BOOK REVIEW: "The Sustainability Advantage" by Bob Willard

There was a time when the business world was thought to be at odds with the sustainability movement and environmental views. Once-common rhetoric portrayed “going green” as a topic unworthy of business consideration because it “cost green.” In his book, The Sustainability Advantage, Bob Willard nullifies this old view of sustainability as an expense, and he examines the profit-driving, business case for sustainability with a degree of accountant-like precision. A background in management and leadership development has helped Willard realize the opportunity for business leaders to play a role in the ecological and social well-being of the planet while increasing their profits.

Willard investigates seven bottom-line benefits that comprise The Sustainability Advantage: easier hiring of the best talent, higher retention of top talent, increasing employee productivity, reduced expenses in manufacturing, reduced expenses at commercial sites, increased revenue/market share, and reduced risk/easier financing. For each of the seven benefits, real-life examples of businesses in a variety of industries are described to have successfully used sustainable tactics to enhance their bottom line. The Sustainability Advantage also provides an in-depth case study of a hypothetical computer company which undertakes a series of sustainable initiatives. Conservative numbers, based on a variety of real-life case studies, are used to estimate the positive impact for the hypothetical company.

Throughout the book, readers are encouraged to reference the worksheets in the appendix, plug in the financial numbers from their own company, and witness how their organization would be impacted by the sustainable actions. Even with highly conservative numbers, the hypothetical company increases in its bottom line by a great deal. Willard successfully builds the case for sustainability and provides a thorough analysis of its great financial potential for the business world. The only two ways to increase profit are to reduce expenses or increase revenue; after reading this book, you will be convinced that sustainability and profit are nearly synonymous.

This book review comes from Joseph Martin Vandette Jr, one of SSC’s 2008 summer interns.