Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto
By Adam Werbach
Harvard University Press, 2009
This book is a useful primer for business leaders who want to plan for the future survival of the company and innovate differently so their enterprises can thrive. Werbach conceives of sustainability as much more than being “green” and basically states that a sustainable business means “thriving in perpetuity.” There are four equal components to such a strategy: social, economic, environmental, and cultural. He spends much of the book walking through a process for planning a strategy built around sustainability and sharing examples of what practices have been used in a variety of organizations.
The book educates on the reader on sustainability; for example there is a section devoted to “nature’s simple rules” that relies on the emerging field of biomimicry, which uses nature to inform design. He also places his seven tenets for strategy squarely in the environmental and social complexity that currently exists in our world. His methods of “mapping opportunities” by analyzing society, technology, and resources are reminiscent of open systems planning or the familiar SWOT analysis. He also urges the setting of a “North Star” goal, not unfamiliar to most who have for years desired to set a compelling vision for their organization.
A useful set of processes to help a business increase its credibility is captured by “TEN”— transparency, engagement, and networking. He gives several examples of how businesses benefit by building in these three processes into their everyday work. He also encourages us to find leadership at all levels in the organization.
I found myself saying, “of course” with many of his suggestions and examples. The systems and processes for sustainability are not that far removed from good management practices. The nuance, of course, is that there are more stakeholders and issues to consider when thinking about sustainability and how to balance people, planet, and profits. Those who are starting to think about how to institute the idea of sustainability in their business would find this book very useful. He gives a good grounding of the terms and what is at stake. It is a pragmatic book, well-written, and with many fine examples. There are things that one could start doing immediately, if so inclined.