Book review : Environmental strategy and sustainable development


While looking for a new book in the shelves of the ESSEC Business School’s learning center, I found this one. With such a promising and current title, little was I doubting that it was written more than 15 years ago.

Indeed, published little after the Rio summit, the author – Richard Welford – outlines what he subtitled the corporate challenge for the 21st century. This couldn’t be more true today…

Despite being much shorter than books I reviewed until now, it is full with useful information on many subjects.

  • Business ethics and corporate environmental performance,
  • Environmental management with systems and auditing, deep ecology and sustainability (and I thought it was a recent buzzword) ;
  • Life cycle assessment ;
  • Culture change ;
  • Green marketing and eco-labeling and last but not least ;
  • Regionalism and bioregionalism.
  • It concludes with a short chapter on the transcendent organisation.

Here is a short review of the main points :

Business ethics must move from the short term view to long term and start acknowledge the benefits of cooperation. Starting a trusting relationship with customers and other stakeholders of society as a whole is seen as a must.

Environmental strategy must encompass all aspects of modern companies and not been seen as something you just add to the current company’s management. Proactivity vis à vis environmental regulations is also a must to keep competitive edge.

Life cycle assessment or analysis enable us to get a cradle to grave perception of company products and enable us to work on improving the products design (something we already saw as critical in a previous book, Factor five)

Systems like ISO 14001 are good but not enough as a real culture change is needed. This is tackled in a long chapter as it is undoubtedly the critical element that will enable companies – and our society as a whole – to finally grasp the much needed paradigm shift.

Conclusion : Written in 1995 – more than 15 years ago – this book remains to me completely up-to-date as very little has been achieved. (except by a minority of leading companies)

However, I have to admit you will probably have a hard time finding a copy of this one. Indeed, I couldn’t even find an image of the cover on the Internet and had to scan it.

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