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Reader Faves: Best Books About Green Business

<p>From Ray Anderson to&nbsp;R. Buckminster Fuller to McDonough &amp; Braungart, and even Ralph Waldo Emerson,&nbsp;readers share their favorite sustainability reads.</p> <p> <meta charset="utf-8" /></p>

Thanks for your emails and comments to my post last week, "What Are the Best Books on Corporate Sustainability?" Not surprisingly, there was no consensus on what books are best — probably 200 books in all were recommended — although many, many people suggested the writings of Paul Hawken and Bill McDonough.

I don’t want to overwhelm you by listing all of the books that were recommended by email, but here are some of my favorites as well as a few selections from last week’s comments.

From sustainability consultant Gil Friend, the CEO of Natural Logic:

My current picks:

New: Climate Capitalism, Hunter Lovins & Boyd Cohen

Venerable: Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth – R. Buckminster Fuller

Practical: The Truth About Green Business – Gil Friend

Inspiring: Confessions of a Radical Industrialist – Ray Anderson

There are many more good ones, so here’s’s [year-old] list of the “must read” sustainability books:

A classic suggestion came from Keli Rae McMillen of Winter Park, Colo., who sent me a PDF of essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as this quote from Emerson’s "History:"

In old Rome the public roads beginning at the Forum proceeded north, south, east, west, to the centre of every province of the empire, making each market-town of Persia, Spain, and Britain pervious to the soldiers of the capital: so out of the human heart go, as it were, highways to the heart of every object in nature, to reduce it under the dominion of man. A man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots, whose flower and fruitage is the world. His faculties refer to natures out of him, and predict the world he is to inhabit, as the fins of the fish foreshow that water exists, or the wings of an eagle in the egg presuppose air. He cannot live without a world.

(Coincidentally, I’ll have some news about Emerson later this month but I can’t say more now.)

Steve Schein, a longtime business exec who now teaches sustainability at Southern Oregon University, sent a Top 20 list:

1) Blackburn, William, The Sustainability Handbook – The Complete Management Guide to Achieving Social, Economic, and Environmental Responsibility (2007), Environmental Law Institute, Washington, DC.

2) Savitz, Andrew, The Triple Bottom Line – How Today’s Best-Run Companies are Achieving Economic, Social, and Environmental Success (2006), Jossey – Bass

3) Esty, Daniel and Winston, Andrew, Green to Gold (2008), Yale University Press

4) Edwards, Andres R., The Sustainability Revolution – Portrait of a Paradigm Shift, (2005), New Society Publishers – BC, Canada

5) Hawken, P., Lovins, A., Lovins, Hunter, Natural Capitalism – Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, (1999), Little, Brown, and Company – New York

6) Henderson, Hazel, Ethical Markets – Creating the Green Economy, (2006) Chelsea Green Publishing Company, White River Junction, Vermont

7) Brown, Lester R., Plan B 4.0 – Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble, (2010) Norton & Co. – New York

8)Jones, Van, The Green Collar Economy – How One Solution Can Fix our Two Biggest Problems, (2008) Harper One Publishing

9) Senge, Peter, The Necessary Revolution – How Individuals and Organizations are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World, (2008) Doubleday – New York

10) Hawken,Paul, Ecology of Commerce – A Declaration of Sustainability, (2010) Harper Business – New York

11) Schendler, Auden, Getting Green Done – Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution – (2009) Public Affairs – New York

12) Flannery, Tim, Now or Never – Why We Must Act Now to End Climate Change and Create a Sustainable Future – (2009) Atlantic Monthly – New York

13) McDonough, William, Braungart, Michael – Cradle to Cradle – Remaking the Way we Make Things – (2002) North Point Press – New York

14) Hollender, Jeffrey, The Responsibility Revolution – How the Next Generation of Business Will Win – (2010) Josey Bass – San Francisco

15) Barlow, Maude, Blue Covenant – The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water – (2007) W.W. Norton – New York

16) McKibben, Bill – Eaarth – Making a Life on a Tough New Planet – (2010) Times Books – New York

17) Douglas, Dave, Papadopoulos, Dave, Citizen Engineer – A Handbook for Socially Responsible Engineering  (2010)

18) Cramer, Aron, Karabell, Zachary, Sustainable Excellence – The Future of Business in a Fast-Changing World, (2010) Rodale Books – New York

19) Hawken, Paul, Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw it Coming – (2007) Viking – New York

20) Werbach, Adam, Strategy for Sustainability – A Business Manifesto, (2009) Harvard Business Press – Boston

Paulina Migalska, who’s active in the D.C. professional chapter of Net Impact, is a Tom Friedman fan. She writes:

1) The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman – Yes, I know book is not on CSR but one quote from the book really stuck with me. Hence my pragmatic viewpoint of CSR, even though my true love is social enterprise. “Sometimes the best way to change the world is by getting the big players to do the right things for the wrong reasons, because waiting for them to do the right things for the right reason can mean forever.”

