Here's your sustainability summer reading list

claudia Paulussen
Summer is here and with it, hopefully some free time to catch up on the latest corporate sustainability reads.

Summer is here, hopefully bringing more opportunities to catch up on leisure reading. While you may eat, drink and breathe news and feature articles, a deep dive into a good book can bring deeper knowledge and satisfaction.

Whether postcapitalism, billion-dollar brands, the circular economy or grand strategies pique your interest, there are plenty of great new titles this summer. 

Below, find seven new books that should be on every corporate sustainability professional’s radar. (You'll also find our latest excerpts of books here, which GreenBiz runs on Saturdays.)

1. Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future

Author: Paul Mason

Topic: Economics

What it’s about

Could the end of capitalism be nigh? Paul Mason suggests capitalism will collapse under the weight of its own internal contradictions, including unsustainable levels of debt on the part of both individuals and nations. Arguing that the Great Recession was "the tremor in advance of the earthquake," Mason claims that business-as-usual capitalism is on a crash course for disaster by 2050.

To repair our economic system, Mason writes that we must reduce carbon emissions, stabilize the financial system and "deliver high levels of material prosperity and well being to the majority of people, primarily by prioritizing information-rich technologies towards solving major social challenges such as ill-health, welfare dependency, sexual education and poor education." He also says that we should rapidly advance automation technology to reduce necessary work.

While the book received some criticism for failing to relate how exactly we will get from Point A to Point B, this book identifies some clear flaws in our current form of capitalism and offers food for thought about how we might remedy it in the future.

2. The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts

Authors: Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind

Topic: Technology

What it’s about

Information technology will transform professional institutions as we know it, authors Richard and Daniel Susskind argue is this detailed, predictive and normative book. In the age of the Internet, they claim, we won’t want or need doctors, teachers, accountants, architects, the clergy, consultants, lawyers and many others to work as they did in the 20th century.

But this raises several practical and moral questions. In a time when machines can out-perform human beings at most tasks, what will be the place of people in the new economy? Who should own and control online expertise, and what tasks should be reserved exclusively for people?

The authors argue that we should break the current monopolies granted to today’s professionals, that our current professions are antiquated, opaque and no longer affordable, and that the expertise of their best is enjoyed only by a few. Instead, they propose six new models for producing and distributing expertise in society.

3. Waste to Wealth: The Circular Economy Advantage

Author: Peter Lacy and Jakob Rutqvist

Topic: Circular Economy

What it’s about

Been reading a lot about the circular economy, but want to develop a more in-depth understanding of the concept? In this book, commissioned by Accenture, authors Peter Lacy and Jakob Rutqvist make the case for why the transition to a circular economy could be the "biggest revolution and opportunity in 250 years for how we organize production and consumption in our global economy."

Supported by Accenture research showing a $4.5 trillion potential economic benefit for implementing circular economy business models, the authors outline five business models "free of the constraints of linear zero-sum thinking."

These are circular supply chains, recovery and recycling, product life-extension, sharing platforms and product as a service. The book discusses how global industry leaders and innovative start-ups alike already are beginning to reap big rewards by tapping into these opportunities.

4. Green Giants: How Smart Companies Turn Sustainability into Billion-Dollar Businesses

Author: Freya Williams

Topic: Sustainable Business

Penned by Freya Williams, CEO of Futerra North America, this book makes the business case for sustainability by highlighting nine of the world’s first billion-dollar companies that have embraced the triple bottom line.

She identifies six factors for success: iconoclastic leadership fueled by deep conviction and a rebellious streak; disruptive innovation that uses sustain ability to spur the development of radically better products and services; a higher purpose that ignites the company; mainstream appeal with positioning and packaging stripped of the crunchy cliches that alienate the average customer; embedding sustainability values throughout the entire organization; and establishing a new "behavioral contract" with consumers and other stakeholders.

5. Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for One Hundred Percent Clean Energy

Authors: Richard Heinberg and David Fridley

Topic: Clean Energy

What it's about

Have you wondered what a 100-percent renewable energy future might look like, or how we will get there from this fossil-fueled world?

Well, it won’t be as simple as replacing coal with wind power or oil with solar; it will require us to adapt our energy usage as dramatically as we adapt our energy sources, say Richard Heinberg and David Fridley.

Starting with a comprehensive overview of our current energy system, the authors survey issues of energy supply and demand in key sectors of the economy, including electricity generation, transportation, buildings and manufacturing. Reviewing each sector in detail, Heinberg and Fridley examine the most pressing challenges, from intermittent fuel sources to energy storage and grid redesign. The book also touches on the important question of energy and equity in a clean energy future.

6. The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America's Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century

Authors: Joel Makower, Mark Mykleby and Patrick Doherty

Topic: Policy

What it's about

Our own chairman and executive editor, Joel Makower, and his co-authors Mark Mykleby and Patrick Doherty, explore how the United States can elevate sustainability as a new strategic imperative to address many social, environmental and economic challenges both at home and abroad.

Shattering the popular idea that economic growth and social and environmental advancement are mutually exclusive, the authors points to the trillion-dollar market demand for walkable communities, regenerative agriculture and resource productivity. Backed by economic analysis, a study of demographic and societal shifts, the realities of climate change and resource scarcity, this risk-based assessment of America’s challenges and opportunities uses on-the-ground reporting of how much this is already unfolding throughout the country.

Whatever your politics may be, this is a must-read for anyone looking to better understand how sustainability can help "make America great again" by building bridges — both literal and figurative — rather than walls. 

7. Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy and the Environment

Author: Wenonah Hauter

Topic: Energy

What it's about

Fracking may have fallen out of much of the public spotlight of late, but the controversial method of energy extraction still is taking place in dozens of states from California to West Virginia. First becoming commercially viable in the late 1990s, the process generally involves injecting millions of gallons of water, along with sand and chemicals, down a well to extract oil-and-gas reserves that were previously hard to access.

In this book, public interest advocate Wenonah Hauter argues that the rush to fracking is "dangerous to the environment and treacherous to human health." She describes how the fracking industry began, the technologies that make it possible and the negative environmental impacts the process causes — creating so-called "sacrifice zones" across the United States. The book also examines the powerful interests that have supported fracking, including leading environmental groups, and offers a thorough debunking of its supposed economic benefits.

8. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

Author: Adam Grant

Topic: Leadership

What it's about

Ever want to learn how to best defeat groupthink? Adam Grant delves into how people can champion new ideas, and how leaders can take on groupthink to solve organizational challenges with "original" ideas.

Making his case through several studies and stories covering business, politics, sports and entertainment, Grant examines how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act and manage fear and doubt.

Most useful for business executives, Grant discusses how leaders can build cultures that welcome dissent, which can spark organizational innovation. Looking at startups and big brands alike, the book is a solid lesson in how to reject conformity and improve the status quo.