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Capitalism at the Crossroads: Aligning Business, Earth, and Humanity (2nd Edition) 2nd Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0136134398
ISBN-10: 0136134394
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Review

http://www.socialfunds.com/news/article.cgi/article1596.html

 

Book Review--Capitalism at the Crossroads: The Unlimited Business Opportunities in Solving the World's Most Difficult Problems
    by William Baue

According to author Stuart Hart, sustainable global enterprise holds the key to reducing poverty, reversing environmental destruction, and even counteracting terrorism.

SocialFunds.com -- Cornell and University of North Carolina Business Professor Stuart Hart's Capitalism at the Crossroads perfectly complements University of Michigan Business Professor C. K. Prahalad's The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, perhaps even surpassing it in significance. The two professors collaborated from 1998 through 2002 on the seminal article that gave birth to the "bottom of the pyramid" (BOP) concept that Prof. Prahalad explains so eloquently in his book (see related book review). The BOP market theory holds that multinational corporations (MNCs) can simultaneously profit and help reduce global poverty by serving a market they have largely ignored until recently: the 4 billion people in the world living on less than $2 a day.

As good as Prof. Prahalad's book is, however, it leaves unanswered the question of how the BOP theory fits into the larger context of sustainability, particularly environmental sustainability. Prof. Hart's book not only answers this question, but also presents a comprehensive and compelling argument that capitalism cannot afford to ignore sustainability--indeed, that capitalism will thrive by embracing sustainability (and vice versa).

"This book takes the contrarian's view that business--more than either government or civil society--is uniquely equipped, at this point in history, to lead us toward a sustainable world in the years ahead," writes Prof. Hart. "Properly focused, the profit motive can accelerate (not inhibit) the transformation toward global sustainability, with nonprofits, governments, and multilateral agencies all playing crucial roles as collaborators."

Prof. Hart introduces the book describing how the shift in the relationship between capitalism and environmentalism from antagonistic to (sometimes) complementary forces mirrored his own shift from distrusting capitalism to respecting its power to leverage positive social change. The "greening" revolution of the 1980s demonstrated that companies could profit by employing more environmentally benign processes, such as recycling or waste reduction.

However laudable the greening approach is, it became apparent in the 1990s that reducing the environmental impact of existing business models would prove insufficient to address the imminent environmental and social crises, according to Prof. Hart. He was among those who at that time promoted moving "beyond greening" through "creative destruction" of environmentally and economically wasteful processes, replacing them with environmentally (and economically) beneficial processes.

"Unlike greening, which works through the existing supply chain to effect continuous improvement in the current business system, 'beyond greening' strategies focus on emerging technologies, new markets, and unconventional partners and stakeholders," writes Prof. Hart. "Such strategies are thus disruptive to current industry structure and raise the possibility of significant repositioning, enabling new players to establish leading positions as the process of creative destruction unfolds."

The primary business strategy that promises to arise from the ashes of creative destruction is the BOP approach of serving the needs of the poor in ways that are culturally appropriate, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Capitalism is indeed at a crossroads, facing international terrorism, worldwide environmental change, and an accelerating backlash against globalization. Companies are at crossroads, too: finding new strategies for profitable growth is now more challenging. Both sets of problems are intimately linked. Learn how to identify sustainable products and technologies that can drive new growth while also helping to solve today's most crucial social and environmental problems. Hart shows how to become truly indigenous to all markets -- and avoid the pitfalls of traditional 'greening' and 'sustainability' strategies. This book doesn't just point the way to a capitalism that is more inclusive and more welcome: it offers specific techniques to recharge innovation, growth, and profitability. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Wharton School Publishing; 2 edition (July 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0136134394
  • ISBN-13: 978-0136134398
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,124,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John G. Hilliard on June 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Is the business sector more then just a entity that creates products and jobs? The author of this book believes that the corporate sector can be the catalyst for a force of global development. The author argues that there is no conflict between making the world a better place and make a profit. He does believe that business leaders need to maintain a principled commitment to civic responsibility, for if nothing else then to keep your company out of the spot light of issues that could arise from actions that are less then ethical.