2) The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz – from the first pages of the book I couldn’t stop thinking: ”Jacqueline, you’re amazing, I agree with you more than you agree with yourself”

3) Hot, Flat, and Crowded again by Thomas Friedman – he may sound gloomy at times but one has got to admire his pragmatism.

Dror Etzion, who teaches about business and the environment, at McGill, had two recommendations:

Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution, by Auden Schendler

Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, by Yvon Chouinard

Lewis Ward, who grew up in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., my hometown, fittingly nominates:

a booklet that influenced my thinking, by friend and colleague Paul Glover: Hometown Money: How to Enrich Your Community with Local Currency

Rusty Shelton, a digital marketer with Shelton Interactive, suggested two books from his clients:

THE GREEN TO GOLD BUSINESS PLAYBOOK, by Daniel Esty and PJ Simmons (April, 2011)

This is the follow-up to Esty and Andrew Winston’s bestseller, GREEN TO GOLD, and is getting very nice reviews from the corporate community. The book scored endorsements from Jeff Immelt (CEO, GE), Muhtar Kent (CEO, Coca-Cola Company), Paul Polman (CEO, Unilever), Andrea Jung (CEO, Avon), Mark Tercek (The Nature Observatory) and others.

What is different about it–it skips the environmental ideology and deals exclusively with tools and strategies that have been shown to cut costs, reduce risks, drive revenues, and build brand identity.

THE RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS, by Carol Sanford (March, 2011)

Carol’s new book has been turning heads in corporate circles for a few months. It offers a new and strategic approach to doing business that holistically integrates responsibility into all aspects of an organization, allowing for returns at every level, business and social. This book goes beyond the often well intentioned but limited attempts at sustainability to present a framework that allows organizations to bring responsibility into everything they do and re-imagine success. From innovation, product development, and production processes to business management, strategic planning, and shareholder development, the author shows how being a Responsible Business is a practical skill that can be applied day-to-day at every level of the business.

What is different about it–When most people think of corporate responsibility, they are focusing on a business’s effect on and relationship to stakeholders. A Responsible Business sees stakeholders as full partners and meaningful instruments for the evolution of healthier communities and more successful businesses.

Richard Mills has a favorite which was highlighted by several others:

The Sustainable MBA: The Manager’s Guide to Green Business by Giselle Weybrecht is a great overview and introduction to sustainability. It skips the how to save the world stuff and is really focused on the business side, why business should be interested in sustainability and what they can do. It covers sustainability as it relates to Accounting, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Economics, Marketing, Operations, Organizational Behaviour Strategy. Giselle is not a journalist or a consultant which is probably why the book is most useful.  The aim is to give individuals tools to be able to bring sustainability into their jobs.

R. Paul Herman, author of The HIP Investor, says:

Faves are Cradle to Cradle, Natural Capitalism and now Climate Capitalism.

Of course, I love The HIP Investor: Make Bigger Profits By Building a Better World, because it focuses on how to design an investment portfolio to seek both human impact and profit at the same time – as well as a guide for companies (and yes, I wrote it too).

Anything by David Bornstein is a compelling read as well, from How To Change the World to Muhammad Yunus.

And you can’t beat Ray Anderson for telling it straight, and translating it for both engineers and businesspeople (check out his TED video as well as John Doerr’s).

Graeme Heyes writes from the UK to recommend:

Climb the Green Ladder: Make Your Company and Career More Sustainable by Amy V. Fetzer and Shari Aaron

I imagine that many of the nominations you will receive will be based around bringing about change in large corporates, by already qualified individuals, however as somebody who has just graduated with a Masters Degree in Environmental Management and who has been fortunate to find himself leading the environment group of one of the UK’s largest environmental charities just a few months after graduation, I have found this book to be a tremendous help, possibly second only to reading articles posted on Greenbiz!

It contains many tips I have found useful in terms of engaging with employees, talking to senior management, and beyond.

Helen Clarkson, who runs the U.S. office of Forum for the Future, has some fresh suggestions:

I think that the market for ‘making the case’ books is pretty saturated now, as your bookshelf shows. So there are plenty on this list so far for anyone new to the topic. I think the next layer of reading is where it gets interesting, so both in-depth books about particular industries (The Omnivore’s Dilemma is one of my favourites in that category) or books about how change is created. In that category I loved Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, SuperCorp by Rosabeth Kanter, and Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky, all with very different but very interesting things to reflect on as we try and shift the way we do business.

Other suggestions can be found in last week’s comments, which link to other lists. Writing about this reminded me how lucky I am to have engaged readers of this blog, as well as to have had the opportunity to meet leading thinkers and doers like Hawken, McDonough and Ray Anderson. I forgot to mention another favorite of my own last week — Steward Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline.

Finally, I’ve decided to send the free books to Keli Rae McMillen, Lew Ward and Paulina Migalska.

Book stack - CC license by ginnerobot/Flickr

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