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Capitalism at the Crossroads: The Unlimited Business Opportunities in Solving the World's Most Difficult Problems Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0131439870 ISBN-10: 0131439871

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Product Details

chapter one of Capitalism at the Crossroads [PDF]
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Wharton School Publishing (February 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0131439871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0131439870
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,151,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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,

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.

More About the Author

Dr. Stuart L. Hart is the Samuel C. Johnson Chair in Sustainable Global Enterprise at the Johnson School of Management and Founder of the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell University. He is also the President and Founder of Enterprise for a Sustainable World. Previously he was the Hans Zulliger Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the Kenan Flagler Business School and Founder of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise at the University of North Carolina. He was also the Founding Director of the Corporate Environmental Management Program at the University of Michigan (now the Erb Institute's Dual Masters Program).

He is one of the world's leading authorities on the implications of environment and poverty for business strategy. Professor Hart has published over 70 papers and authored or edited seven books, with over 5,000 Google Scholar citations in all. Hart wrote the seminal article "Beyond Greening: Strategies for a Sustainable World," which won the McKinsey Award for Best Article in the Harvard Business Review in 1997, and helped launch the movement for corporate sustainability. With C.K. Prahalad, he also wrote the path-breaking 2002 article, "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid," which first articulated how business could profitably serve the needs of the four billion poor in the developing world. His best-selling 2005 book, Capitalism at the Crossroads (Wharton School Publishing) was recognized by Cambridge University as one of the top 50 books on sustainability of all time. A third edition of the book was published in 2010. With Ted London, Hart is also the author of a newly released book entitled Next Generation Business Strategies for the Base of the Pyramid. In this book, Hart and other leading BoP thought and practice leaders show how to apply second-generation BoP innovations, techniques, and business models to build successful and sustainable BoP businesses.

He has served as consultant, advisor, or management educator for dozens of corporations and organizations including Dupont, S. C. Johnson, General Electric, Baxter Healthcare, Wal Mart, the World Economic Forum, and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is an internationally recognized speaker and has delivered hundreds of keynote addresses on the topic of sustainable business around the world.

Stuart Hart earned his Bachelor's degree from the University of Rochester (General Science), Master's degree from Yale University's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (Environmental Management), and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan (Planning and Strategy).

Customer Reviews

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That phrase can also be used to describe the business opportunities put forward in this book.
Charles Ashbacher
To address the world's ills, Hart argues effectively in this ambitious book, economic opportunity must be in tune with local economies.
Craig L. Howe
Hart's penetrating book touches upon its most controversial aspect in applying his reasoning to the problem of terrorism.
Ed Uyeshima

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 66 people found the following review helpful 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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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman coined the phrase, "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom." He used it to describe the many possibilities and advantages of making machines nanometers in size. That phrase can also be used to describe the business opportunities put forward in this book. Hart notes that most business strategies are designed to serve only a small percentage of the people on Earth, those with large disposable incomes. The remainder is poor and largely ignored, and he refers to them as the base of the pyramid (BOP).

This means that approximately four billion people are not a significant part of the business plans of most multi-national companies (MNCs). The conventional wisdom is that since their disposable income is so low, the products of the MNCs are beyond their economic capability. However, that is in many ways a false assumption, and the case studies cited in this book prove that conclusively. One simple example concerns poor people making telephone calls. On the surface, the idea that someone would spend several days' wages for a telephone call appears absurd. However, if that person must obtain the information and the only alternative is to spend more by making a trip, then that "expensive" phone call is in fact a bargain. Therefore, providing cell phone service to remote villages has proven to be profitable to the provider and beneficial to the villagers.

Hart also takes the leadership of the MNCs to task for their emphasis on the short term rather than the complete long term. By complete long term, he means that corporate leaders should include social and environmental consequences when making decisions. He is also emphatic in explaining how environmentally friendly "green" technology can be profitable.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 10, 2005
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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