The Triple Bottom Line: How Today's Best-Run Companies Are Achieving Economic, Social and Environmental Success -- and How You Can Too 1st Edition

23 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0787979072
ISBN-10: 0787979074
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Editorial Reviews


Andrew Savitz recalls a conversation he had with a purchasing manager at a large telecommunications company. The man was adamant that social responsibility had nothing to do with his job, which was to buy products at the lowest price.

"Would you buy from a foreign supplier that you knew was employing 10-year-old girls and paying them 60 cents a day for their labour?" Savitz asked.

"Of course I wouldn't do that," came the reply.

"Not even if the supplier offered the lowest price, if child labour was legal in that country and if no one could possibly find out?"

"No," the manager replied. "It would not be right."

"Do you think your company would support your decision to sacrifice profit in this case?" Savitz persisted.

"Absolutely, I'm certain of it," the manager said.

Do not be deterred by the unfortunate title of this forthcoming book. In just 250 pages, rich in anecdotes, Savitz makes a lively and cogent case that no company or manager can afford any longer to ignore the world around them. Many of the reasons companies face "the age of accountability" are familiar, but it is useful to see them pulled together: our shared sense of vulnerability, fostered by climate change and natural disasters, coupled with the awesome power that global corporations have accumulated; the goldfish bowl in which companies operate; their increased exposure through networks of business partners and global supply chains; the campaigns mounted by lawyers, non-governmental organisations and shareholder activists.

But this book is not a tract admonishing business to take its responsibilities seriously. Its central argument is an upbeat one that is gaining currency: it makes financial sense for companies to anticipate and respond to society's emerging demands. In the long run, says Savitz, the sustainable company is likely to be highly profitable.

There is a flipside: companies that fail to respond, or thumb their noses at society, are likely to pay the price.

What is a sustainable company?

Savitz and Karl Weber, his co-author, spend time on their definitions-a sensible move given the confusion and spin that often surround this debate. Sustainability is not about philanthropy, which has nothing to do with the company's main purpose. Nor is it merely about ethics. The authors even prefer "sustainability" to "responsibility", arguing that the latter emphasises benefits to society rather than benefits to the company.

For Savitz, who created the environmental practice at PwC and has worked with some of America's biggest companies, it is about conducting business in a way that benefits employees, customers, business partners, communities and shareholders at the same time. It is "the art of doing business in an interdependent world". The best-run companies find "sustainability sweet spots"-areas where shareholders' long-term interests overlap with those of society. Implausible? Look at General Electric, with its revenue-boosting Ecomagination green technology, says Savitz. Or Toyota's fuel-efficient Prius. Or Unilever's Project Shakti in India, training 13,000 women to distribute its products to rural customers and thereby greatly increasing families' income while expanding its market penetration. Every company can find a sweet spot, he suggests, even if it is the minimal one of cutting costs by reducing energy use, employee accidents or the chances of a lawsuit-though some of this could just as well be called smart risk management.

In the second half of the book, he explains how to translate all this into "business as usual": how to decide what it means for the company; how to work with stakeholders, not against them; how to set enforceable goals in difficult areas such as child labour. Throughout, the arguments are driven by pragmatism, not dewy-eyed altruism. The narrative occasionally suffers from its American slant. The English Quakers, after all, pioneered decent working and community practices long before Henry Ford.

Even if you do not agree with it all, this is a thoughtful guide for managers who still harbour doubts about the point of sustainability, who are taking tentative steps towards it or who are seeking a clearer path through the maze. With luck, it should also help the anoraks in the sustainability industry to distinguish the wood from the trees.

-Financial Times, July 5, 2006

"…excellent new book… a compelling case for change." (The Marketer, January 2007)

"Important issues, well presented, that deserve a wide audience" (Long Range Planning, July 2007)


“Required Reading” -Fortune Magazine

“Savitz makes a lively and cogent case that no company or manager can afford any longer to ignore the world around them.”- Financial Times

“Perhaps the best, most comprehensive book to date on corporate sustainability”-Social Funds

"Whether you are a corporate manager, investor, consumer, or  public official, this book will change your view of how corporations can succeed for themselves and for society. Savitz combines vision and practical advice in an elegant presentation."
George Stephanopoulos, chief Washington correspondent, ABC News; anchor, This Week with George Stephanopoulos

