Nine Trailblazing Companies on a Greener Pathway to People, Planet & Profits

Should you be feeling skeptical about yet another book with the word “sustainability” in its title, fear not: Jeana Wirtenberg’s Building a Culture for Sustainability covers the topic without any of the “green washing.” Fully cognizant of the fact that real change has to happen at the ground level of any system, Wirtenberg fearlessly tackles the concept of culture. How else to address those deeply held beliefs and assumptions that drive daily behavioral habits that more often than not are unconscious? It is only by tugging on the roots that companies can begin to move towards the triple bottom line of “People, Planet and Profits” in a green economy.

Like a dedicated ethnographer, Wirtenberg sits down to interview key sustainability drivers at nine companies. By sifting through their “artifacts” she is able to showcase for the reader the values that underpin each company’s supply chains, operations, and products and services for their customers. Clearly, she brings a natural appreciation for the human side of sustainability and engages with the hearts and minds of her interviewees and their peers. And because of this empathic style, people naturally share with her examples of employee-driven initiatives that contribute meaning to their work lives. One such initiative is Alcatel Lucent’s StrongHer, a bottom-up affinity group started by women for women that in a few years’ time has grown to a membership of 900 (16% men) with 1000 followers worldwide. She also identifies a source of pride for Church & Dwight employees who consider being the inaugural sponsor of the first Earth Day in 1970 a company legacy.

This book is far too rich to do it justice in the space allotted, but I assure you there is so much more to be uncovered and for your efforts, you will be well-rewarded. To get you started, here are a few “field” samples: (1) check out Alcoa’s Keystone Institute that trains teachers how to investigate current environmental issues with their students; (2) find out why BASF’s Verbund is the key ingredient of every function of its operations; (3) check out Ingersoll Rand’s OneSTEPForward and where it stands in the current marketers’ debate over customer pull vs. vendor push; (4) find out how and why Pfizer completely changed its philanthropy, replacing capital with human capital in the way of skill-based volunteerism; (5) seek out how Sanofi’s synergistic-collaborative approach to reducing health-care costs is reenergizing its employees; (6) read about Wyndham’s all-inclusive “eco-learning culture,” in house as well as with its guests; and finally, (7) check out Bureau Veritas and its participation in the UN-sponsored World Environment Day that is considered by BV employees as its best practice.

Here’s the mother lode for your efforts: in the final chapter you will uncover “green” gold in the four tables provided by Wirtenberg that contextualize practices, both limitations and best practices. For example, a table is provided with specific categories and key stakeholders, along with her recommendations for sustainability-inspired habits necessary to bring real and deep change to the world. All in all, the tables are a valuable resource that can be referred to for years to come.

Find Wirtenberg’s Building a Culture For Sustainability: People, Planet, and Profits in a New Green Economy

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