2018 A YEAR IN LITERATURE

This article provides a short comment on all the books I read in 2018. It begins in January and runs chronologically until the end of December 2018.

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1. Seth Godin – The Icarus Deception

This is a great book that explores the phenomenon that in today’s industrial economy, schools’ universities and companies are encouraging people to aim to low and to play life safely. He explores this idea through the Greek myth of Icarus, who as we all know flew too high and encountered problems. The second and less well taught part of the myth, was that if he flew too low, his wings would also encounter problems from the salty air.

Seth is right on the money with his thesis that the dangers of flying too low are easily as pronounced as the dangers of flying too high.

I was inspired after reading Seth’s book to create my own article on the Science Based Targets initiative and whether sustainability has a similar thinking blunder. You can find this via the link below.

SUSTAINABILITY – ARE WE FLYING HIGH ENOUGH?

2. Elliot Aronson – The Social Animal

This is one of the more disappointing books I have read. Not because it was necessarily bad, but because I read it based on its supposed likeness to Influence by Robert Cialdini. They are however completely different books. The Social Animal is clearly pitched at university audiences. Up to date second hand editions retail for around £40-£50 online. Whereas Influence is pitched at a non-fiction audience, eager to understand why some are able to influence, whist others aren’t. Unless you really want to understand the minutiae of social psychology, I would not recommend this book.

3. Bob Willard – The Sustainability Champion’s Guidebook

Bob Willard is a class act and one of his other books The Sustainability Advantage was one of my favourite books that I read in 2017. This book was much shorter, coming in at only 114 pages. But that can mean a tighter and more focussed offering, which is certainly the case with this book. There are lots of flow charts and references to other people’s work. Whether you know a lot about sustainability or would like to know more I would definitely recommend this book.

4. Harvard Review on Business and the Environment

This collection of short works was a real surprise. It didn’t flow as well as a book would, but it was packed full of chapters from top writers on business and the environment. Some highlights were the chapter A Road Map for Natural Capitalism by Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken. The chapter Growth through Global Sustainability which was an interview with Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro was really eye opening and displayed how this company had developed a reputation for environmental excellence. The Chapter Recycling for Profit was also extremely interesting given the incredible attention given to plastics and recycling in 2018. Overall, this book comes highly recommended from me.

5. Seth Godin – Poke the Box

I read quite a few Seth Godin books in 2018. I like them because they are short, to the point and intended to deliver one powerful message. This offering from Seth Godin is all about pushing yourself and doing things for the first time. This is certainly good advice from Seth.

6. Hawken, A Lovins and H Lovins – Natural Capitalism

This book is an absolute sustainability tour de force. It is the book that everybody who thinks and writes about sustainability wishes they could write. It comes packed full of information which questions the usefulness of GDP as a measure of progress. As one would expect, there is a lot of information on Natural Capital in the book. This book contains information on everything that is necessary to make capitalism sustainable. It comes highly recommended from me.

7. Rudolph Flesch – The Art of Plain Talk

This was one of the best books that I read in 2018. I liked it so much that I wrote a review of it, which you can find via the link below.

THE ART OF PLAIN TALK – RUDOLF FLESCH

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Anyone can make their communication style more complicated, that is easy. It takes skill to be an effective communicator that is understood by the masses. Rudolf Flesch teaches you how to communicate effectively in this book.

8. Grayson and Hodges – Corporate Social Opportunity

I am a huge fan of Grayson and Hodge’s other book Everybody’s Business, so getting hold of and reading this work of theirs was a priority of mine. There is lots of good content in here to help businesses with their corporate responsibility efforts. It definitely comes highly recommended from me.

9. Seth Godin – All Marketers are Liars

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In this book, Seth Godin uses all of his marketing experience to explain to readers how marketing really works. Despite the provocative title, on the copy I bought, the words ‘are liars’ are crossed out and replaced with ‘tell stories.’

Seth’s analysis is that great marketers tell stories and capture their audiences that way. Whereas average marketers obsess over features and benefits. Follow Seth’s advice and be the story teller.

 

10. Seth Godin – Purple Cow

In this book Seth Godin provides advice on how to transform your business by being remarkable. Many countryside landscapes are covered with mile after mile of similar looking cows. If you passed a purple cow, it would definitely grab your attention. This is the essence of this book. Listen to Seth, always try to be remarkable and abhor average.

11. Erving Goffman – Behaviour in Public Places

I bought this book based on a recommendation from someone who said that it was great. I found the writing style to be quite boring and after reading there was not much that I was left with as key takeaways. Unless you are really interested in psychology, I would probably avoid this book.

12. Nassim Taleb – Fooled by Randomness

This was the first Nassim Taleb book that I read. I was so impressed with it that I went on to read all of his books in 2018. That being said if I could go back and do it again, I would read them in order as they make up a series called Incerto. His writing style makes the otherwise dull world of probability illuminating.