"Informative, persuasive, and practical, containing valuable advice for anyone seeking a more responsible and profitable approach to business."
Steve Reinemund, chairman and chief executive officer,

"The main challenge of sustainability is how to take it from concept to action. Andy Savitz communicates in plain language what sustainability is and how everyone in the organization can help achieve it."
Charles O. Holliday, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer, DuPont

"An engaging mix of powerful ideas and practical advice. Values matter and Savitz shows how profitability and responsibility can and must go hand in hand."
Michael Morris, chairman, president, and chief executive officer, American Electric Power

"At long last a plain English, action-oriented guide to business sustainability illustrated with practical examples from world-class companies."
Richard Cavanagh, president, The Conference Board, Inc.

"Andy Savitz gets it. He also happens to be witty, sensible, and a good writer as well as a good business strategist—sort of a modern Ben Franklin. That makes this book a joy to read as well as indispensable for businessmen who wish to succeed in this new age."
Walter Isaacson, president and chief executive officer, Aspen Institute; former chairman and author, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

"A bold and readable foray into this complex subject. Readers will come away enlightened."
Kert Davies, research director, Greenpeace US

"Some circumstantial evidence is very strong,' Savitz and Weber recall Thoreau saying, 'as when you find a trout in the milk.' The flood tide of corporations they profile provides powerful evidence that the triple bottom line is going mainstream."
John Elkington, founder and chief entrepreneur, SustainAbility

"A timely contribution to why big corporations engage in sustainable
development and how managers can implement it in their companies."
Bjorn Stigson, president, World Business Council for Sustainable Development

"Must-reading for any corporate manager or investor seeking the ‘sweet spot’ where financial and stakeholder interests meet. It provides powerful arguments, cogent analysis, great stories, and dozens of real-world insights into how companies are enhancing profits through sustainability strategies."
Mindy Lubber, executive director, CERES; former regional administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency

"Savitz and Weber’s The Triple Bottom Line offers a perspective that is already influencing the wisest and most socially responsive corporations in the world.  This well-written, insightful, and practical book will guide executives for decades to come."
Max Bazerman, Jesse Isador Straus Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

"Amidst the proliferating number of books on corporate sustainability topics, Savitz's The Triple Bottom Line is a refreshing relief. Its accessible style, jargon-free language, and thematic organization avoids the tendency toward cheerleading and case study overdose characteristic of the field.  Savitz speaks with clarity, authority, and good humor."
Allen White, senior fellow, Tellus Institute; cofounder, Global Reporting Initiative

"The Triple Bottom Line is full of practical advice based on Savitz's hands- on experience working with corporate managers.  This book is a very readable guide for those who want to build a successful and sustainable business for the twenty-first century."
Arnold S. Hiatt, former chairman and CEO, the Stride Rite Corporation 

"Most executives have a superficial or misguided understanding of sustainability. The Triple Bottom Line should be required reading for business leaders who seek to enrich their shareholders, society, and themselves."
Scott Cohen, editor and publisher, Compliance Week

"Responsible leadership ensures that what we have today will be around for future generations. This book shows us both what it takes to lead responsibly and what happens when people fail to do so. An insightful book for those who seek how they can personally make a difference."
Samuel DiPiazza, global chief executive officer, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

"Andy Savitz puts sustainability in a clear, practical framework supported with real business examples."
Travis Engen, former president and chief executive officer, Alcan, Inc.; chair, Prince of Wales’ International Business Leaders Forum; chairman, World Business Council for Sustainable Development

“Lots of books instruct executives on the latest secrets to management success. But this one offers hands-on tips for how managers can turn corporate social responsibility into profit. Savitz. . .seeds practical advice amid compelling real-life corporate stories.” -Global Proxy Watch


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (August 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787979074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787979072
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #784,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrew Savitz is an author, speaker and creative advisor with over two decades of hands-on experience assisting corporations to become leaders in sustainability, environmental, social and economic performance, measurement and reporting. Andy is the author of Talent, Transformation and the Triple Bottom Line: How Companies Can Leverage Human Resources to Achieve Sustainable Growth (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2013) and The Triple Bottom Line (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2006). The second edition of The Triple Bottom Line, a sustainability classic, is due out in October, 2013. He was a lead partner in PricewaterhouseCooper's global Sustainability Business Services practice and was PwC's liaison delegate to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. He previously served as General Counsel in the Massachusetts Office of Environmental Affairs.

