#5: “Day 1” for your greener business
4 May 2023
For businesses looking to become greener, we recommend 4 books that teach business leaders how aiming for more than reaching great profits is achievable when taking the green path.
“Day 1” is the catchphrase of Jeff Bezos, the American entrepreneur, who in 1994 founded the e-commerce company, Amazon, and is one of the wealthiest persons in the second decade of the 21st century. In one of his first letters to shareholders, Bezos used “Day 1” as a metaphor for creating a culture of continuous innovation. “Day 1” is the day when you are still curious, still open, still hungry for the boldest innovations. As Carmine Gallo explained in his book The Bezos Blueprint: “The Day One mindset isn’t about the skills you failed to learn yesterday; it’s about learning new skills to avoid failing in the future.” So, it happens that for any successful business leader, every day is Day 1. But if today is Day 1 for your business to become even greener, how would you act on such a day? Would you be busy reading up on the subject, looking for the blueprints of those who have been on this journey before you? Below are four books that claim to teach business leaders how aiming for more than reaching great profits – e.g. stronger morale and increased productivity among the stakeholders – is achievable when taking the green path:
1. Greta Thunberg : The Climate Book (2023)
When Thunberg first heard about the planet being in danger, she did not think it was real “because if it were real, people would do something about it.” We have all been there. But watching a 15-year-old sitting outside the Swedish Parliament school striking, followed by the development of the largest climate demonstration in history her action prompted, there was no way to miss that some people were doing something about it. For this climate bible – where “bible” means the collection of humanity’s best current knowledge on the unfolding crises of the planet – Thunberg brought together more than 100 great minds: scientists, historians, indigenous leaders, and even artists to “highlight the many different crises we face and equip us with the knowledge we need to combat a climate disaster,” she stated. This is not a scary book of worst-case scenarios by activists. This is a book of facts that tells the biggest story of our era: the roots and the consequences of the problem, the various actions humanity has already taken, the results, and the actions we can take today. The Climate Book is currently the best source for our most-known least-tackled problem: it has the data visualized on great charts, the story told in the most comprehensible and sometimes beautiful language (Margaret Atwood is a contributor), and the thoughts that might inspire businesses to be ready for today.
2. Solitaire Townsend: The Solutionists (2023) How Businesses Can Fix the Future
“This is a business book, written for those with an entrepreneurial spirit and a conviction that industry can be part of the solution,” says Townsend, the author of this playful, easily readable book with a colorful cover that certainly transports the message: no matter how hard the challenge is, there is nothing more colorful than the road to its solution. Founder of Futerra, a consultation and training agency helping companies build sustainability strategies, Townsend participated in the creation of Lovebug Petfood, an insect-based cat food in recyclable packaging that aims to lower the carbon footprint of pets. Who would have thought that Nobel-prize-winning scientists spend time calculating pet ‘pawprints’? Now Towsend interviewed successful business leaders – from IKEA to Google – who do not think of sustainability as an additional value-add for their business but rather as the goal of their inventions and strategies. Real-life examples of plant-based food sources, net-zero technologies, and circular platforms – the stories of this book show how sustainable disruption can transform a business, regardless of size or industry.
This “handbook for becoming the leader that the world needs” introduces a massive movement of entrepreneurs “who’ve been looking at this [sustainability] problem long enough to come up with the answers to it”. Towsend is one of them, and her book is a strong attempt to summarize those answers.
3. Peter McAteer: Sustainability Is the New Advantage (2019)
Partly a personal story that aims to make the story of sustainability in its readers’ lives personal too, partly educational — teacher-advisor McAteer’s book is a good place to start for any business to familiarize itself with sustainability. As a plus, it gives extra attention to the practice of sustainability in smaller businesses.
The book starts with the basics, examining what sustainability is and how its general principles translate into actual business practices. It essentially builds a core knowledge, a blueprint to get started. According to McAteer three important patterns emerge when talking about sustainability: the major role of the one committed leader, the need for this kind of business practice to become part of the business’s DNA, and how we engage in its problem-solving and other practices. So essentially, it lays out the foundation of the mindset of a sustainable business leader with a useful overview of resources at its end.
4. Clarke Murphy: Sustainable Leadership (2022) Lessons of Vision, Courage, and Grit from the CEOs Who Dared to Build a Better World
Murphy, the former CEO of Russell Reynold Associates, the global leadership advisory firm, has the talent to share the excitement of discussing sustainability actions with some of the sharpest minds in the business community – as he was busy doing exactly that while at his job. With his book, Murphy took on the challenge to demonstrate what sustainable leadership looks like with present-day examples. He attempts to decode the DNA of progressing sustainable businesses (the one mentioned above by McAteer).
“These next pages will not only take you inside the mind of a sustainable leader but also provide you with their lessons learned on how to build that next generation so that, as you transition toward new economic models, sustainability becomes your legacy—a guiding force of the business and its workforce well into the future. Equally, their stories will be an opportunity to learn from their mistakes made on this journey,” Murphy says, who lists CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, startup founders, family business owners, employees on a management track, or students of business in any part of the world as his target readership with the promise that by the end of the last chapter, they all will walk away feeling “energized and filled with hope.”This book clears up, for good, that sustainability is not an add-on to business strategy but the business strategy.
Inspiration can come from many places, and being and becoming sustainable is definitely a road, not a destination. Whether you are an entrepreneur, a CEO, or a business leader, these books can help you understand the urgency and importance of sustainability and how it can be integrated into your business practices. By adopting a "Day 1" mindset and embracing the principles of sustainability, businesses can create a better future for themselves and the world. So, if you are looking to take your business to the next level of sustainability, these books are a great place to start.
We still have many topics to discover as part of our Green Talent Strategies insights, such as greenwashing, and why it can be so detrimental to the cause of sustainability. But we will also publish articles more related to HR trends and recruitment so follow us on LinkedIn
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