13. William Cohen – The Art of the Strategist

This was one of the best books that I read in 2018. Alongside being a retired Major General of the US Air Force, William Cohen also has a PhD. It contains dozens of examples from business, the military, politics as well as other arenas to explain to the reader what strategy is and how it works. He distils 7,000 years of strategy so that you don’t have to. He distils this history down into 10 principles, with the fundamental principle being to commit fully to a definite objective. It comes highly recommended from me.

14. Giselle Weybrecht – The Future MBA

I really liked this book by Giselle Weybrecht. I am a huge fan of her other book The Sustainable MBA, so it was natural for me to buy this.

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I liked it so much that I wrote a review of it, which you can find via the link below.

THE FUTURE MBA – GISELLE WEYBRECHT

Even though it was aimed at reforming business schools, I think her analysis could be applied much broader and be used to reform all sorts of university courses.

15. Nassim Taleb – Antifragile

I really enjoyed this book. I jumped the gun reading this and with hindsight it would have been better to read the books he had released earlier before reading this. But overall, his writing is brilliant and his analysis is sound. I would definitely recommend this book.

16. Miles Young – Ogilvy on Advertising in the Digital Age

This book by Miles young is a homage to the original 1983 book Ogilvy on Advertising. I am a huge fan of the original, so I made sure that I bought this when it came out. A lot has changed in the years since 1983 and digital technology has changed advertising and mass communications enormously. Miles Young is the Non-Executive Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather and he has done an excellent job with this book.

Reading it inspired me to write the article, which you can find via the link below.

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY ONLINE

17. Nassim Taleb – The Bed of Procrustes

This is a very short book, coming in at only 112 pages. It is also not so much a book, but a collection of philosophical and practical aphorisms. The story of Procrustes in Greek mythology is an interesting one and despite its short length, this offering by Nassim Taleb packs in a lot of interesting ideas.

18. David Meerman Scott – The New Rules of Marketing and PR

I had bought an earlier edition of this book back in 2016 and thought it was great. But as with the need to update Ogilvy on Advertising, social media is a fast-changing landscape so I got hold of a copy of the 2017 edition and read that this year. There is lots of good information in here which will help the reader with their marketing exploits.

david meerman scott

As you can tell from the picture, I made lots of notes whilst reading it and I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about social media marketing.

19. Seth Godin – Permission Marketing

This is probably my favourite Seth Godin book. His tagline of “turning strangers into friends, and friends into customers” sums up nicely what this book is about. So many companies waste their customers attention with boring one-way messages. But a select group of companies who practice permission marketing create content and information that is so good that they have permission to send it to their prospects. This is the pinnacle of marketing that all companies should aspire to.

20. George Orwell – The Road to Wigan Pier

This was the first George Orwell book that I had read for quite a while. It did not disappoint; his writing is stunning and sets the standard that all writers should aspire to achieve. Some of the conditions that he encounters on his travels are simply unbelievable. It’s hard to imagine conditions like that existing in the UK, but not that long ago, they did. Thanks to Orwell, we can learn about this slice of history in vivid detail.

21. Tim Marshall – Divided

I have read all of Tim Marshall’s books, so when this book came out in 2018, I bought it straight away. It is an obvious trend, that despite the progress in knocking down walls since the end of the cold war, recent years have seen the re-emergence of walls between nations. Tim takes the reader on a journey across walls in China, the USA, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Europe and the UK. I found it to be a really interesting read and I would definitely recommend it.

22. Bertrand Russell – Sceptical Essays

This is one of the best books that I have ever read. I like a lot of Bertrand Russell’s books and this is the best of his that I have come across. Bertrand Russell explores science, psychology, philosophy and a range of other ideas with his sceptical outlook. You have to read this book at least once in your lifetime.

23. Debra Meyerson – Tempered Radicals

I bought this book as I had seen it referenced a number of times in books on sustainability. It is about how everyday leaders inspire change at work. Compared to how good I had hoped this book would be, I would have to say that it did not meet those expectations. That being said, it is still an impressive book on how to effect change in organisations and I would recommend it.

24. Carmine Gallo – The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

This was probably the most useful book that I read in 2018. I watched the video which you can find via the link below and then went on to buy the book.

Present Like Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was an incredible presenter and this book nicely distils what made him stand out. The main piece of advice is to have very little on each slide. Have pictures and then talk about the theme in the picture. Don’t cram slides full of bullet points, you will put your audience to sleep.

25. Sadler, et al – The Little Book of Ecosystem Services in the City

I was handed this book as a free copy by Nick Grayson when I went to see him speak at Future Fest in July. It may be a short book, but it is packed full of useful information on ecosystem services. This book inspired my article on trees in urban areas, which you can find via the link below

HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE CAN ONE TREE MAKE?

