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June 30, 2005
Sustainable Summer Reading
    by Doug Wheat

Experts in the SRI and CSR arenas offer their recommendations for books to take on vacation this summer.

There is plenty to read these days on sustainability and the business world. According to KPMG International, 52 percent of the largest companies in the Fortune 500 now issue sustainability or corporate responsibility reports. These companies include the GAP (ticker: GPS), Nike (NKE), General Electric (GE), and United Technologies (UTX). To help readers put some perspective on the issues being addressed in these reports, we asked a handful of corporate responsibility experts to share books they would recommend reading this summer.

Steve Lydenberg's recent book Corporations and the Public Interest-Guiding the Invisible Hand is a commonly recommended book for people interested in social investing and corporate social responsibility (see the review). Mr. Lydenberg is the chief investment officer of Domini Social Investments and a former partner of KLD Research and Analytics. Edoardo Gai of SAM Research Inc. commented that the book provides "a good perspective on the changing expectations of the company in society."

Pietra Rivoli, a finance professor at Georgetown University, has written a new book called The Travels of a T Shirt in the Global Economy which begins with the growing of cotton and ends with the purchase of a T shirt. According to Tim Smith, the director of socially responsive investment at Walden Asset Management and the president of the Social Investment Forum, "Pietra Rivoli, has created a very different look at the global economy by following the manufacture of a shirt, and asks who benefits and who suffers in the process. She is frank about her own biases on global sourcing as she starts the project and how they were changed during the journey."

One of the books recommended by Kate Rigge, Corporate Responsibility Manager with ST Microelectronics is The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream by Jeremy Rifkin. "In this book, Rifkin details how the cooperative sustainability dream of Europeans is eclipsing the American Dream of self-reliance," according to Ms. Rigge.

Lauren Compere, who works with Boston Common Asset Management and is the co-chair of the Access to Health Working Group of ICCR, recommends AIDS in Asia: A Continent in Peril, by Susan Hunter. "Hunter's book provides one of the few comprehensive looks at the growing impact of HIV/AIDS in Asia from a cultural, political and human context. Her stories of real people affected by HIV/AIDs including children used as forced labor and young women sold into the commerical sex trade, brings home the devastation that HIV/AIDs is having on an entire generation of Asia's children," according to Ms. Compere.

Also following an environmental theme is Sho Ikeda, the president of Sunrise Advisors in Tokyo who recommends Global Change in One Second, by Prof. Ryoichi Yamamoto of Tokyo University. In this scientific factbook, the author describes how much of the global environment is deteriorating each second. For example, 6,000 square meters of forest are disappearing every second.

Shareholder activists and institutional investors will find Disney War by James Stewart a fascinating summer read, according to Richard Ferlauto, the director of pension and benefit policy for AFSCME, a public service employee union organization. "The book offers lessons about how Eisnerís dominance of the Disney Board led to abusive pay schemes, affiliated strategic partnerships and personality feuds putting shareholder value at risk," states Mr. Ferlauto.

Dan Viederman, the executive director of Verite, recommends Seth Godin's book All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low Trust World. According to Mr. Viederman, "the book is unusually and refreshingly candid about the ways in which traditional marketing has to give way to telling the truth about the product or service we're selling. It is also useful for non-marketers who spend their days scrutinizing corporate public statements."

Happy reading and enjoy the summer!


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