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From their work with these Global 1000 companies, Cramer and Karabell know firsthand how business can successfully grapple with big-picture issues like resource scarcity, supply chain complexities, and the diverse expectations of government and the public. In Sustainable Excellence, they tell the story of how Coca-Cola and Greenpeace collaborated on a refrigerator that fights climate change. They show how companies like Best Buy and Nike are transforming the very products they sell to deliver more value to consumers with less waste. They recount how GE and Google created an innovative partnership that is developing "smart grids" that radically reduce energy use. And they show how business leaders like Starbucks' founder and CEO Howard Schultz put sustainable excellence at the center of his company's business strategy.
Through these and other fascinating stories, Sustainable Excellence makes the case for a different way of doing business-one that will define both business success and economic vitality in the 21st century.
Posted September 18, 2010
In this book, authors Aron Cramer and Zachary Karabell present their readers with a glimpse into the rarefied air of the business world. Their created concept of "sustainable excellence" refers to an emerging business model in which the business "delivers value for investors, customers, and employees; improves the living standards of its employees and the communities it touches; makes wise use of natural resources; and treats people fairly." Simply put, it is the model of a business with a social and moral conscience. According to the authors, this concept is not simply a goal for businesses to strive toward, but a bottom line necessity for survival in tomorrow's business atmosphere.
The book describes the recent events that brought businesses to this need for sustainable excellence. They point to the emergence of activists in the 1970's and 80's, the effective end of the Cold War, the fall of the World Trade Center, the beginning of globalization, the blossoming of the internet, the growing concern about global warming and environmental concerns, the emergence of third world countries into viable business communities, and the recent Great Recession. Companies began to feel strong pressure to react to these events. The pressure was coming not just from their boards of directors, but from non-government groups like Greenpeace and PETA and also from grassroots groups made up of concerned people armed with the power of the internet and social networking. The atmosphere that confronted businesses dictated that they "do the right thing" in their impact on the world stage-environmentally, socially, and innovatively.
The bulk of the book goes on to describe successful companies that are adjusting their focus and structure to respond to social and environmental issues of today. Some are creating new approaches to old products; some are creating new products that will be innovative metamorphoses of their old products; while some are moving in all new directions, creating products in vastly different arenas. Business strategies are being redefined with sustainability at their core. And these redefined businesses are becoming more and more common. The old way of doing things is becoming just that-an outdated way of doing business. There are fewer and fewer old-school businesses that are still viable because, say Cramer and Karabell, ".the model that propelled these companies to success in the twentieth century will not survive long in the twenty-first."
This thought-provoking book will appeal to readers who enjoyed Thomas Friedman's books on the economy. Though not altogether an "easy read," this is not an easy subject. The book does a good job of educating those who are not mired in the business world on this vital new concept of corporate responsibility. I would definitely recommend it!