Embedded Sustainability - the Next Big Competitive Advantage

Sustainability has moved from being the 'right thing to do' to being the optimal driver of business strategy. The context for economic performance has changed radically. As many individual leaders and companies grapple with adhering to old strategies versus using complexity to innovate, the long standing dance between environment and economy erupts.

Standing solidly in the new reality, Embedded Sustainability articulates the unavoidable drivers for innovation, how to practically think through and then act, either iteratively or radically, to embed sustainability into the DNA to meet market expectations by building off core strengths.

In a world where substance conveys reputation it isn't enough to appear to be sustainable. You must be authentic. Recognizing this, the authors offer tiers of value creation that allow companies, whether embracers (visionary) or the cautious adopters (the tentative) to learn by experience. Every far-sighted executives or unengaged employees asking: "How can we use business as a vehicle for moving beyond survival to living fulfilling lives, in caring communities supported by a healthy environment and make a profit doing it?" will gain and insight and practical steps.

The book is an easy read, blending a combination of what you need to know with how to go about doing it, not in the traditional tools and toolkit sense or as best practices. We are treading new ground so using old methods don't work. Part 3, which covers "Getting it Done" is honest about the customized nature and messiness of supporting innovation as it emerges through chaos. This increased credibility for me since left-brain logical thinking isn't agile enough to use disruptions effectively. As in Chris Laszlo's previous book, it includes a story that, in a warm and engaging manner, illustrates how technology can serve as a tool (rather than the savior) for resolving the tougher issues we collectively face.

Starting with the trends, the authors thoughtfully walk us through the difference between bolt-on sustainability and embedded sustainability, review the core competencies for leaders and managers, then document the power of inquiry to facilitate whole system change and radical engagement of the workforce to arrive at simple user friendly 'change management redux' examples by leaders in the field. It concludes with a reflection on the big picture to widen perspective and anchor purpose.

A book wouldn't be good if it didn't provoke thought, so for companies busy rationalizing reliance on old strategies, be prepared to be to rethink and reflect. You'll thank the authors later.

In short, Embedded Sustainability offers business leaders a handbook for understanding the emergent realities along with how to achieve higher levels of performance while improving relationships between the environmental and social systems essential for reputation and existence.

Reviewed by Dawna H. Jones, From Insight to Action-Change Innovation Expert