can be implemented. This all is
consistent with the way the frst generation cleaner
production projects were organized. From this point
on however, the model changes.
In addition to focusing on economic, technical and
environmental feasibility, the questions to be asked
and assessments to be carried out focus on the ways
of working of people, both within and outside the
companies. The focus will be on existing ways of
communication, existing responsibilities and exist-
ing levels of knowledge and capacities inside and
around companies.
Questions to be raised are among others: what
does cleaner production, and a number of concrete
changes in the production process, mean for an
environmental manager in a company? And what
does it mean for a responsible of a product line?
Does the communication need to be organized in
different ways and if so, how? What changes does it
involve for the roles that all of these people play? It
is important to know if workers can be comfortable
in their revised ways of working with new roles and
new responsibilities. It is, in other words, important
to know what processes of translation are necessary
to blackbox a new cleaner production ways of work-
ing. Do workers have to redefne themselves and each
other? Does it mean that they have to acquire new
knowledge, new skills or new values and are they
capable and willing to engage in that?
The same questions are relevant for basically all
the actors around companies. What does cleaner pro-
duction (and some very concrete changes in produc-
tion processes) mean for a legislator, a permit giver
and controller? What does it means for consultants
and researchers, especially when they are specialized
in treatment technology and end-of-pipe solutions?
Here again it is important to know what processes of
translation are necessary to blackbox the new cleaner
production ways of working. The question is not
only what is needed but also if the stakeholders will
be capable of making those changes and if they are
willing to make those changes.
The idea of the social experiment is
to answer
the above stated questions in generic senses. The
idea is to raise these questions For specifc cleaner
production options that are put forward. And the
answers depend very much on the specifc technical,
organizational and fnancial impact the options will
have For specifc companies. And these impacts are
dependent on the specifc places where companies are
located: continents, countries, regions, cities, indus-
trial parks, etc. On the basis oF the specifc technical,
organizational and fnancial contexts, the potential
consequences For people involved can be identifed.
As a consequence these questions are case specifc and
can only be really answered while cleaner production
projects enroll, including their implementation. These
questions (and their answers) are important parts of
a learning-by-doing and learning-by-using process in
which initial innovations and options are modifed and
tailored to specifc circumstances.
The social experiments are like Gestalt-therapy:
they are targeted at practical change and at practicing
and experimenting with new attitudes, routines and
new defnitions oF ones selF and others. ±or instance:
what does it mean for a company to change from sol-
vent-based paint to water based paint, as was the issue
in the example mentioned in section 4.4. of this article?
In that example the company did not implement this
change, as the companies’ environmental engineer
did not feel comfortable with his new role of training
colleagues. To prevent this problem it is important
to blackbox the option and to ensure that people are
feeling comfortable. Various options are open. The
frst one is to train the environmental engineer. It is
important to not only to train this person in terms of
knowledge of water-based paint. It is important to
train him or her as well in terms of teaching and com-
munication capabilities. And here the aspect of social
experiment really becomes manifest. It is important
to practice with the new capabilities. It involves or-
ganizing sessions to practice, for instance by doing
role-plays in which the person involved can practice
with the new role, new responsibilities and new ways
of communication and collaboration. These new roles
involve communication with people inside as well as
outside a company. Therefore people from inside as
well as outside the company needs to be involved in the
training sessions, in the role-plays and possibly other
games that enable to practice with the new tasks, new
roles and new reality. Indeed, games and role-plays can
be an important part of the practice, since they offer
good possibilities to simulate and experiment with a
new social reality (Dieleman and Huisingh 2006).
Another (complementary) option is to engage
professional schools and environmental engineering
universities in this change and stimulate changes in
the curricula. And here again, it is not a matter of
these changes to the educational institutes,
but to execute them in experimental ways so teachers
and schools can change and translate themselves in
this new reality. Sometimes changes in curricula will
be minor, but in situation where for instance a switch
from purely engineering towards interdisciplinary
education is needed, the consequences for educa-
tional institutions can be considerable and difFcult
to realize. Here once more experimenting, organizing
classes in an experimental way, evaluating the results
and little by little adapting to a new reality may be
involved (Dieleman and Juárez 2007).
