My CSR and Sustainability Summer Reading List

It’s that time of year again.  Time to break out the bathing suits, quickly put them back in the drawer, throw on sweats, and head to the pool. Here’s a sampling of what I’m planning to read this summer, assuming my gnat-like attention span is able to stay the course.  I’ll post my reviews as I work through the list.

Below are the titles I’ve short listed with my reasons for selecting them and their reviews. (I wouldn’t want you to just take my word on them as I haven’t even read them yet.)  I hope you find something here worthy of a read.

  1. Climate Capitalism – Hunter Lovins & Boyd Cohen PhD

Hunter was kind enough to respond to my emails after a recent Net Impact presentation and Boyd and I have exchanged a few messages on Twitter.  Fighting the good fight and making time for the little people is a great way to win my affection.  I’ve already made it through the first chapter and already have a mushrooming list of articles to read as the book features hundreds of references to pertinent sources.  This is looking like a good one for those looking to prove the viability of sustainability projects.

Amazon Reviews:

“If you wonder whether there is any hope of humankind’s dealing successfully with climate change, read this book. It is a virtual compendium of what is going on already from which to draw hope and, more important, inspiration.” —Ray Anderson, chairman and founder, Interface, Inc.
“Coping with climate change requires challenging conventional wisdom and showing where our interests—global, national, corporate, and personal—really lie. Climate Capitalism eloquently defines those interests and the role that market forces could and should play.” —Sir Crispin Tickell, chair emeritus, Climate Institute
“Should be on every CEO’s reading list and required in every corporate boardroom.” —Bill Becker, executive director, Presidential Climate Action Project
“Well supported with examples of real business practice.” —Ed Crooks, Financial Times
“In Climate Capitalism, L. Hunter Lovins and Boyd Cohen present in crisp, clear terms how smart economics hold the key to addressing the multiple crises—from financial to food, climate to resource scarcity—facing the world.” —Achim Steiner, executive director, United Nations Environment Programme
“The ultimate guide for business and government leaders who see the opportunities in our rapidly changing world but don’t yet know how to win.” —Will Semmes, former director, California Conservation Corps
“For those seeking to implement genuine climate solutions, and make money doing so, Climate Capitalism cannot be recommended highly enough.” —Tom Carnac, director of innovation, Carbon Disclosure Project
“A blueprint to recalibrate the economy to the realities of climate destabilization. A must-read.” —David Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, Oberlin College
“Waste is expensive in any form. Climate Capitalism clearly articulates how individuals, companies, municipalities and countries have benefited by reducing their carbon impacts. It’s time to revamp what is considered business fundamentals! Organizations that embrace the principles in this book will be not only better positioned to weather the uncertain future, but will be trailblazing the paths.” —Catherine Greener, principal and co-founder, Clear Green Advisors
“Periodically an event, a speech, or a book comes along that changes everything.  Climate Capitalism is one of those books. Just as Natural Capitalism inspired thousands of businesses to re-think their bottom line, Climate Capitalism profiles the opportunity, not the crisis, of climate change. It puts business in the leadership position to invest in a global future that improves profitability while cutting climate change. Lovins and Cohen lay to rest the economic argument that energy conservation and renewable energy cost jobs. Lovins is a master of her subject matter having been awarded the “Nobel Award” of Sustainability Leadership by the European Business community in 2008.” —David Johnston, author of Green from the Ground Up
“One of the fastest growing areas in business schools today is entrepreneurship, and more specifically social entrepreneurship, as more and more students seek a path to both making a living and a positive difference in the world. Climate Capitalism provides both direction and inspiration for these students who do not accept the artificial tradeoff between doing well and doing good. Bravo to Lovins and Cohen and to all those students who will turn this critically important message to positive action for the planet.” —R. Bruce Hutton, dean emeritus, Daniels College of Business, University of Denver
“With a massive shift in the global economy toward sustainable business, new markets are emerging and cities are poised to capitalize. Climate Capitalismdemonstrates how cities can succeed in the global green economy by taking advantage of the growing demand for clean, green innovation. To build a future that values people and the planet, we need to rethink how we do business—and Climate Capitalism shows how to do it.” —Gregor Robertson, Mayor of Vancouver, BC
“Diversey uses the principles outlined in this book to enhance our profitability. For every dollar we invest in climate protection we get two dollars in return.”  —S. Curtis Johnson, chairman, Diversey, Inc.
“Alliteration isn’t the only thing this book’s got going for it. Climate Capitalism isn’t the fastest read (its more than 300 pages are packed with information), but it very comprehensively shows how environmental challenges, including climate change, can be linked to business opportunities for all. Through case studies and the authors’ own expertise, Climate Capitalism makes a powerful case for the two major ‘C’s of today’s society.” —Shirley Mak, Sierra Club
“A highly persuasive demonstration of how profitable economic choices can take us a long way toward dealing with climate disruption, the misguided aspects of our agriculture, oil’s strategically catastrophic monopoly over transportation, the poverty of the bottom billion, and much else. Creative and deftly crafted.” —R. James Woolsey, Jr., former director of the CIA

2. The Responsible Business – Carol Sanford

I’ve quickly become a fan of Carol’s through her activities on Twitter.  While many authors spend a great deal of effort shamelessly promoting their offerings, Carol is constantly giving.  Check out her Twitter feed (!/carolsanford) and you’ll see what I mean.

