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Biomimetic economy: human ecological-economic systems emulating natural ecological systems

Unai Tamayo (Department of Marketing and Market Research, University of Basque Country, Bilbao and San Sebastián, Spain)
Gustavo Vargas (Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Basque Country, Bilbao and San Sebastián, Spain)

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Article publication date: 29 May 2019

Issue publication date: 27 September 2019




The purpose of this paper is to examine the use of biomimicry to inspire sustainable development in economic systems. The research purpose is to explore the link between ecological systems and economic systems to highlight applied environmental solutions. The goal is to propose some driver to develop sustainable business practices inspired on the principles of biomimicry.


This paper provides a theoretical approach that builds the basis for a better understanding of the relationship between nature and sustainable economic decisions. The premise is that in the field of sustainable development, strategies based on “learning from nature” are useful. Furthermore, the concept of biomimicry provides principles and tools specifically aimed at design practice.


The complexity of economic systems has shown that high levels of abstraction are required when conceptualising problems and explanations related with nature-inspired solutions. Stakeholder engagement and transdisciplinary collaboration are required to face long-term environmental challenges. Moreover, the exploratory analysis applied in this paper appeared suitable to compile existing literature.

Practical implications

The study provides some general guidelines and empirical approach through case studies that could help decision makers convert nature-inspired alternatives into valuable strategic business opportunities. Although presented practical cases are framed in the local sphere (i.e. the Basque Country), they can serve as references in other international contexts.

Social implications

New business models should recognize the positive synchronization between well-managed social, environmental and economic systems.


The proposed ideas deepen the understanding on the sustainable development and the link between ecological and economic systems. In fact, the concept of biomimetic economy has not been dealt with or developed in depth in previous academic works, nor has it been published thoroughly in the field of research.



Tamayo, U. and Vargas, G. (2019), "Biomimetic economy: human ecological-economic systems emulating natural ecological systems", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 15 No. 6, pp. 772-785.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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