Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


The top 50 sustainability books

February 2010

Wayne Visser. Greenleaf Publishing. 256 pages. Paperback. £25/$45.

This is not only an excellent idea but, more importantly, well executed.

Taking the 50 best books on sustainability as compiled from a poll of 3000 experts around the world, Wayne Visser looks at them all through the same lens. Each entry – generally four pages long – lists the key ideas in each book, a synopsis of its contents, some of its notable sentences or thoughts, a potted biography of the author, and suggestions for further connected reading.

This turns out to be a highly useful format, providing just about all you need to know about each volume without actually reading it. The book is also well illustrated, with photos of the authors and images of each book.
Perhaps the only criticism might be that it provides no critique of the books or any sense of how the views in them have been received or fared over time. However, this is essentially a work of reference, and the decision to steer away from this polemical course is, on balance, the right one.

For the corporate responsibility practitioner there are at least 23 books in here that directly relate to CSR, including tomes by John Elkington, Simon Zadek and Anita Roddick. The rest generally look towards ecological or sociological matters, and while the majority of the entries were written post-2000, some date back more than 30 years. It would be ideal if everyone read all these books in their original form, but this crash course is the next best thing.

Peter Mason

Peter Mason | Global | Sustainability


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