Amazon Reviews:

“This is a very significant book. It makes it clear that businesses have a single boss with five interrelated aspects. The stories are among the crispest, most evocative case histories I have seen. The book is for any corporate leader trying to do the impossible: create a business that recreates the world.”
—Art Kleiner, editor-in-chief, strategy + business, and author, The Age of Heretics“Carol Sanford offers us a proven, practical, and systems-based approach that integrates five stakeholder groups into a business system working as an integral whole. Essential reading for leaders wanting a system framework for sustainability and business success!”
—Otto Scharmer, MIT Sloan senior lecturer; author, Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges; and coauthor, PresenceThe Responsible Business challenges many assumptions corporate leaders, investment advisors, and sustainability experts have long taken for granted. It provides a road map that can help innovative businesses think about how to be truly transformational.”
—Sam Ford, Fast Company expert blogger and director, Peppercom”The powerful concepts in The Responsible Business have changed the process of sustainable development and how communities truly thrive. Indeed, these proven approaches will be the roadmap to truly achieve the deepest level of living communities.”
—Bill Reed, founding member of LEED System and coauthor, The Integrative Design Guide to Green Building“Critical for re-imagining the future of business. Rarely a day goes by that I do not call on this way of thinking and looking at the world. It is useful for taking on the big business decisions that so many of us face every day.”
—Chad Holliday, chairman, Bank of America

3. The Upside of Irrationality – Dan Ariely

How does this make the list?  In my opinion, looking at the world through the eyes of a rational financial economist has a lot to do with the problems the world currently faces.  Ariely’s first book, “Predictably Irrational” brought the human side to our less than perfect decision making processes.  The follow up promises to further our understanding of why we do the things we do.

Amazon Reviews:

From Publishers Weekly

Ariely (Predictably Irrational) expands his research on behavioral economics to offer a more positive and personal take on human irrationality’s implications for life, business, and public policy. After a youthful accident left him badly scarred and facing grueling physical therapy, Ariely’s treatment required him to accept temporary pain for long-term benefit—a trade-off so antithetical to normal human behavior that it sparked the author’s fascination with why we consistently fail to act in our own best interest. The author, professor of behavioral economics at Duke, leads us through experiments that reveals such idiosyncrasies as the IKEA effect (if you build something, pride and sentimental attachment are likely to give you an inflated sense of its quality) and the Baby Jessica effect (why we respond to one person’s suffering but not to the suffering of many). He concludes with prescriptions for how to make real personal and societal changes, and what behavioral patterns we must identify to improve how we love, live, work, innovate, manage, and govern. Self-deprecating humor, an enthusiasm for human eccentricities, and an affable and snappy style make this read an enriching and eye-opening pleasure. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In Predictably Irrational (2008), Ariely explored the reasons why human beings frequently put aside common sense and why bad things often happen when they do. Here, in this equally entertaining and clever follow-up, Ariely shows us the other side of the irrationality coin: the beneficial outcomes and pleasant surprises that often arise from irrational behavior. Although pleasant should be taken as a relative term, since the outcomes are not necessarily pleasant for the person who was behaving irrationally. Take, for example, Thomas Edison’s obsession with DC current, and his irrational hatred of AC: trying to prove how dangerous AC was, he inadvertently—with his development of the electric chair—demonstrated to the world how powerful it could be. Ariely is an engaging and efficient writer, amusing us with stories about irrational behavior while staying away from needless technical terminology and bafflegab. Thought-provoking, entertaining, and smart: a winning combination. –David Pitt

4. Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose–Doing Business by Respecting the Earth – Ray Anderson

Ray Anderson hooked me on the need for, and possibilities of, sustainability with the seminal work, “Mid-Course Correction.” His deep passion for the subject, and great desire for solutions, make the earlier work a very compelling read.  Getting the latest news from this industry leader promises to be a worthy investment of time.

Amazon Reviews:

From Publishers Weekly

In 1994, after reading Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce, carpet mogul Anderson decided to make his carpet company Interface, established in 1973, the first company to achieve 100 percent sustainability, a massively successful effort that has made him a sought-after business consultant (clients include Walmart) as well as an environmental hero. Sustainability, argues Anderson, makes just as much business sense as it does a liberal crusade, and he even makes absorbing reading out of the process that transformed his operations. Interface developed processes for recycling old carpets, invented a leased carpet program (too much ahead of its time, admits Anderson), utilized the work of indigenous peoples, switched over to solar and other alternative energy sources, reduced water use and contamination, and, in 2007, even managed to achieve negative net greenhouse gas emissions. What is even more impressive is that Interface achieved this globally-not just in the U. S.-while growing profits. Unfortunately, Anderson is far less compelling when he turns his focus from Interface to leadership strategies, stumbling through the banalities of corporate spirituality and the Golden Rule. Still, the story of Anderson’s commitment to green practices and the wild success he achieved is fascinating, instructive, and very timely.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Highly inspirational…Essential reading for anyone, whether lay, student, or practitioner, interested in business success today and in the environment.”–Library Journal (starred review)