Andy holds a JD from the Georgetown University Law Center, earned a post-graduate degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics while a Rhodes Scholar at New College Oxford, and has his BA from The Johns Hopkins University. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with his wife and three children and is an avid, life-long Boston Red Sox fan.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Reader From Boston on February 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is for interested general consumption rather than a technical practitioners' text book and as such is more than successful in teaching the basics of the triple bottom line. I'm not quite sure why some of the Amazon reviewers seem so testy about this, as the majority of American business management (mid-baby boom and above) never encountered much if anything about corporate responsibility (or ethics) in the curricula they studied on their way up. To consider what that means for concepts like the triple bottom line, pretend that for 25 years today's generation of senior managers had never been told to maximize shareholder value and now in 2007 were expected to internalize the concept and reflexively apply it to everything they do. Particularly from that point of view, Savitz' book is a superb tool to help people become intelligently informed on basic issues of corporate responsibility and sustainability. What individuals do with that is up to that is up to them, but the writing's good, the ideas are clear, the concepts are thought-provoking, and it's the kind of book that drives one to want to learn more. The graphics are particularly useful and uncluttered.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By John Purdue on December 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The book is divided into two parts -- a lecture on sustainability and then some general things to think about. The book's first half was a lesson to which a reader would have likely already bought into. The second half promises to deliver on "how to make it happen," but really is more general information than meaningful tools.

Given the author's prior work at PricewaterhouseCoopers, it is understandable that the book reads like a macro-level consultant's report. The book could have carried more weight with the inclusion of science and hard numbers of how to actually measure environmental and social value.

An alternative book for readers looking for more solid advice could be "Green to Gold."
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Format: Hardcover
If you were traditionally trained a long time ago, you probably heard that the purpose of a corporation is to reward its shareholders with earnings, dividends and stock-price gains. Since then, the counterview has been growing that companies need to be responsible as well for the impact they create on users, customers, employees, suppliers, partners, distributors, lenders, the communities affected and the environment. That counterview is common sense in many dimensions today for a typical corporate manager or executive. If you harm people directly or indirectly, they will sue you, boycott your products, make life miserable, and help drive away profit.

The Triple Bottom Line attempts to go beyond that common sense view to establish the concept of a sustainable company, one that "creates profit for its shareholders while protecting the environment and improving the lives of those with whom it interacts." As you can see, improving lives goes beyond the idea of "not harming lives" so it's a proactive concept.

The authors use the example of the whaling industry running their stocks into virtual extinction as a poor way to create long-term profits and jobs. A more recent extended example is the ruckus created when the Hershey Trust decided to sell its controlling block of stock in Hershey Foods for a premium. The trust ultimately backed down due to pressure from all directions. The point: You just cannot optimize the solution for one set of stakeholders any more.

The book takes a long time to establish this premise. I assume that the authors have run into lots of skeptics in the past.

But if you accept the premise, it makes much of the book not terribly helpful.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Peter C. Fine on December 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If you're truly interested in sustainability do not purchase this book. At best it appears to be intended for use by business and PR peope looking to increase their vocabulary in respect to the subject. At worst it will only add to the confusion, cynicsm and fatigue that results from the perception that sustainability is simply the next management tool. The introduction is very promising but the research and passion for the subject are simply not present. The authors claim that the failure of genetically modified foods to win acceptance was because it got a bad rap in the media. This seems a half hearted attempt at disinformation. It ignores the fact that they have been banned in Europe because they are the very definition of what is not sustainable and contribute directly to the demise of locally grown crops that are being systematically eliminated by companies like Monsanto. The wheels fall off in the chapter on accountability. The authors vain attempt to lequate the robber barons with corporate responsibility fails completely to link past business practices with sustainable practices. The ridiculous assertion that corporate responsibility was extended to worker's rights in the '30s and '40's represents the worst kind of reactionary ahistoricism. This continues with the authors description of laissez-faire capitalism over communism. There was nothing laissez-faire about the Marshall plan or any of government's sonsorship of capitalism during the cold war. The authors spin out of control when they claim that the media is so decentalized as not to allow corporations to control their messages. I'm sure the authors are aware of how few media companies control nearly all media outlets.Read more ›
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