26. Timothy Ferriss – The 4-Hour Work Week

This is probably the book that I owned for the longest amount of time before reading. There is lots of good advice in here for how you could build a simpler life, either by running your own business or by working for someone else. I would recommend this book.

27. Amory Lovins – Reinventing Fire

This book is a powerful treatise about how through two things, many pressing sustainability problems can be solved. Those two things are energy efficiency and renewable energy. This book contains chapters on transportation, buildings, industry and electricity. It is a phenomenal book and anyone working in sustainability should buy and read it immediately.

28. Manning and Haddock – Office Management

I saw this book for sale in my local library for 20p and I definitely got that amount of information from this. It is really easy to read with space for notes inside so that you can use it for reference. If you can find this anywhere, buy it.

29. George Friedman – The Next Decade

I have read many of George Friedman’s books and they have all been excellent. This one is also very good, if you are interested in geopolitics, then I would definitely recommend reading this book.

30. The Trapese Collective – Do it Yourself: A handbook for changing our world

This is a book about how individuals can organise and take action to solve the many and interconnected challenges that need to be addressed. There are chapters on how to get off the grid, how to grow your own food, why we need autonomous spaces and why direct action is important. This book is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I certainly enjoyed it.

31. George Orwell – Animal Farm

2018 was the first time that I had read Animal Farm. I had heard a lot about it and I believe I have seen a TV adaptation of the book a number of years back. I thought it lived up to all the hype and I read it from cover to cover in no time at all.

32. Nassim Taleb – The Black Swan

This book and the ideas behind it are what I most closely associate Nassim Taleb with. This is a great book about random events. They are almost impossible to predict but their impact is huge. Released in 2007 many people credit Nassim with predicting the oncoming financial crisis. Whilst it is true that there are elements of the book that talk about a coming financial crisis, there are other authors who wrote in more detail about exactly what was to come and why and what the governments reaction would be. Overall, this is still a great book and I highly recommend it.

33. Seneca – Letters from a Stoic

There is lots of good advice in this book. Whether you like philosophy a lot or you would like to learn more about it, I would recommend this book to anyone.

34. Mike Berners-Lee – How Bad are Bananas?

This book has to win the biggest surprise category for 2018. I bought it not expecting much, but then after reading it, it is now one of my favourite books on sustainability. Carbon footprinting is more of an art than a science and Mike does well to explain this to the reader. I highly recommend that you buy and read this book.

35. Patrick Schwerdtfeger – Keynote Mastery

This is an excellent book which chronicles Patrick’s journey from aspiring speaker to a professional keynote speaker who gets booked for speaking gigs all around the world. If you are interested in potentially making a career as a speaker, I would definitely recommend that you get this book.

36. Bob Doppelt – The Power of Sustainable Thinking

This was a really enjoyable book to read. Part 1 dealt with the imperatives for change, whilst part 2 dealt with the path forward. It is clear to me that one of the biggest problems to do with sustainability has little to do with the environment or technology, but to do with how we think about it. Bob Doppelt goes into depth about these sustainability thinking blunders and how they can be overcome. If you work in sustainability, read this book.

37. Heath and Potter – The Rebel Sell

This book is all about how counterculture became the consumer culture. I really enjoyed reading it and they make some very good points. A lot of people who claim to be “fighting against the system” once you dig a little deeper, you find that they are supported by the very system that they are fighting against.

38. Peters and Waterman – In Search of Excellence

I had high hopes for this book, but it did not live up to my expectations. Despite this, there were two things that I picked out that I liked. One was the section on companies being led by values. Successful companies have values that are bigger than themselves. The next was the section on profits where the authors write: “the idea that profit is a natural by-product of doing something well, not an end in itself, is also almost universal.” In successful companies, money alone is not the biggest driver.

39. Norman Vincent Peale – The Power of Positive Thinking

I bought this in January 2018 shortly after the company I worked for went into compulsory liquidation, but I did not read it until much later in the year. There is more religious references in here than I expected and had I known that, I would probably not have bought it. That being said, there is some sound advice about avoiding negative self talk and about how positive affirmations of yourself can help you to become successful. I can see why this is mentioned as a favourite book by a number of extraordinarily successful people.

40. Fussler and James – Driving Eco Innovation

I bought this book based on its title thinking it would be great and I was quite disappointed by it. Some of the content inside was useful, but the writing throughout was quite boring which made it a struggle to read. Overall, I would not recommend this book.

41. George Orwell – Down and out in Paris and London

I thought this George Orwell book was great. He has an interesting tale to tell about how he survived in Paris, living on such a small amount of money for so long. It is a fantastic book and everybody should read it.

42. Bertrand Russell – The Conquest of Happiness

Based on the title alone, this should be a terrible book, but it was actually great. It was full of useful examples to live a happy life and things to avoid if you don’t want to lead an unhappy life. I recommend this book.