“Fascinating, instructive, and very timely.”–Publishers Weekly

“Ray Anderson with his team has transformed Interface, Inc. in one of the best cases of sustainability. All employees led by him were committed with the ‘climb of Sustainability Mountain’, as he says, and believed the challenge was possible. Throughout the book, Anderson reinforces that the concept  ‘I have financial success or I have environmental success’ is not true and I truly believe in it. Besides all the skepticism, he shows us that everybody, from the CEO to the homeowners, can be part of this movement of building a new society. This is the main role of this book: to prove this is possible!” – Fabio Barbosa, President, Grupo Santander Brasil

“Ray Anderson is a personal inspiration for me and for anyone trying to find their way in this new world of green business.  He may be ‘radical’ but he’s also a profit-seeking businessman. Confessions tells an amazing first-hand story of a personal and business transformation, a journey  from being a cold-eyed capitalist to being…a cold-eyed capitalist, but just with a much larger perspective on what profitable really means.  Ray has found a new path that’s good for the planet and great for his business.  He’s showing the world how it’s done yet again.” – Andrew Winston, environmental strategist, author of Green Recovery and co-author of Green to Gold

“If we had a lot more businessmen like Ray Anderson, the planet would be neither bankrupt or overheated. He is a hero, and this book makes clear why!” – Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

5. Genetics of Original Sin: The Impact of Natural Selection on the Future of Humanity

– Christian de Duve

On the surface, this one may seem a bit out of place, but I assure you it’s not.  (Anyways, can’t a Humanist take a break and do a little introspection?)  The Nobel Prize winning scientist tackles the predisposition towards our collective destruction and offers reasons for hope.  It’s my list and I say it’s in. 🙂

Amazon Review:

Nobel-prize winning Belgian biologist de Duve (Singularities) ascribes “humanity’s inability to come to grips with threats that extend beyond the immediate future” as the product of natural selection and akin to the myth of original sin. Introducing his thesis with a brief overview of evolution and the mechanisms of life, he looks at the unique conjunction of genetics and environmental conditions that favored the development and supremacy of the human species. Our unprecedented brain-power has given human beings the power to domesticate the planet, providing us with the food, fuel, and raw materials that supported massive population growth (now 6 billion and growing). Fortunately, as neurobiology shows, “our most decisive traits are epigenetic, the product of culture and education; our brains rewire as we mature and give us the ability to supersede the genetic imperative to reproduce at all cost. The necessary cultural shift, however, prioritizing protecting the environment over our own immediate desires, will require the simultaneous education of parents and children and thus, will be extremely difficult to accomplish. A provocative book by an elder statesman of science.

6. Carbon Zero: A Short Tour of Your City’s Future – Alex Steffen

This is an exciting one as it was my first foray into crowdfunding.  Alex Steffen, author of World Changing, put together an interesting opportunity through

Project info from the author:


The climate crisis demands that we start rebuilding our cities to become carbon neutral. But what does carbon neutrality mean? What does it look like? How do we measure it? My goal here is to explain carbon neutrality in a short, amusing book that can be read in an afternoon

It’s time to demystify bold climate action, fast. By being the first to show support, you’ll help make this book a reality in time to announce on Earth Day (with release in mid May). You’ll also get cool stuff.

7. The Responsibility Revolution – Jeffrey Hollender

Amazon Reviews

“While the book lays down the business case of sustainable and responsible companies succinctly, it also gives key pointers on the way leadership is set to change in the coming years. ” —, April 1, 2010

“Hollender’s access combined with Breen’s reporting skills produce unusually detailed and thoughtful profiles.” —Inc. Magazine, April 2010

“While outwardly your business is driven by your social mission, what happens inside your company is an expression of that mission as well. That means also focusing your passionate energy inward to create a fair and beneficial work environment for your employees. In his new book, The Responsibility Revolution, Hollender describes this principleas striving to be authentically good, by building the mission into every part of your business.”—, March 31, 2010

“Most companies understand that pursuing a laudable mission can amount to a land of rich opportunity. But to successfully travel the road to corporate responsibility, an enterprise must navigate around six daunting land mines…”—, March 15, 2010

“Entertaining and thought-provoking.”—, March 15, 2010

“In his new book, Jeffrey shows companies how to surpass sustainability and makes a clear case that going beyond sustainability is a competitive advantage.”—, March 15, 2010

7. Walden – Henry David Thoreau

All enviros should go back to this one every few years and at least read the opening chapter.  This prescient book reminds us of the importance in connecting with the land.  What more can I say?

That’s the list for now.  I’m probably biting off more than I can chew, as usual as there’s always something coming in from the side which upsets the apple cart… Please share a comment comments if you have any thoughts on the books listed above, or if there are others you would recommend.  Regardless, have a great summer!

Thanks for stopping by.



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