So many books; so little time!

There are so many books about sustainability and embedding it into business. A quick search on Amazon with the combination of sustainability and business yields close to 8000 entries! Instead of sifting through them all, I decided to just venture into the local library – which has an excellent management collection – and see what they have on shelf.

I picked up two titles – standing next to each other on the shelf – and ended up just reading one of them. Here is a quick impression of The Business Guide to Sustainability: Practical Strategies and Tools for Organizations, by Darcy Hitchcock and Marsha Willard. After going through the book, my first observation was that so much has happened and progressed in recent years. The book was written in 2006 and updated in 2009. The examples give the book a bit of a dated feel, but don’t let that fool you, as the true value is in the way to book is structured and the very practical nature of the book.

The book is divided into three sections:

  1. Foundation concepts positions sustainability as a strategic issue and the sustainability director/coordinator/champion as a change agent.
  2. Sustainability by industry sector highlights three kinds of organizations (service providers, manufacturers and government agencies) – and outlines key challenges and strategies for each.
  3. Sustainability by organizational function helps people from different functions see what their role and strategies could be to integrate sustainablity into the business model

What I really liked about this book is the very practical nature and style. The structure chosen by the authors make it very easy to read just parts of the book – and come back to select sections as relevant. Each chapter acknowledges relevant challenges and provides practical strategies and tools to help progress any organization in its sustainability journey. More importantly, it makes it ever so clear that change management is a key part of sustainability management. I really loved the chapter on the clear divide in remit and authority that sustainability champions can have: those with and those without formal authority. Despite the varied set in tools for the change agents in both categories, the key underlying messages are (very much in line with many of Kotter’s key messages in Leading Change):

  • It all starts with passionate leadership – from anywhere in the organization
  • Create a strong coalition to guide and support sustainability integration
  • Build a clear vision linking sustainability to the business
  • Develop an ambitious yet realistic plan
  • Define and report key performance metrics
  • Celebrate and build credibility with successful projects based
  • Evolve over time to spread sustainability management throughout the organization


 The other book I picked up was Mainstreaming Corporate Responsibility, edited by N.Craig Smith and Gilbert Lensen. Even though the book was written more recently and had a much more engaging cover, I will be returning it to the library after just a quick glance. In comparison to the other book, for me it lacks the practical nature and accessiblity. It is clearly written for academic purposes – which is important. There certainly was very little mention of corporate responsibility or sustainability strategies when I did my MBA in the early ’90’s. I am glad to see many MBA programs putting Corporate Responsibility/sustainability into their curriculums. Perhaps at another moment, I will sit down and read through this book full of cases and papers.

Please share what books have inspired and helped you to implement sustainability strategies in your organization!



  1. While developing a new MBA programme at Wittenborg University, I am putting together a new module: Corporate Sustainability.. Apart from some topical academic journal papers and paying attention to new developments in the GRI, I am thinking of using the book: R. van Tulder et al. (2014) “Managing the Transition to a Sustainable Enterprise” (Earthscan/Rouledge) and my own book as an introduction: T. Wolters (2013) “Sustainable Value Creation – as a Challenge to Managers and Controllers).

    • Thanks for this suggestion and the link to your blog. Sustainism is the New Modernism is indeed a fresh look at sustainability, which makes a great gift for the holiday season!

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