In principle every option embodies a potential
range of translation-questions that can basically only
be explored by engaging in their execution, by doing
and through learning from practice. Enlarging the
cleaner production approach with the perspective of
translation and with the incorporation of social ex-
periments can help to overcome the identiFed short
comings in the approach: the lack of implementation
of options, the lack of repeating the process and the
lack of larger scale recognition.
The framework as developed by UNEP is a good
starting point since it involves various actors and
various activities. What needs to be added is the
aspect of translation and feedback and of ±ows of
information and re±ections. These go from concrete
cleaner production experiences to governments,
communities and academia and vice versa. These can
in±uence as well activities such as the development of
CP-oriented policies and strategies or the promotion
of CP-investments. Feedback and feed-forward loops
should be added to the framework, in basically going
in all directions. This is represented in
fgure 3
, the
modiFed UNEP framework for cleaner production
social experiments.
Obviously social experiments are broader in
scope than traditional demonstration projects and
contemporary regional network-based projects.
The social experiment is not to implement cleaner
production in the narrow sense but to confront ac-
tors more fundamentally with the consequences of
cleaner production for their own standards and ways
of working. It adds the element of social change and
organizational change. The aim is to change standards
in ways of handling the environmental aspects of
production through of mutual translation of the ac-
CP crierted
CP defin to
include SC
CP as a
Std. Approach
CP and
To SBus
Services &
Concept of
CP Demo
Move Info
to knowledge
Health &
& Co-op
CP in
Education &
Sector Associations
Financial Institutions
Trade Associations
CP professionals
Academic & R&D
Technology Transfer
Local Govt. Auth.
Various other ministries
Intl Dev
Env. NGOs, Trade Unions
Consumer Interest Orgn.
Fig. 3.
ModiFed UNEP framework for Cleaner Production Social Experiments
H. Dieleman
tors and the production processes. In this way a new
cleaner production practice can be blackboxed and be
a new logical and normal practice. This is the added
value of the social experiment compared to traditional
models to promote cleaner production.
In this article various aspects of cleaner produc-
tion as a specifc approach to reduce industrial pollu
tion were presented and analyzed. The article started
with an introduction of the concept of cleaner pro-
duction, and presented the results of demonstration
projects that were based on the standard and globally
accepted cleaner production methodology. The frst
conclusion is that the results of most demonstration
projects are disappointing, as many of these projects
do not manage to have a real impact on the companies
involved in the projects.
The article continued to present four theoretical
explanations, based on four groups of innovation
theories. The article concludes that all presented
theories are relevant to understand the results of the
demonstration projects, and identify several short-
comings of the demonstrations projects. The article
also concludes that the various theories only present
partial explanations that are linked to a particular
phase of the cleaner production projects.
The article continues with the introduction of
societal experiments as a new approach to promote
cleaner production. These social experiments can
overcome in a comprehensive way most of the
identifed shortcomings oF demonstration project.
In social experiments, various stakeholders in and
around companies work together to stimulate cleaner
production through networks, clusters or chains. This
is rather similar to more contemporary approaches
to stimulate cleaner production. Yet, the social ex-
periment is not the same as the currently often-used
The aim of social experiment is not only to imple-
ment cleaner production in the narrow sense; the aim
is to confront stakeholders with the consequences for
their standards and ways of working. An essential
element is the feedback on the routines, knowledge
and conventions of the stakeholders. The question is,
in what ways the stakeholders need to change in order
to facilitate cleaner production. The feedback cannot
take place in the form of a desk-study, as cleaner
production is a process of learning by doing in real
time. That is why experiments are needed in which
practical changes are combined with simulations,
role-plays, games and organizational feedback. That
is why the article proposes social experiments as a
new approach to promote cleaner production.
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