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Return on Sustainability Paperback – February 18, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-1598588446 ISBN-10: 1598588443

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing, LLC (February 18, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1598588443
  • ISBN-13: 978-1598588446
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,387,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


There are many books on the market seeking to blend business advice with political analysis and social activism: to explain why it's in a company's best interest from a financial perspective as well as an ecological one to set sustainability goals. But Kevin Wilhelm, CEO of Seattle-based Sustainable Business Consulting and chair of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce's sustainability committee, has delivered one of the most succinct and well-articulated books on climate change from a business perspective.

"Return on Sustainability" is easy to read, with a balance of graphics and text explicating everything from emerging carbon trading financial markets to state-by-state listings of utility and regulatory commissions. The book can act as a point of entry for those new to sustainability issues without dumbing down such concepts, while also providing a spectrum of real-life examples from the business world. Yet the intelligence behind the reasoning is readily apparent (Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Gifford Pinchot are among those who testify positively for Wilhelm's book.)

The book is best viewed as an intelligent if generalist text on sustainable business practices. Many topics are covered in small paragraphs or portions of charts, limiting the opportunity for more thoughtful analysis. Even so, "Return on Sustainability" is a particularly clear and thoughtful execution in this growing genre. --Sustainable Industries Journal, May 25, 2009

From the Back Cover

“Climate change is the challenge of our generation. Wilhelm offers hope, and his new Return on Sustainability is a groundbreaking process that demonstrates to business the qualitative and quantitative benefits of taking action today.”
--Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

“Wilhelm provides a comprehensive full-systems perspective that enables executives, managers, and employees to understand how their jobs are tied to climate change--both from a risk and an opportunity perspective.”
--Gifford Pinchot, Cofounder, Bainbridge Graduate Institute

“The only hope for dealing with this biggest of problems is if we all--and I mean all--pull together. Here’s an important reminder that the all includes our businesses and industries.”
--Bill McKibben, Cofounder and Director,

“A perfect balance between inspiration and instruction, this is a practical, how-to guide for any business leader looking to green their business.”
--Laurie David,

Return on Sustainability is a practical, comprehensive guide that demonstrates to businesspeople the benefits of taking actions to green their businesses--both from a financial and environmental perspective. It begins by highlighting the risk of inaction for businesses when it comes to climate change. It then goes on to explain best practices for businesses to capitalize on the numerous business opportunities that climate change presents, such as increased profitability, enhanced brand value, and improved shareholder and customer relations. The first section contains practical actions and real-world case studies of companies, such as Intel, General Mills, Sun Microsystems, and Lockheed Martin, that have saved money by improving their climate performance. The second and third sections of this book focus on the risks and opportunities both from regulations and market factors that are forcing  businesses to take action, whether they want to or not. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 31 customer reviews
A very well thought out book with concise information.
benjamin Cook
This book spells out in clear practical terms how to reduce your businesses risk, increase profitability, meet customer's expectations, and improve your brand value.
J. Butler
Wilhelm does an excellent job marrying profitability and sustainability in a manner that makes sense to business leaders.
J. Velazquez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By m'Gold on March 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
Return on Sustainability is a well written and comprehensive account of sustainability, climate change, and their relevance to individuals and corporations alike. Wilhelm lays out the facts about climate change and then quickly brings us to a place of hope with and action with tangible data and real-world examples. The book is incredibly well researched and presents data and references to back up every point that is made. This is not a fluffy environmental-activism book, but is a down-to-earth account of conducting business in our current worldly circumstances and it includes the hard numbers to back it all up. This book is a must read for every executive, owner, employee or individual who wants their business to still exist 10 years from now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Brochstein on September 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover
While I do recommend this book, I have a few caveats to that recommendation;

The first and most important thing you should know about this book is that its publication date is misleading. The hardcover and Kindle editions show a 2013 publication date. The paperback edition was published in early 2009. I only learned this after reading the hardcover edition. I was puzzled when reading the book as some material seemed quite dated even though the copyright was 2013. Be aware that the material is indeed dated as none of the material seems to come from after early 2009 (which is when the paperback edition was published). I wish I knew this before purchasing the book. This field is not static and I think the book therefore warrants a lower rating because of this. If the publication date was listed as 2009 or the book said that it was the 2009 edition then it would've been worth a higher rating but I felt mislead by the publication date.

