Book Review: Managing the New Frontiers, An Introduction to the Fundamentals

By: Susan D. Harper

Managing the New Frontiers, An Introduction to the Fundamentals, by Jonathan T. Scott, goes beyond introducing the fundamentals of sustainability from a management and business perspective. Scott plants the idea soundly into the reader’s mind that two subjects as seemingly diverse as the environment and business, are actually a perfect fit. The book drives home the idea that sustainability is about more than conservation. It is about the legal, financial, economic, industrial, social, and behavior aspects of life as well.

In his book, Scott balances all aspects of the environmentally conscious business – from defining the issues, discussing management theories, and setting objectives, to discussing how this approach affects the customer, how to manage change, and motivating employees. There is even a comprehensive section on how to build an efficient building from scratch. Equally useful is the discussion of the perils of businesses that greenwash. This is as enlightening as it is helpful. The chapter provides background and examples as well as suggestions on what to look for when a company claims to be green.

Efficiency, sustainability, and waste reduction from a business perspective are presented in a basic, structured, and teachable way with numerous lists, examples, references, and anecdotes provided, making the information clear and easy to follow. Problems and their solutions are discussed at length, leaving no stone unturned. For example, Scott presents the twelve major efficiency obstacles early in the book. These obstacles are addressed throughout the book, including possible resolutions for removing these obstacles.

Managing the New Frontiers helped me understand the importance of “efficiency as a business subject.” To a wise business, sustainability is about reducing expenses, including future expenses, in every conceivable form in order to facilitate longevity and competitiveness. These expenses include the costs associated with waste, the spiraling cost of raw materials, costs created or exacerbated by poorly designed products and production processes, and climate change expenses. Efficient business practices create business.

An excellent point made by Scott is that efficiency is not about eliminating people. Efficiency is about reducing waste – including the wasting of human resources. Efficient business practices create jobs simply by being efficient and using sustainable practices. This reduces consumption, which saves money, making companies more profitable and leads to an investment in job creation. These practices also improve employee health, productivity, and security, which leads to job satisfaction, increased productivity, and decreased sick time.

Employees, managers, entrepreneurs, and students would all benefit from reading Managing the New Frontiers, as the book lays the groundwork, explaining the fundamentals of efficiency, and then takes it one step further by showing the reader that thinking long-term generates long-term wealth, facilitates job creation, and maximizes resource efficiency as well as emphasizing that efficiency, sustainability, and waste reduction must be on-going, whole system, all-or-nothing endeavors. Want a more concise version of all this information? The Sustainable Business is a shorter version and just as helpful. Both books are offered as a free download.

The Sustainable Business Performance (SBP) Web site, founded and managed by Piotr Jedrzejuk, is a non-profit knowledge generated network of scientists, researches, and business professionals. Jedrzejuk has partnered with Scott and the Product-Life Institute (founded by Walter R. Stahel) to create an online community that provides in-depth information about the benefits and application of sustainability. The Product-Life Institute (co-directed by Stahel and Willy Bierter) is Europe’s oldest sustainability-based consultancy and think tank.

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