As social entrepreneurs, we all spend a fair bit of time explaining to the general public what it means to have a double bottom line (“What do you mean it isn’t just about profit?”). Throw into the mix an environmental component, thereby creating a triple bottom line, and people’s eyes can start to glaze over – sad but true. But that doesn’t make green pursuits in business any less important. In fact, being a trailblazer in this arena is what’s going to position you at the top of your industry once the rest of the world realizes that you can, indeed, do business without doing harm. Luckily, there are lots of recently published books to keep you motivated and inspired along the green business path. Here’s a quick round-up.
Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto, by Adam Werbach. When in doubt, begin with a manifesto. This one, written by the youngest-ever president of the Sierra Club, aims to start a whole new dialogue around sustainability of enterprise “and life as we know it in organizations.” Werbach asserts that sustainability in now a true competitive strategic advantage and the only means to ensure your company survives. Werbach is also the author of the widely circulated speech, “Is Environmentalism Dead?”
Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits People Purpose–Doing Business by Respecting the Earth, by Ray C. Anderson. The title says it all, and if you’ve been to a business seminar in the last 15 years, you’ve probably heard of this guy. His carpet company became the first in America (and probably the world) to achieve 100% sustainability. By 2007, it achieved negative net greenhouse gas emissions. Anderson’s efforts, and his book, reinforce the fallacy in having to choose between financial and environmental success.
The Responsibility Revolution: How the Next Generation of Businesses Will Win, by Jeffrey Hollender and Bill Breen. Here we have another company leader (Hollender is the chairman of Seventh Generation) explaining how sustainable business practices protect not only the environment, but employees too. Ray C. Anderson describes it as “a remarkably detailed road map for businesses that are searching sincerely for the path to good reputation, high purpose, and deep respect.”
The New Pioneers: Sustainable business success through social innovation and social entrepreneurship, by Tania Ellis. Moving from the general to the specific, Ellis offers a practical guide for “capitalists and idealists on how to navigate in the new economic world order.” It is filled with case studies that demonstrate how these “new pioneers” are building innovative business models by putting sustainability at the core.
Green Entrepreneur Handbook: The Guide to Building and Growing a Green and Clean Business, by Eric Koester. As its title implies, this book is light on the philosophy and heavy on the how-to, offering a very practical approach to incorporating clean technology, environmental practices, and green business approaches into any work environment.
A Simple Path to Sustainability: Green Business Strategies for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses, edited by Fred M. Andreas, et al. Designed specifically to help smaller enterprises share in the benefits that flow from sustainability, the book showcases 12 SMEs that have outstanding records of sustainability, following each company’s journey from initial idea through building a new culture, engaging stakeholders, gaining competitive advantage, and planning for the future.
Worldchanging, Revised Edition: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century, by Alex Steffen. Weighing in at 600 pages, this is the bible of sustainable living. Newly revised, with 50% new content, it includes up-to-the-minute information on the locavore movement, carbon-neutral homes, novel transportation solutions, the growing trend of ecotourism, the concept of food justice, and much more. If you are looking for inspiration and fresh ideas, you will find them here.
Climate Capitalism: Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change, by L. Hunter Lovins. Such a list would not be complete without Lovins, who was described by Newsweekas “the green business icon.” Her latest book demonstrates, through hundreds of case studies, how energy efficiency and renewable resources are driving prosperity. Or, as one reviewer said, “[It} is a must-read for entrepreneurs, investors, industry experts, and corporations interested in capitalizing on the greatest wealth-creation opportunity of our lifetime: solving climate change.”
And new out this month, What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know about Capitalism, by Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster. Described as “a sharply argued manifesto” for those who reject schemes of “green capitalism,” this quick read tackles the ecological crisis and the faltering capitalist economy.
Last but not least, The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. It’s about a tree that never stops giving. Could there be a better metaphor for the enviro-minded social entrepreneur? This book is a must-read.
[Author’s note: As someone who “daylights” as a librarian, I feel it is my duty to remind everyone that the “greenest” read of all is a book you borrow from your local library!]
Nicole Zummach is the co-founder of SEE Change Magazine. She has worked in the publishing industry for more than a decade, and has spent most of her career researching and writing about civil society and the nonprofit sector. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org