The author presents a book that gives the reader a scenario in which business can generate growth and satisfy social and environmental concerns. Given the 4 billion people that live in the third world, the author believes there is an unbelievably large and hungry market for all that business can bring. Business owners can reap incredible growth while sowing tremendous improvement in people's lives.

It does sound like a win win situation that is believable in its scope. Overall I enjoyed the book. It was well written and informative. The author might be called an optimist to the extreme, but it is the dreamer that makes big change happen. The book is a fast read that is well worth your time.
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Format: Hardcover
Professor Stuart Hart's thoughtful treatise on sustainable and accessible economic growth provides a nice complement to his mentor's similarly themed study, C. K. Prahalad's "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid", which I read myself last month. Both tackle an intriguing premise, though I think Hart is more successful in developing more realistic solutions to the world's economic ills. From Cornell's Johnson School of Management, the author goes beyond standard globalization theories by recognizing the need for companies to move beyond transparency towards "radical transactiveness", i.e., a willingness to engage and learn from people who hold fundamentally different world views.

He adeptly describes how the macroeconomic shift that brings capitalism and environmentalism together mirrors his personal and not uncommon shift from distrusting capitalism to respecting its power to leverage positive social change. The "greening" revolution of the 1980s demonstrated that companies could profit by employing more environmentally benign processes, such as recycling or waste reduction. But greening, we learn, continues to be a myopic approach, and it became apparent in the last decade that reducing the environmental impact of existing business models would prove insufficient to address the imminent environmental and social crises.

Hart was among those who promoted moving "beyond greening" through "creative destruction" of environmentally and economically wasteful processes, replacing them with environmentally (and economically) beneficial processes.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an important, but flawed, book.

Capitalism at the Crossroads is that rare book that compellingly describes new paradigms with powerful examples . . . but with which almost every reader will find fault in several ways. At the same time, I doubt if many readers will fail to change their viewpoints and actions at least in some ways as a result of reading and thinking about the material in this book.

The book is comprised of three basic lines of inquiry.

First, environmental problems that threaten us all will not be overcome by continuous improvement of reducing pollution of the sort that is being done now. You have to create entirely new business models that are built around the concept of long-term environmental sustainability.

Second, most of the environmental challenges will come in the parts of the world inhabited by the poorest two-thirds of the population. To deal with their economic needs and environmental challenges, you need to solve the problems from their perspective.

Third, new leadership and management paradigms are needed to change the way that organizations operate themselves that allow for the innovative sparks and direction to come from stakeholder interactions in the most difficult environments.

Most authors would feel like they could retire satisfied if they proposed even one of those ideas and explained the idea well. Professor Hart should take great pleasure in having helped give birth to three such important ideas.

Packaging the three ideas into one brief book, however, turns out to be an overwhelming challenge for Professor Hart. He doesn't quite carry it off. That's where the reader disagreements come from.

Let me give you some examples.
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Format: Hardcover
The people of the world need new ideas if industrial development is evolve into something other than the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer. These strategies leave nature - and by implication all of us - suffering and funding the collateral damage

Stuart L. Hart challenges today's corporations with a new manifesto are being challenged to rethink their worldwide strategies. Managers will have to harmonize concerns for the planet with wealth creation. Citing case studies and practical advice, he argues unlimited opportunities for profitable business growth will find those companies that apply innovative technology and solutions to the world's social and environmental problems.

The management professor at Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management, argues "one-size-fits-all" "command and control" approaches to production and supply are done. They need to be replaced by locally-responsive, locally-responsible and sustainable solutions based on local knowledge.

Only companies with the right combination of vision, strategy, and structure will succeed in developing more inclusive forms of commerce that lift the entire human family while at the same replenishing and restoring nature.

To address the world's ills, Hart argues effectively in this ambitious book, economic opportunity must be in tune with local economies. The days of being in conflict with them are over.
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