In my line of work, I read a lot of books about sustainable business. First there was the required reading for my MBA in Sustainable Management, then there are the books that publishers send, which I lap up like a kid in a candy store. I love this topic and I’m a bookworm anyway. Which is why you should pay attention when I tell you that The Responsibility Revolution: How the Next Generation of Businesses Will Win is one of the best books on sustainable business that I’ve ever read.
Written by Jeffrey Hollender, Seventh Generation’s Chief Inspired Protagonist and Bill Breen, the company’s Editorial Director, this book is timely and manages to be both meaty and easy to read at the same time, no small feat. Breen’s former career includes being a founding member the Fast Company team, and the fresh magazine style of that publication carries through here.
What was most exciting about this book for me, though, is that The Responsibility Revolution delivers fresh examples of sustainability in action that even this sustainability geek hasn’t heard of. Hollender and Breen skim right past sustainability darlings Interface Carpet and Xerox and share unlikely stories from Etsy and Linden Lab. Don’t worry, they still share stories from those companies that are sustainable to the core, like Organic Valley and Patagonia, but they laud them for nontraditional features like collaboration and transparency, rather than the easy wins like the products they sell. Most interestingly, Hollender and Breen give considerable space to covering positive stories from Nike and Novo Nordisk, all the while acknowledging that they both have room to grow. This is all the more remarkable in the case of Novo Nordisk because the company has a strikingly different position than Seventh Generation on animal testing. The authors only mention this after pages of praise for the health care company.
Most interestingly, Breen and Hollender dare to call out BP and GE for their ambitious marketing around sustainability with their Beyond Petroleum and Ecoimagination campaigns. In both cases, the companies made big commitments with flashy marketing campaigns, but the sustainability efforts they represented seemed to die when the ads went out of fashion. Both of these campaigns have been been cited to me as examples of laudable sustainability efforts with legs, so it was refreshing to see companies being held to a higher standard.
Despite the fact that Breen and Hollender could have turned to examples from Seventh Generation, a company that is sustainable to it’s very being, they avoid this tactic in almost every instance and only focus on their own experience when it comes to the risks they’ve taken and the difficult lessons they’ve learned, like a publicity fallout they faced over a toxin in their dish soap.
I don’t want to say any more for fear of giving away all the best features. Go buy this book! It belongs on your bookshelf.
For a limited time, the first chapter of the Responsibility Revolution is available for download HERE