This special issue of Business Strategy and the Environment examines the role and contribution of networks to environmental management and sustainable development. The paper has two main purposes. It situates networks and their contribution to environmental management and sustainable development within the tradition of meta-problems and socio-technical systems. This provides an important conceptual frame for the field. It offers a robust setting within which a number of other theories can be set. The need to establish this conceptual framing is particularly important, as the interest in networks from researchers and practitioners has progressed rapidly during the past five years. Moreover, it is anticipated that this interest in networks will continue to develop as the focus of attention moves from issues of environmental management, to sustainable development, and then on to the association between sustainable development and other forms of global change. The significance of these and other trends is identified. The paper also introduces the other four contributions to this special issue, which examine the role of networks from a number of theoretical and empirical perspectives. The paper concludes by drawing out a set of research themes that appear to deserve critical attention in the future.
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