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Sustainable Excellence: The Future of Business in a Fast-Changing World Hardcover – October 12, 2010
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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.
Top customer reviews
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I have learned a number of new insights from a global perspective and the book has helped me reflect on the momentum that is continuing to build.
This book is inspiring further thinking impacting my business and those we work with.
Intelog Healthcare Performance Group
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. However, Sustainable Excellence does not provide the principles, practices and tools needed by executives to take the next step and incorporate the type of sustainability the authors define at the heart of strategy or management.
It is almost as if the author's believe that their target audience - the sustainability community - cannot handle the details and operational lessons that are normally found in a business oriented book. Those lesions learned, case studies and results are what is needed to mobilize the business audience who will make the changes necessary to achieve the
I cannot recommend this book as a business relevant look at sustainability issues and the techniques required to achieve them. The absence of detail will leave the business leader with the impression that sustainability, while important, is not the significant external force it should be in shaping organizational strategy, action or improvement.
It is possible that the lens applied to this review is not what the author's intended, but sustainability is something that the world needs if it is to evolve corporate, commercial, customer and national behavior. This book does not deliver that support in my opinion.
The book recognizes the importance to get beyond sustainability pronouncements to look into changes in an organization's supply chain, commodity inputs, information and capital. There are chapters on each of these subjects which highlights the authors understanding of the importance of these fundamental issues, however their treatment more descriptive than prescriptive.
The book concentrates on specific companies and specific events in the sustainability movement. The authors discuss companies like Wal-Mart, Marks & Spenser, BP, NIKE, IBM, GE and others in terms of specifics and their progress against these specifics. These discussions are more at the press release and public interview level than an examination of specific actions or changes.
The book recognizes a number of trends that provide insight on the evolving sustainability world. These include the observation that companies are able to act faster and with greater effect than national or international government bodies.
The book provides a rather high-level treatment throughout its chapters. The authors choose to spend more time documenting executive pronouncements and criticizing their progress rather than trying to understand what these companies were doing. While the discussion is accurate and well supported, it is too high level for the reader to understand
The authors have an outsider perspective as it becomes clear early on that the authors are recounting public statements rather than performing deep analysis of the issues and actions. While its possible that the authors have met with a company's sustainability executive, they definitely did not get onto the production floor to understand what people were doing to create sustainable excellence.
The two previous points create a book that drops more names than it discusses practices and actions. While name-dropping is an effective way to put an issue in the public forum, I had thought that sustainability had already gone through that phase and was ready for a greater focus on practice.
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. Start your journey here to achieve sustainable excellence. The authors point you in the direction you need to go, identify potential potholes, and introduce you to fellow travelers that can guide you on the road to sustainable excellence.