Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Green book of the week - Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto by Adam Werbach

Today we review a green book that is actually more of a blue book. It's a must to anyone interested in the way business need to change to meet the challenges of the next decade and the ones afterwards.

Our book today is:

Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto

Author: Adam Werbach

Adam Werbach is widely known as one of the foremost experts in sustainability strategy. In 1996, at age 23, Werbach was elected the youngest-ever President of the Sierra Club, the oldest and largest environmental organization in the United States. Since then, Werbach has declared environmentalism dead, built and sold three companies, and merged with global ideas company Saatchi & Saatchi to create the world’s largest sustainability agency, Saatchi & Saatchi S.

As Global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S, Werbach guides sustainability work from China to South Africa to Brazil, advising companies with nearly $1 trillion in combined annual sales, including Walmart, Procter & Gamble, General Mills and WellPoint. Werbach worked with Walmart to engage the company’s 1.9 million Associates in its sustainability effort, creating the Personal Sustainability Project (“PSP”).

Twice elected to the International Board of Greenpeace, Werbach is a frequent commentator on sustainable business, appearing on networks including BBC, NPR, and CNN, and shows ranging from the The O’Reilly Factor to Charlie Rose. He lives in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights with his wife Lyn and children Mila, Pearl and Simon.

Publisher: Harvard Business Press

Published on:
July 2009

What this book is about? (from the publisher's website) The definitive work on business strategy for sustainability by the most authoritative voice in the conversation. More than ever before, consumers, employees, and investors share a common purpose and a passion for companies that do well by doing good. So any strategy without sustainability at its core is just plain irresponsible - bad for business, bad for shareholders, bad for the environment.

These challenges represent unprecedented opportunities for big brands - such as Clorox, Dell, Toyota, Procter & Gamble, Nike, and Wal-Mart - that are implementing integral, rather than tangential, strategies for sustainability. What these companies are doing illuminates the book's practical framework for change, which involves engaging employees, using transparency as a business tool, and reaping the rewards of a networked organizational structure.

Leave your quaint notions of corporate social responsibility and environmentalism behind. Werbach is starting a whole new dialogue around sustainability of enterprise and life as we know it in organizations and individuals. Sustainability is now a true competitive strategic advantage, and building it into the core of your business is the only means to ensure that your company - and your world - will survive.

What we think about it?
Adam Werbach's book is one of the most important books written so far about the integration of business and sustainability. My guess is that it will stay that way for many years. This book include a both groundbreaking theoretical work and up to date empirical examples that create not just a valuable educational tool, but also a very interesting book.

In times when so many companies are dealing with questions related to sustainability and how it should be incorporated into their strategy and operations, this book provides a clear and coherent framework on how to do it right. In the book, Economist editor Daniel Franklin explains the problem:

"Many companies pretend that their sustainability strategy runs deeper than it really is. It has become almost obligatory for executives to claim that CSR is 'connected to the core' of the corporate strategy, or that it has become 'part of the DNA'. In truth, even ardent advocates of sustainability struggle to identify more than handful examples. More often the activities that go under the sustainability banner are a hotchpotch of pet projects at the best tenuously related to the core business."

Werbach is providing some very convincing answers on how companies should do it. The concepts he presents in the book are corresponding with ideas he presented in the past ( see "The Birth of Blue") that look at sustainability in a more holistic way, recognizing the fact that it has more dimensions then just the environmental one. Werbach's definition of sustainability takes into account four aspects - environmental, social, economic and cultural that together create a more meaningful and powerful road map for companies' long-term success.

Werbach's ideas can be considered as green business 2.0 (or blue business 1.0). His framework is based on his work with companies such as Wal-Mart and on the examples of other companies like Clorox and Xerox. Is he right? Is this the way for businesses to go to become prosper and sustainable? time will tell, but in the meantime, it definitely looks like one of the best tools to equip yourself with as we're approaching a new and challenging decade, no matter where you work or what you do. Sustainability as we learn is a strategy for everyone.

Bottom line: If you don't have it yet, make it the first book you buy yourself in 2010!

Disclosure: We received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Want to learn more about the book? Check out this interview with the author, Adam Werbach:

If you're looking for other interesting green-themed books, you are invited to check out our green books page on Eco-Libris website's green resources section.

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!