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July 08, 2004
The Responsible Summer Reading List
    by Doug Wheat and William Baue

Fifteen recommended books on corporate sustainability and our general welfare



In this, an election year in the US, there is no shortage of political books on the best-seller lists. For people interested in corporate responsibility and corporate sustainability, there are also a plethora of non-fiction selections available, although you might not find them listed in the New York Times. SocialFunds.com decided to ask some professionals in the field what they recommend reading this summer.

Joanne Dowdell, director of corporate responsibility at Citizen Advisers recommended David Batstone's Saving the Corporate Soul & (Who Knows) Maybe Your Own which was published in 2003. Having recently begun working in the socially responsible investment community after 20+ years in marketing, research and strategic planning, Ms. Dowdell found the book "helped shape a framework for me to more clearly understand and appreciate the corporate reform initiatives being driven by the SRI community."

As a background on SRI, Dennis Muscato of Hewlett Packard's Corporate Social Responsibility department suggests Russell Sparkes' Socially Responsible Investment: A Global Revolution, also published in 2003. Mr. Muscato comments, "I find it quite a good detailed resource in one book on SRI."

As a case study of a responsible business, Michael Kane of the EPA's Performance Track Program suggests In Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good, by Paul Newman and his business partner A.E. Hotchner. Mr. Kane calls the book "inspiring."

On top of the list for Eugene Ellmen, Executive Director of the Social Investment Organization in Canada, is The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power. According to Mr. Ellmen, what is interesting about the book is the basic premise "that corporations are untied from the normal human connections that make most people subject to ethical rules." This book is the companion text to the critically acclaimed documentary movie of the same name that is currently in small theaters around the country.

Steve Lydenberg of Domini Social Investments suggests two books to read over the summer: The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy by William Greider, and Redefining the Corporation: Stakeholder Management and Organizational Wealth, by James E. Post, Lee E. Preston, and Sybille Sachs.

"If you are only going to read one book on CSR, Raising the Bar, edited by Claude Fussler, is it," according to Don Carli, President of Nima Hunter, a marketing consultancy. "Fussler offers a tremendous overview of how to create corporate value through each of the Global Compacts 10 principles." If you are going to read a second book, Mr. Carli recommends The Sustainable Corporation: How to Create Lasting Value Through Social and Environmental
Performance
, by Chris Lazlo.

The recently published The River Runs Black by Elizabeth Economy is an ominous sounding title recommended by Marian Chertow, Assistant Professor of Industrial Environmental Management at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Dr.Chertow explained that the book is about the environment in China. “As we are discovering, our world is so connected that if a giant piece of it is unsustainable, the ramifications for the rest of us are dire, too," she said.

Switching to a German perspective, two books Marnie Bambert would like to personally read this summer, are Countdown für eine bessere Welt by J.F. Rischard, and Triple Bottom Line Investing und (and) Behavioral Finance by Markus Scholand. Ms. Bambert, the head of corporate communications at Oekom Research in Germany, says "We’ll see if Mr. Scholand has new ideas to offer!"

Peter Camejo, the chairman of the SRI firm Progressive Asset Management and now Vice Presidential nominee on the Ralph Nader' ticket, recently praised Perfectly Legal by David K. Johnston. According to Mr. Camejo, this book "documents in the most careful manner how the policies of the Democrats and Republicans has been to shift the tax burden to the average person and allow the wealthy not to pay taxes."

Curiously, we had a suggestion from a SRI portfolio analyst who wishes to remain anonymous. This person has two books on her list. The first is Enough - Staying Human in an Engineered Age by Bill McKibben. The book was recommended to her by one of her clients. The second, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World by Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish professor of statistics, examines the use of scientific evidence in making decisions about environmental policy.

Finally, the writers of this article would suggest What Matters Most by Jeffery Hollender, the president and CEO of Seventh Generation. In this book Mr. Hollender gives an excellent overview of how ideas from investors and small, socially responsible businesses are changing the public expectations and behavior of large corporations.

Have a great summer and happy reading.

 

 
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