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Ants,Galileo,and Gandhi: Designing the Future of Business through Nature,Genius and Compassion

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Although sustainability efforts in business are still a work in progress, it is increasingly clear that key elements of a new generation of enterprises will be radically different from those of our contemporary modern industrial economy. The core distinctions between what currently exists and what is being created are communicated in this book through the compelling metaphor of Ants, Galileo, and Gandhi.

This collection, developed from The Natural Step's conference on Sustainability and Innovation in 2002, provides radical ideas for generating a new perspective on the dynamics of business systems. 'Ants' symbolize the lessons to be learned from nature and the dependence of individual beings on broader, complex systems. "Galileo" embodies brilliance in perceiving and proving that the current paradigm is flawed. "Gandhi" exemplifies exceptional compassion in fighting for fundamental change.

All of these attributes are increasingly relevant in a world where, globally, we are experiencing both a steady decline in life-supporting resources and rising demands. Recognition of these challenges is sparking innovation within the private sector where the first glimmers of systemic change can be seen. The book examines the emergence of 21st-century enterprises that recognize their reliance on broad social and ecological systems ("ants"), incorporate sparks of genius rooted in rigorous analyses ('Galileo'), and acknowledge the importance of compassion and determination within any endeavour ('Gandhi').

With contributions from Ray Anderson, Gretchen Daily, Karl-Henrik Robèrt, Alois Flatz, Allen White and many more, the book illustrates that pioneering companies recognize that new opportunities emerge from recognizing the broader systems on which all businesses rely. Efforts to work with ecological and social dynamics of vibrancy and resilience offer a new space for innovation. Companies are stepping into this space and exploring innovative approaches to developing sustainability-focused products, operations and strategies. These sustainability-inspired business efforts are considering new ways to address human needs and desires. The most promising approaches are based on systems thinking and recognition of the linkages between 'upstream' and 'downstream' effects of actions. Understanding the undesired 'downstream' impacts of a firm's practices draws attention 'upstream'. This assessment highlights the most expedient approach: to design these impacts out of enterprises from the very start.

The book is divided into five sections to present a set of theories emerging about sustainability and its application to: business strategy and operations; financial-sector practices; accountability and reporting drivers; and organizational change pathways. Together, these sections illustrate the current range of sustainability theories and applications.

Ants, Galileo, and Gandhi will be essential reading for both academics looking for robust teaching material, practitioners looking for inspiration and the general reader interested in exploring the state of the art in the realignment of 21st-century business.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"These are smart, detailed, in-the-trenches case studies of how companies align sustainability with business success, along with the scientific and societal rationale that amplify these initiatives’ importance. Mainstream managers will find both guidance and inspiration."

"Sissel Waage...and her preeminent group of contributors have carefully and persuasively found a balance capturing the essence of sustainability while at the same time identifying and assessing important lessons to be learned from their experience....Anyone or any business seeking to begin, refine, or implement their sustainability-related business practices should have this book in their library."

"The need to infuse nature's ways into our economic systems is no longer about a better environment, it is about out very survival as a species-and most others as well. Ants, Galileo, and Gandhi conveys important lessons learned on the most recent segment of this mythic journey."

"Few books about sustainability lend insight into the intricacies of integrating social and ecological factors into business strategy. Even fewer celebrate the creativity necessary to do so. Aided by actionable case studies told by pioneering practitioners, Ants, Galileo, and Gandhi brings to life the inevitable fact that too many in the business community avoid: We are all part of-and responsible to-a system that we don't fully understand yet should aim to fully respect, even if only for our own good."

"Ants, Galileo, and Gandhi is just what the doctor ordered: smart, detailed, in-the-trenches case studies of how companies align sustainability with business success, along with the scientific and societal rationale that amplify these initiatives’ importance. There may be no better set of principles to guide today’s companies through tomorrow's challenging markets."

"Ants, Galileo, and Gandhi is one of the most informative, comprehensive and inspiring works on how business and industry must think and can act to help create a healthy, just and sustainable society worldwide. It is the first book to link business decision-making and strategies for action to a framework and set of scientific principles that can lead to true sustainability. Masterfully written and based on solid theory backed up by impressive case studies, Ants, Galileo, and Gandhi is a ‘must-read’ for decision-makers in industry, government, and civil society and should be required reading in all business, economics, and engineering education."

"Unsustainable business practices are becoming increasingly costly as the demand for resources rise. Companies working towards environmental and social sustainability are learning first-hand that it’s the right thing to do and that it's profitable. Ants, Galileo, and Gandhi provides a glimpse into a handful of pioneering companies that are integrating systems thinking, rigorous analysis and compassion, into their daily work."

