BOOK REVIEW: "Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value and Build Competitive Advantage" by Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston

“No executive can afford to ignore the Green Wave sweeping the business world. This book shows how to make sustainability a core element of strategy - and profit from it.” ~ Chad Holliday, CEO, DuPont

Environmental issues are no longer just the concern of government, NGOs and eco-minded individuals. Societal knowledge, and awareness of these issues has led to an increase in corporate accountability. This book offers a structured guide on how to become a part of the Green Wave and achieve Eco-Advantage for your business. To do this, authors Esty and Winston provide examples of corporate losses and gains, strategies to achieve Eco-Advantage, and tools needed for eco-tracking, redesign and culture-building. This book builds an organized argument for the importance of proactive environmental planning and decision-making that even the most conservative, profit-minded businessman cannot refute.

The argument begins with background case study examples from  Sony and BP to compare the downside costs and upside gains that can result from ignoring or managing for environmental risks. The authors then follow with background information on the top 10 environmental issues, important stakeholders, and the top 50 Green Wave corporations doing the best to address these issues. The book then addresses how to get started on obtaining your Eco-Advantage.

The authors offer an organized Eco-Advantage toolkit. This includes how to: cultivate an Eco-Advantage mindset; develop eco-tracking through AUDIO and Life Cycle Assessment tools; redesign and drive innovation; and create a business culture that incorporates Eco-Advantage decision-making as part of everyday actions. Their green-to-gold plays address eight important areas to help reduce downside costs and risks and maximize revenues and intangible gain. This includes managing for things such as eco-efficiency, eco-risk control, eco-sales and marketing, and intangible value. The book has a very positive outlook on the value of joining the Green Wave, but it does not ignore the fact that some environmental initiatives will fall short or fail. To address this the book explains thirteen actions that lead to failure along with solutions and tools to avoid them.

The examples and strategies in Green to Gold are best geared towards medium to large businesses or corporations, however, as the authors point out environmental accountability is also becoming more and more important for smaller businesses as well. This book offers an interesting read with numerous examples, summary tables, and key highlighted points that make the information and strategies very accessible and easy to follow. For this reason, SSC recommends this book to any business owner or manager concerned with their bottom line and how to deal with environmental issues that affect it.

This book review comes from April Hansgate, one of SSC’s 2008 summer interns.