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Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value and Build Competitive Advantage

Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value and Build Competitive Advantage

    by Norah Gastelum
Publisher: Sustainable Guide, April 8, 2009

Green to Gold isn't exactly a how-to-grow-your-business-green book, but it definitely will give you the full gamut of reasons why you should and a boatload of examples and ideas for developing an environmental strategy for your business. The objective of the book is to bring environmental thinking into core business strategy to provide guidance to companies and corporate leaders. Both authors, Daniel C. Etsy and Andrew S. Winston hale from Yale. Their case studies and corporate interviews are quiet extensive and interesting. In addition to the success stories, Etsy and Winston also highlight environmental initiatives that, despite best intentions, still managed to fail.

The book is broken up into four main sections; Preparing for a New World, Two Strategies for Building Eco-Advantage, What WaveRiders Do and Putting It All Together. Each section is addressed in a few chapters. At times the organization becomes a bit confusing and slightly redundant. Several times I had to go back to the beginning of the chapter to remind myself what the main idea might be. Even the authors spent a lot of time trying to explain what information would be found where in the book.

When I think about seeing things through the “green lens” I tend to think about what these companies have done to the environment, not what they're doing for it. To read that Dupont is one the top 50 green “Wave Riders” just shows me that they aren't seeing things through the same lens that I see the environment. The top 50 WaveRiders were identified by a not-exactly-scientific mixture of methods including; survey of executives, measures of emissions and energy use and environmental scorecards generated by various market analysts. They were identified more by their effort and public perception then by the outcomes of their efforts. Dupont is such a huge business, certainly if it puts even a slight effort into more sustainable practices, that effort will seem huge. But does it necessarily mediate all the negative effects that Dupont products inflict on the environment? To their credit, Etsy and Winston do, however, acknowledge that all the WaveRiders are polluting and depleting the natural resource base to some extent.

Overall I would have to say that the book’s emphasis is on the Gold (profits). Green (environmental stewardship) is just a trendy and somewhat logical way of getting the gold. There were moments when I thought the environmental part was sincere and there were other times when I thought it was just a means to a certain end.

If you are an avid environmentalist, I don't think you will enjoy this book. You should probably read it just the same, though. You probably want to know what's going on out there. Because, all said and done, the emphasis is to show how going green is just another business strategy that, done properly, could make your company more profitable. What comes first profitability or environmental stewardship? In Green to Gold, it is definitely profitability.

Who would enjoy this book:

  • anyone in a business that relies on natural resources and who wants to be competitive in the upcoming decade of the environment with its environmentally savvy consumers.
  • anyone in a business who wants green ideas for innovation that create value.
  • someone who wants to be up on green business lingo. Find out what the “green wave” concept is, know who’s who among the “WaveRiders” or discover what you’ll see through the “green lens”. Maybe your “corporate environmental strategy” can give you an “eco-advantage”. Who knows maybe just using these terms will make you greener.
  • someone who wants to have a better picture of what is going on globally, at the corporate level to mitigate pollution, resource depletion and global warming.
  • anyone interested in socially responsible investing.

Best of what this book left me with:

  • several companies that I would feel better about giving my money to if I had to(e.g. Perrier for reforestation of watersheds and paying farmers to go organic and Herman Miller furniture company for committing to a goal of zero waste to landfills.)
  • the overview of top environmental concerns facing the world. Etsy and Winston did a nice job here. They didn't dwell on the problems. They just summarized them succinctly. Very handy.
  • a better understanding of what’s going on out there at the corporate level to address environmental concerns.
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