"Sustainability doesn’t just happen: It requires a leap forward not just in our processes but in our thinking. This book shows the way. Moreover, it demonstrates that our environmental problems have common-sense solutions — that if we are thoughtful and creative we can do better — and that our political leaders are sadly lagging behind."

"Ants, Galileo, and Gandhi offers a big-picture and ultimately optimistic view of business's transition toward sustainability. By combining case studies with a high-level overview of the sorts of work that need to be done, it provides visionary yet practical guidance."

"This book offers a compelling collection of arguments and illustrations for convincing creative business leaders that sustainability is the desired path for the future. Through 14 chapters covering theory, case studies, and tools, the book shows that the business drive towards sustainability requires a systems approach and intelligent questioning, but, also, a deep-seated concern for the environment and all of the life it supports."

"Ants, Galileo, and Gandhi provides a good sampling of the kind of thinking and action that will be needed to pull our world from its ever-spiraling social, economic, and environmental problems. The authors offer a glimpse of what it will take: revolutionary innovation, deep social consciousness, and new adaptations of natural systems. For those who want to see business as it should be, this is the book to read."

"Despite a decade of high-level talking, and all sorts of new business initiatives, sustainability remains an elusive concept for both businesspeople and policy-makers. It needn't be like that. This is a book that cuts through the confusion, combining the hard science of sustainability with practical, real-life business experience. Continuing confusion about sustainability is not an option. We urgently need to start engaging with the real thing."

"The outline of the corporation of the future is just starting to emerge. We owe a debt of gratitude to the pioneering work of Ray Anderson, Matt Klein, and others affiliated with The Natural Step for bringing this outline into sharper focus."

"The work described in this book is essential reading for the 21st-century business leader wanting to know about the next important trends. Ants, Galileo, and Gandhi argues that new designs for all enterprises — from large, medium, and small businesses, through financial service sector institutions — are becoming clear. This shift turns on integration of environmental and social issues into business strategy and operations and the pathways for taking these issues seriously while running a successful company."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781874719717
  • Publisher: Greenleaf Publishing Limited
  • Publication date: 1/1/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 272

Table of Contents


1. Introduction: envisioning the prototypical company of the 21st century
Ray Anderson, Interface Inc., Atlanta, GA, USA

Part 1: The transition to sustainability-oriented enterprises

2. Understanding nature’s services to societies
Gretchen Daily, Stanford University, California, USA, and Katherine Ellison, Investigative Journalist, California, USA

3. Reconsidering business from a systems perspective: the paradigm shift to sustainability-oriented enterprises and financial services
Sissel Waage, The Natural Step, California, USA

4. Integrating sustainability into business strategy and operations: applying The Natural Step approach and framework and backcasting from principles of sustainability
Karl-Henrik Robèrt, Blekinge Technical University and The Natural Step, Sweden

Part 2: Case studies of evolving business initiatives

5. Sustainability and Dematerialisation at Hewlett Packard
David Hudson, Consultant to Hewlett Packard, USA, and Lynelle Preston, Sustainability Manager, Hewlett Packard, USA

6. Engaging in change management: transformation through sustainability strategy at Norm Thompson Outfitters
Derek Smith, Norm Thompson Outfitters, Oregon, USA

7. Recreating natural-resource-based businesses: sustaining the land and communities in the US New Northwest
Cecilia Danks, University of Vermont, USA, and Martin Goebel and Karen Steer, Sustainable Northwest, Oregon, USA

8. Growing a sustainable business: establishing and financing new ecologically and socially restorative ventures
Matthew A. Klein, Verdant Power, Washington, DC, USA

Part 3: Case studies from the financial services sector

9. Screening for sustainability: a case study of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index
Alois Flatz, SAM Sustainable Asset Management, Switzerland

10. Banking on sustainability: A case study of Shorebank Enterprise Pacific
Jennifer Sokolove, University of California at Berkeley, USA

Part 4: Reporting and accountability

11. Improving sustainability disclosure: the Global Reporting Initiative Guidelines
Allen L. White, Special Advisor to the Global Reporting Initiative, USA

Part 5: Pathways forward to organisational and societal change

12. Organisational change for sustainability within enterprises and financial services
Sissel Waage, The Natural Step, California, USA, and Juli Torok, Independent Consultant, Berkeley, California, USA

13. Catalysing action and organisational change: the role of personal and group (re)vitalisation in sustainability initiatives
Hilary Bradbury, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, USA

14. Conclusion: a shift toward sustainability within companies and the financial services sector
Sissel Waage, The Natural Step, California, USA

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