This special issue is based on the international symposium Business and Industrial Ecology held alongside the 2003 Business Strategy and the Environment Conference in Leicester, UK. The main message is that the dominant natural science and engineering aspects of industrial ecology (IE) need to be linked to management and policy studies. IE has rapidly evolved into a new field with the concept of an ‘industrial ecosystem’ that uses the metaphor of sustainable ecosystems to provide innovative routes to change present unsustainable industrial systems. The editorial article identifies three themes as organizing categories in linking IE to management and policy studies. First, the systems and network philosophy of IE can be coupled with inter-organizational management studies to complement the more traditional intra-organizational environmental management. Second, management and policy studies complement descriptive IE studies of physical flows of matter and energy to produce prescriptive suggestions for how industrial systems can be moved through human action toward the vision of IE. Third, the metaphor is a source of inspiration and creativity in the transformation of management and strategic visions towards a new sustainability culture. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.