SEEK: Salford Environment for Expertise and Knowledge

Authored Book
April 2008

Positively Responsible: How Business Can Save the Planet

Bichard, E & Cooper, C L 2008, Positively Responsible: How Business Can Save the Planet, Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford, UK.


Surveys and polls consistently show that most of us, including those that are in business, already know that the natural and social life support systems of the world are in trouble, but we are not doing very much about it. What is it about human beings that allow us to take in clear evidence, but then to turn away without dealing with the danger? Why do businesses confine themselves to a limited number of improvements when a more emphatic set of actions will guarantee long-term commercial success? Unlike many books on the subject of sustainable development, this one does not dwell on apocryphal lists and dire warnings, and avoids exhortations to guilty consciences. Instead it concentrates on examples of how many have overcome the negative aspects of our unsustainable existence and embraced a more positive strategy. This includes the way business leaders, groups of people wanting taking collective action, and whole countries have come to think differently about the world¿s problems. Positively Responsible examines three business leaders: Lord Terry Thomas (of the Co-operative Bank), Ray Anderson (of InterfaceFLOR), and Yvon Chouinard (of Patagonia) and reveals a fascinating insight into how they had come to believe in, and convert their companies into ¿sustainable development exemplars¿. The stories of these businesses are well known, but the route by which they arrived at their convictions is key to understanding how positive influences drove them to their achievements. The effect of boycotts on business and the cultural affinities of countries like Sweden are cited as examples of how the positive reaction to sustainability issues might be harnessed by other groups in the future. Businesses that want to improve their social and environmental performance are traditionally stimulated to act by factors such as competitor activity, customer pressure, legislation, fiscal incentives and technological advances. They all play a part in the timing of a decision to invest in better performance. Few businesses are actively anti-sustainable and most can now point to something that has a positive effect on neighbouring environmental and social conditions. But few are preparing their strategies and their people for the resilience that will be required to cope with a rapidly changing world. This book looks at ideas and illustrations from Nestlé, Wal-Mart, Marks & Spencer, South West Airlines (SWA), The Body Shop Ben & Jerry¿s, Shell, ICI, BNFL, Boeing, DuPont, Dow, Mitsui and StoraEnso, Norsk Hydro, Amec, FRC Group, Electrolux and many others to show how a more positive approach will pay dividens in the future. Postively Responsible was inspired by years of working with businesses to lessen their environmental and social impacts and improve their competitiveness. The focus of attention is now all about urgency. But the book does not just catalogue the good and make the rest feel guilty. There are very clear and understandable reasons why we make the decisions that we do. The final chapters are devoted to a new strategy for those that are still undecided about the way forward. In a unique combination of skills the authors combine a penetrating understanding of sustainable development issues, with a comprehensive description of what motivates or de-motivates human beings.


SEEK Members

External Authors

Cary L. Cooper

Publication Details

Butterworth Heinemann
Oxford, UK.