I came to this book with higher expectations as I had read Making Sustainability Stick: The Blueprint for Successful Implementation by Kevin Wilhelm and had liked it a lot.

Here are some specific issues (in addition to obviously dated sections discussing public policies);

p. 54 - 56 - I think that in most cases these metrics would / should be stated with units properly / fully listed next to the metrics (i.e. $1 income per kWh) which they are not here.

p. 55 - Carbon-to-Price - I think the author has it backwards; a higher C/P indicates that the investor is paying LESS for each unit of carbon (not more).

p. 61 - 73 - The Public Policy section reflects early 2009 reality, things have changed since as have various things in the following chapter (Chapter 7 - Carbon Taxes & Cap & Trade).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Frank Roettgers on February 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
Let's face it: no company would go green or switch to a sustainable business model if the feeling that "it is the right thing to do" would be the only return. Starting from 1960 the economy was coined by the profit-maximization paradigm, where work-life balance was a term that didn't exist and environmentalism either. Luckily this started to change several years ago and people as well as business professionals and executives are concerned about our planet and sustainable business practices. Nevertheless, a company still needs to be profitable to survive economically and some environmental friendly measures are considered cost expensive with no positive return.

This is a matter of strategic management. It is (and always has been) necessary to strike a balance between being sustainable on the one hand and being profitable on the other. If new sustainable policies and practices wouldn't have a positive return on investment or result in a long term profit, companies would hardly implement them. This is where "Return on Sustainability" comes into play. It is a great guide for everyone who wants to know if his/her sustainable plans will be profitable and how to calculate the ROI of those plans. No matter if you are dealing with soft (qualitative) benefits or hard (quantitative) ones, this book should be on your shelf.

- Frank Roettgers, author of Going Green Together - How to Align Employees with Green Strategies
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Phil Mitchell on April 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is fantastic! Wilhelm writes like the busy business guy he is -- completely no-nonsense and non-ideological and he has kept this book short and jam-packed with useful, actionable information. It is a must-read for anyone in business who wants a thorough tutorial on the business implications of the green revolution.

Full disclosure, I've known and worked with Kevin for several years. But I'm not writing as a colleague, rather as an advocate and educator on climate issues. In my work with the business community, I have often wished for better materials. It's not easy to come by good case studies and insightful analysis through the eyes of people who face real business issues day-to-day. That's exactly what Wilhelm provides. For example, he has thoughtful chapters on two lesser-known areas -- insurance and supply chain management -- that are being transformed by climate change (and climate policy).

I've read a lot of the literature in this area, and I still learned stuff from this book. Wilhelm knows and speaks the language of business, and he has total passion to bring that world into harmony with the ecological imperatives we now face. We need a lot more like him, and certainly this book can help.
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More About the Author

Kevin Wilhelm is the pre-eminent business consultant in the field of sustainability and climate change. He is the CEO of Sustainable Business Consulting, a Seattle-based consulting firm focused on practical and profitable solutions for helping firms successfully integrate sustainability.

Kevin brings over sixteen years of experience working with 75+ businesses ranging from Fortune 500 multinationals to small and medium size businesses. Some of his firm's clients include Nordstrom, REI, The North Face, Expeditors, Outerwall,, American Seafoods and Brooks Sports.

His firm Sustainable Business Consulting works with companies on strategies to improve their sustainability performance: From baselines and carbon footprints, to developing strategy & goals, to employee engagement training, to prioritized implementation plans that integrate sustainability across your entire company.

He is the author of a new release called Making Sustainability Stick: A Blueprint for Successful Implementation and the acclaimed, Return on Sustainability: How Business Can Increase Profitability & Address Climate Change in an Uncertain Economy.

He was also a contributing writer to the following:
 Green Jobs: a Guide to Eco-Friendly Employment
 Advancing Sustainability in Higher Education and
 Go Green Rating Scale for Early Childhood Settings

In addition to his firm's consulting work and his writing, Kevin co-teaches 8 different seminars on Business Sustainability at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI) with Hunter Lovins. He previously taught Foundations for Sustainable Business at BGI, and he has also taught Stakeholders and the Bottom-Line (a finance class) at Antioch University-Seattle and developed three classes for City University-Seattle's Sustainable MBA Program.

He is a recognized speaker and has spoken to over 100+ audiences over the last five years around business sustainability, and if you have an interest in contacting Kevin to speak with your organization, please click here: