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Return on Sustainability

4.8 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1598588446
ISBN-10: 1598588443
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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, 350.org

“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, StopGlobalWarming.org

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.

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: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,155,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback
Return on Sustainability is a 'cut to the chase' kind of book. We are in dire need of a business perspective on the carbon-based economy that will define our future. This book is great for anyone because it has everything from actions, to strategic goals and designing a solid case for change within your organization. I find its pragmatic approach to sustainable business a valuable source for ideas and inspiration. Give it to your CEO, manager, school principal, or favorite local business. Everyone will love it!
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Format: Hardcover
There are many books out there on sustainability, however, many are written by so-called sustainability experts who've never been in the trenches doing the deep work and gaining experience on the front-lines working with companies and executives who resist change at every step.

I cannot recommend this book more, or Wilhelm's other works. He is the real deal and understands what it means to work with CEOs and then pivot to work with government regulators to community groups etc.

I teach sustainability and business and use Wilhelm's books in all my courses because of the tremendous difference I have seen in terms of my students response to his books. They call it practical, to the point and inspiring. They learn about the real skills they must develop as well as how to critically think through sustainability problems.

His work is authentic, smart and useful to those just beginning their careers in sustainability and CSR as well as seasoned professionals and academics.
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Format: Hardcover
Return on Sustainability played a huge role in jumpstarting my career in the business world as an advocate for sustainability. I recently graduated from college when I first encountered this book and I couldn't be any more grateful!

I truly believe Wilhelm's books on sustainability should be required reading for all business students. This book coupled with "Making Sustainability Stick" will equip anyone with powerful set of tools to be successful in the private sector while being a positive change agent in our society.
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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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