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Sustainable Excellence: The Future of Business in a Fast-Changing World Hardcover – October 12, 2010

3.1 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In their first book together, Cramer, the CEO of Business for Social Responsibility, and Karabell (Superfusion) define a sustainable business as one that not only delivers value, but also treats people fairly, improves the living standards of its employees and community, and uses natural resources wisely. The authors are well-positioned to speak on the timely topic and, though their voices strike a nice blend between conversation and education, their effort suffers from disorganization and a lack of analysis. After the first chapter's discussion of five core elements executives should adopt to position their companies for sustainable excellence, tips and insights are few and far between, and too much time is devoted to emphasizing the importance of sustainability, a position that most readers drawn to the book will already be at least somewhat convinced of. The authors' narrow focus-only highlighting businesses pursuing sustainable excellence-reduces the need for analysis, results in a sort of literary greenwashing, and reads more like an early history of sustainability efforts than a business primer; it might satisfy history, business, or conservation buffs, but the CEO looking to achieve this future greatness in her own organization won't find much help here.
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Sustainable Excellence provides an insightful window into the intersection of business and environment. Companies that take to heart the lessons Aron Cramer and Zach Karabell provide will be well positioned as natural resource constraints reshape the business landscape.” ―Mark Tercek, president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy

“Essential reading for any business aiming to understand how they can turn sustainability into opportunity.” ―Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine and author of The Long Tail and Free

“The Must-Read Book.” ―Alice Korngold, Fast Company.com

“A smart, readable, and provocative book that argues that business success in the long run will be earned by companies that ‘integrate consideration of society and the environment into their DNA.' ... This book gives us a reason for optimism, as well as a framework to understand the dramatic changes reshaping the corporate world.” ―Marc Gunther, contributing writer to Fortune magazine and author of Faith and Fortune

“A compelling case for why a focus on sustainability ... is now a form of enlightened self-interest for businesses. ... An increasing vigilance by the business and investor community could play a big role in striking a new balance. Sustainable Excellence represents a major--and much needed--step in that direction.” ―AOL's Daily Finance

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605295345
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605295343
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,058,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Sustainable Excellence holds the promise of providing a business-focused discussion of raising company sustainability. Cramer and Karabell start the book off strong with the following definition of sustainability: a business that delivers value for investors, customers and employees; improves the living standards of its employees and the communities it touches; makes wise use of natural resources; and treats people fairly.

Based on that definition I was looking forward to reading about how a company accomplishes each of these goals. I am reviewing this book from that perspective a business person who gets the sustainability message and is interested in what excellence looks like and how I might be able bring that to my company.

Unfortunately rather than a book that looks to explain how companies are sustainable and profitable, the book quickly becomes more of an extended press release engaging in name dropping and high level descriptions that offer little value to the reader looking to understand how to achieve sustainable excellence. Cramer and Karabell call this parlor games when companies do it, so without being disrespectful I have to say that they do the same with this book when viewed from a business perspective.

This book may be well received by the sustainability community, but its impact will remain within this community as there is little here to educate and encourage executives and managers to go much beyond the `parlor games' of press announcements, incremental improvement and differed structural change.

This book could have been the seminal call for serious business change playing a role similar to Hammer and Champy's Re-engineering the Corporation.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Sustainable Excellence" by Aron Cramer and Zachary Karabell is a good primer for those new to the concept of sustainability as it relates to business. The authors define sustainability on the first page so the reader is clear about the subject being discussed. The first chapter outlines the five core elements for achieving sustainable excellence in business. These include think big, use sustainability to drive innovation, set the right incentives, embrace transparency and collaboration, and partner with consumers. The remainder of the book provides examples of corporate successes and failures to embrace and achieve sustainable excellence.

The authors contend that sustainability has become the defining factor in business success. This does not negate the necessity for excellence in other business practices. And profit is still a necessary goal of business. However, in today's business environment of rapid change, corporations need to commit to sustainability. This means delivering value to a wider circle of stakeholders, using natural resources wisely, and treating people fairly. Business leaders need to transform the way they think about the purpose of business and how it is conducted.

Transformation is not easy as illustrated by the examples throughout the book. The authors do not minimize the challenges. Corporate failures as well as successes are discussed. The lessons to be learned in either case are highlighted.

This book is a great place to start for an introduction about the role of business in ensuring environmental sustainability. It provides an overview of what needs to be done and what companies are currently doing or not doing to achieve sustainable excellence. Readers seeking a detailed how-to manual will be disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an insightful, provocative, and terrifically readable book, which provides a window onto the environmental and social challenges faced by both business leaders and citizens in the 21st century. It is not just a guide on how to do business responsibly in the new century, though it is surely that. In Sustainable Excellence, Cramer and Karabell intelligently consider the forces that are transforming the global landscape for the world's businesses and for the multitudes they serve. One can read the book as something of a primer for entrepreneurs on how to respond--responsibly and intelligently--to the difficult and complex challenges created by an increasingly interconnected global economy. But Sustainable Excellence does much more. In the end, this striking volume offers both guidance and insight for anyone who takes the time to read it--whether you own a business, work for one, invest in one, or merely purchase and consume what is being produced. As businesses and citizens reflect upon the promise and perils of the 21st century, this illuminating study has much to tell us about precisely what it will take to move forward in an environmentally and socially conscious way.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What is sustainability? How do businesses define it? How does one integrate sustainable business practices into traditional measures of business performance? How can one identify opportunities in sustainability? These are the questions that will point businesses toward operating on a genuine stewardship model.

Aron Cramer and Zachary Karabell provide an interesting exploration of companies who have embraced a culture of sustainability. The examples are interesting and to a certain extent, it fosters the idea that sustainability and profitability are not mutually exclusive.

While the book has its moments, it has several key weaknesses:

1) The authors focus on businesses that have already "drunk the sustainability Kool-Aid." This is not a criticism of the concept, but rather a desire to have seen more focus on how companies which have hitherto not acted under the sustainable model, can begin the process. Many companies find the notion of sustainability so overwhelming that they are discouraged from even beginning the process.

2) There is a judgmental "all or nothing," "success or failure," "black or white" approach. I have worked with businesses who wish to act as good corporate citizens, but feel as if the "sustainability advocacy" has no room for the realities of business. Recognizing that sustainability is both a goal and a process is something that needs to be promoted in order to reduce the often adversarial pressures existing as businesses seek to evolve.

That being said, the book provides a good introduction to an understanding of the "sustainable" side and what constitutes good social responsibility. If only it provided more guidance to those earnestly seeking the means to sustainable excellence in measures consistent with often diverse corporate objectives.
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