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Sustainability 2017, 9(7), 1091; doi:10.3390/su9071091

Introducing Flexibility to Complex, Resilient Socio-Ecological Systems: A Comparative Analysis of Economics, Flexible Manufacturing Systems, Evolutionary Biology, and Supply Chain Management

1
Graduate Program in Sustainability Science (GPSS), Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, University of Tokyo, Rm 334, Building of Environmental Studies, 5-1-5 Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa City, Chiba 277-8563, Japan
2
School of Energy and Environment (SEE), City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China
3
Department of Science, Technology, Engineering & Public Policy (STEaPP), University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK
4
Graduate School of Public Policy (GraSPP), University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan
5
Graduate Program in Sustainability Science (GPSS), Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, University of Tokyo, Rm 204b, Building of Environmental Studies, 5-1-5 Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa City, Chiba 277-8563, Japan
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 8 December 2016 / Revised: 15 June 2017 / Accepted: 19 June 2017 / Published: 22 June 2017
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Abstract

In this paper, a framework incorporating flexibility as a characteristic is proposed for designing complex, resilient socio-ecological systems. In an interconnected complex system, flexibility allows prompt deployment of resources where they are needed and is crucial for both innovation and robustness. A comparative analysis of flexible manufacturing systems, economics, evolutionary biology, and supply chain management is conducted to identify the most important characteristics of flexibility. Evolutionary biology emphasises overlapping functions and multi-functionality, which allow a system with structurally different elements to perform the same function, enhancing resilience. In economics, marginal cost and marginal expected profit are factors that are considered to be important in incorporating flexibility while making changes to the system. In flexible manufacturing systems, the size of choice sets is important in creating flexibility, as initial actions preserve more options for future actions that will enhance resilience. Given the dynamic nature of flexibility, identifying the characteristics that can lead to flexibility will introduce a crucial dimension to designing resilient and sustainable socio-ecological systems with a long-term perspective in mind. View Full-Text
Keywords: flexibility; resilience; sustainability; socio-ecological system flexibility; resilience; sustainability; socio-ecological system
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Asokan, V.A.; Yarime, M.; Esteban, M. Introducing Flexibility to Complex, Resilient Socio-Ecological Systems: A Comparative Analysis of Economics, Flexible Manufacturing Systems, Evolutionary Biology, and Supply Chain Management. Sustainability 2017, 9, 1091.

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