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New Book Advises Businesses on the Art and Importance of ‘Global Sustainability’
When most people hear the word “sustainability,” they think of the environment. The concept of sustainability is linked in most of our minds with the idea of “going green” and protecting the planet. The Merriam-Webster definition of “sustainable” (“of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged”) could certainly play into environmental contexts. For instance, it is not a sustainable activity to clear cut forests in order to harvest wood, as doing so depletes a natural resource with no clear plans for restoring it in the future. If we use up all those resources now, there won’t be any left for later generations.
According to Mark Lefko, though, true sustainability actually transcends pure environmental concerns. Lefko is the CEO of the Lefko Group, a company that facilitates “corporate retreats, CEO peer groups, and transformative roundtables.” In his work in this capacity, Lefko has founded several sustainability-minded peer groups. His experiences trading viewpoints on sustainability with other CEOs form the backbone of Global Sustainability: 21 Leading CEOs Show How to Do Well By Doing Good, this month’s Indie Groundbreaking Book.
In the past, I’ve read books about sustainability and environmental protection that essentially boiled down to the author getting up on their soapbox and preaching. In most cases, these books were well-researched and made decent points, but were flawed in one fundamental way: they focused almost singularly on problems and paid far too little mind to solutions. Global Sustainability is refreshing in that it doesn’t make the same mistake. At its core, this is a business book, written to help businesses understand how they might incorporate sustainability into their everyday missions.
In other words, Global Sustainability is not just a book speaking on the benefits of sustainability with no practical advice on how businesses might implement it or gain from it. Instead, Lefko digs deep, using his interviews with 21 CEOs—some of them the leaders of household brands like Virgin Group, TOMS Shoes, and Whole Foods—to explain how real businesses are already doing their part to be more globally sustainable.
Not that there isn’t focus paid to the definitions and benefits of global sustainability. In the book, Lefko defines the term “global sustainability” as “ensuring people on this planet have the resources and environment necessary to survive and thrive, both now and in the future.” On first read, that definition sounds a lot like the Merriam-Webster one. However, the keyword here is “people.” Where most of us look at sustainability purely as an environmental concern, Lefko’s job in the pages of Global Sustainability is to make readers see the issue as an extremely human one. The book’s chapters are based around nine “best practices” for sustainability in the business world. Some of them (“Find Ways to Reduce Waste”) are directly related to the environment. More of them, though, have to do with ethics (“Deal Fairly and Ethically with Suppliers, Employees, and Customers”), worker morale (“Be Concerned about Your Employees’ Motivation and Well-Being”), or betterment of local communities (“Support the Well-Being of the Communities Where You Do Business”).
Why do these things matter in the modern world—and particularly for the modern business enterprise? The goals are two-fold. In the broader scheme of things, Lefko believes that companies that strive for global sustainability in all they do will be able to create a world that is safer, more equal, and more forward-thinking. Of course, businesses are driven by the economics of supply, demand, profit, and loss. As such, convincing companies to adopt sustainable initiatives is difficult—especially by using the above argument alone—because being more sustainable often means adopting more expensive practices.
Therein lies the importance of the second goal of global sustainability: good PR. In the past, it was possible for corporations to obfuscate their less ethical practices. Consumers had fewer choices and fewer opportunities to learn about the values (or lack thereof) of the enterprises they were supporting. Today, the internet and social media have put businesses under the microscope. If a corporation engages in unethical production methods, is notorious for treating its employees poorly, or uses dirty tactics to drive smaller ventures out of business, consumers are going to know about it. Thanks to the level of competition present in most industries, consumers have more options to choose from today than ever before, and can vote with their dollars if they believe that a company is guilty of despicable things.
And customers do vote with their dollars: one example of the market reacting to business practices out of step with global sustainability occurred just this year, when the #DeleteUber hashtag started trending on social media. After ridesharing service Uber was accused of trying to profit from President Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban in late January, the #DeleteUber hashtag blossomed on Twitter. Protesters urged Uber customers to delete their accounts and take their business to more ethically-minded companies—including Uber competitor Lyft, which issued a strong rebuke of President Trump’s travel ban. According to The Verge, the protest cost Uber 200,000 users in just a matter of days.
Clearly, businesses have something to gain from adopting the sustainable best practices that Mark Lefko discusses in the pages of Global Sustainability. The book, with its detailed explanations of what global sustainability is and how major brands around the world are doing their part to adopt it, is a valuable resource for business owners looking to make their ventures more sustainable. The book is currently available on Amazon in Kindle, paperback, and hardcover versions.
Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for IndependentPublisher.com, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at email@example.com.