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on February 19, 2007
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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on December 13, 2006
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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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.

The substance begins in chapter 13 on page 209 where the authors begin to address measuring and reporting. There's a brief description of the work being done in environmental and social reporting, such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). If you're not familiar with GRI, you'll get a little background. But you won't know what to do next.

In the future, this kind of reporting will be more important. Stock exchanges in Scandinavia, France, Britain, South Africa and some other countries now require that listed companies report Triple Bottom Line results. It's all part of an atmosphere of the public wanting more disclosure.

But if you want practical advice about what to do, you won't find it here.

Think of this book as an appetizer to wake up your taste buds. The major issues involved in how to do this well are substantial and will take many years to work out. I suspect that taking the pathway of the Balanced Scorecard to work on these tasks is a surer route than Triple Bottom Line reporting.

I favor more measuring, reporting and focusing, but this book doesn't provide enough meat to satisfy me. Find a meatier book if you can if this subject interests you.
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on December 27, 2007
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. In the end I had to assume this was simply a puff piece for corporations like Pepsi-Co and DuPont both of whom praise the book on the jacket and are mentioned in the text. DuPont gets extra points for trying not to blow up too many of its employees. If you're interested in hiring a former regulator to advise your company on skirting environmental issues, then buy his book. If not, read Cradle to Cradle for a responsible and nuanced approach to how sustainability is the new entrepreneurship, fueled by actual innovation not the latest gimmick. The only only good part of this purchase was the super savings shipping.
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on August 9, 2013
The book is very easy to read, but it illustrates in an exelent way how sustainability is a need, and how some leading companies that have joined the trend have succeded. Companies that look at the triple bottom line have a far greater possibility to grow and prosper than those who only look at profits.
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on November 24, 2007
Savitz demonstrates the strength of his background by explaining, advocating for and advising on the strategic advantage of sustainability. Along with tons of examples, he clearly explains the rationale for large organizations to embrace sustainability through triple bottom line metrics. he also deals to a large extent with the implicit challenges of this approach--the need for stakeholder buy-in, the shift in organizational culture and some options for managing these areas. The only criticism I have, and it is really somewhat ancillary to his aims, is that the examples and recommendations are very much drawn from the world of the Fortune 50. Most readers are probably dealing with these issues in small businesses, under $50m in revenue. That makes the book less applicable for them--but through extrapolation, they too can benefit. I recommend this to anyone interested in the intersection of business and the world's fate.

Amie Devero, Author of Powered by Principle: Using Core Values to Build World-Class Organizations.
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on June 2, 2011
Savitz's version of Triple Bottom Line is a good book and a quick read. His consulting experience shows through in a good way. I find the case studies especially applicable and reinforcing to the book's thesis. My only complaint is that the book is lacking more in-depth covereage of TBL reporting and strategies for improved performance (aside from stakeholder engagement). It's more of a primer for all industries rather than focusing on any one industry. Anyway, the concept of TBL is truly a culture shift for business and the idea that long term value creation is in line with corporate social responsibility and environmentalism is catching on. Definitely a good book and worth the read.
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on February 6, 2010
I accepted a new job in 2009 directing sustainability implementation in a small business. Senior management had already made the decision for me ... implement the Triple Bottom Line. I was elated to find this book BUT I found it lacking, especially on the People portion of the three P's of Profit, Planet and People. While the authors are knowledgeable, this book came across as if they were consultants who needed a book to give away when they made sales calls.
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VINE VOICEon July 6, 2013
With the 2008 financial crisis, America's faith in the belief of beneficent businesses has clearly been shaken to the core. Fortunately, Mr. Savitz laid out a plan for businesses to attain "sustainability" that may be of aid to those businesses who want to put the financial meltdown behind them. Mr. Savitz describes sustainability as the assurance of long-term business growth and profitability through broad corporate transparency and shareholder (shareholder meaning those who have an interest in different aspects of business practices from executives and employees to the local community and even hostile NGOs) engagement. It also includes a plea for businesses not maintain a bunker mentality, of litigating every problem it has with governmental agencies or NGO/Watchdog groups, but rather working with them, accruing possible short-term costs, but gaining significant long-term benefits. This is a rather bold argument for corporate responsibility in the 21st century and one I hope every executive on Wall Street has read or is reading. I did feel that the authors presented a few too many straw-man arguments in order to justify their positions and their arguments did sound a little too rosy at times, but those are only small knocks on an otherwise fine book.
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on July 6, 2009
It's time to pull Savitz's book off the shelf and re-read it! This 2006 book is more relevant now than ever and the surviving companies of this present economic reset will be employing many of the ideas discussed in the Triple Bottom Line.

What is the "Triple Bottom Line (TBL)?" Savitz claims that we will all need to be paying attention to maximizing the Economic, Environmental and Social impacts of the business. TBL captures the fundamental measurements needed to build a sustainable business model. It provides a kind of balanced scorecard that captures "in numbers and words the degree to which any company is or is not creating value for its shareholders and for society."

Sustainability is much in the news today. A recent LA Times article discussed how California is now in a serious water supply crisis. The global warming issue (regardless of what you think the cause may be) is on the front burner. Consumers and employees are now looking for companies that are authentically concerned about and address the major sustainability challenges we all face.

In part I of his book, Savitz provides anecdotal data and case studies on The Sustainability Imperative. He gives examples of companies that simply didn't get it (and a couple still don't today), and those who did things right. He takes into account the fact that our companies are a mere blog posting away from sever public scrutiny - regardless of the accuracy of any claim.

Part II of TBL provides some ideas and outlines for "How Sustainability Can Work for You." Clear examples of "real life companies" are provided to emphasize the points being made concerning inclusion of ALL stakeholders. Practical advice is given on how to manage stakeholder engagements and their challenges.

In the Epilog and Appendix, Savitz gives practical action steps to merging private profit with public good. The concept of business as being ONLY for profit will no longer suffice. That is proving to be true in just three short years since Savitz published his book. A very good read and food for thought on corporate governance.
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