43. Nassim Taleb – Skin in the Game

This is the most recent book that Nassim Taleb has released and it is also my favourite of his. Skin in the game may be an old phrase, but Nassim breathes new life into it with this book. There is lots of good information in here on the types of people who don’t have skin in the game for their decisions and those that do. It is a great book and I highly recommend it.

44. George Orwell – Homage to Catalonia

No one could deny that George Orwell lived an incredible life. I have to admit that I didn’t know that much about the Spanish Civil War before reading this book. But I certainly learned a lot by reading this. Again, as with all George Orwell books, the writing is stunning an everyone should read it.

45. Kim and Mauborgne – Blue Ocean Strategy

This book was one of the biggest surprises in 2018. I bought it thinking that it would be another over hyped book that has sold millions of copies.

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But I was pleasantly surprised with the book. It has loads of useful information in it about strategy as well as good takeaways so that you can implement the Blue Ocean principles yourself.

I was so impressed that I wrote a book review, which you can find via the link below.

BLUE OCEAN STRATEGY – KIM & MAUBORGNE

46. Seth Godin – Linchpin

This was the last Seth Godin book that I read in 2018. I like his books for their focus. There is not a lot of waffle, he just picks his message and sticks to it. It is extremely motivational and it is about how you can make yourself indispensable, should you choose to do that.

47. Al Ries – Focus

This was a book that I bought because it was recommended in The Art of Strategy. There is a lot of good advice in here. It does seem to be a common phenomenon that businesses try to constantly do more things to expand their revenue. However, this causes distractions and actually affects profitability in the long term. His advice to businesses is to offer the same service, but expand internationally rather than offer a complex range of services domestically. That sounds like sound advice to me.

48. Lynne Truss – Eats, Shoots & Leaves

This book also provided a big surprise in 2018. I read it thinking that it would be useful and help me with my writing but it would not be that interesting. In the end I found it to be both interesting and informative. I can now see why it won so many book of the year awards when it was first published in 2004.

49. Bailey and Gates – Bike Repair & Maintenance for Dummies

Anyone who know me knows that I love cycling. I have been changing my own flat tyres for the last couple of years, but apart from that, for most other maintenance jobs I leave them to the trained professionals at my local bike shop. But my aim for 2019 is to begin to do more of my own bike maintenance myself. This book was a good primer on how to do that in very straightforward steps.

50. Ray Dalio – Principles

This was the last book that I read in 2018. It is quite long at 544 pages and I still have some more to read before the end of the year. But it is definitely worth buying and reading. Ray Dalio has led a pretty remarkable life and this came across as part autobiography and part non-fiction guide. Even if you don’t like the financial services industry, I would say that this book is still relevant as his principles could be applied to anyone’s life and any industry.

What you need to know

This article provided a short commentary on all of the books that I read in 2018. For anyone who read the whole thing, thank you at 4 thousand words, this is always my longest article of the year.

Reading changed my life and it can change your life too. If there is something that has piqued your interest from this list, you should buy it and read it immediately.

This is my last article of 2018. Thank you to everyone who has been reading my work this year. I look forward to continuing the conversation in 2019.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What is your favourite book that you read in 2018?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

WRAPPING UP 2018

This is the penultimate article I will publish in 2018. This week I will be looking into a personal milestone that I will achieve this year. I will look into some interesting and disturbing facts related to wrapping paper. Then I want to pick out some key items that I believe will define how sustainability in 2018 is remembered.

Wrapping paper

Personal milestone

On a personal note, 2018 has been a good year for me. I have been amazed by how well people have reacted to the content I have been publishing this year. I published articles on 48 out of 52 Sundays in 2017. My target was to publish something every single Sunday in 2018 and with one more article to put out next week, I will have hit that target. As with all things in life, consistency is key. Whether you read and liked one article or supported each and every one, your support and comments are what makes this worthwhile, so thank you.

Wrapping paper madness

Christmas is a time that presents many contradictions for sustainability. It seems that the throwaway culture is placed into overdrive during this period. It is too early to tell whether the Blue-Planet effect will have impacted buying habits this Christmas. But from my initial impressions, I would have to say that this has not happened. Here are a few UK wrapping paper facts to mull over this Christmas.

  • The amount of wrapping paper used for presents is enough to wrap around the equator 9 times.
  • The average household will get through four rolls of wrapping paper.
  • Approximately 910,000,000 metres of wrapping paper will be used
  • Wrapping paper is designed for single use only, and although some of us try to re-use it, realistically this can only be done once or twice before it is finally binned.

Sustainability in 2018

In terms of the wider sustainability agenda, I think 2018 has been a positive year. Momentum continues to build behind sustainable brands and sustainability has become increasingly mainstream. There are 3 items that I have picked out that I believe have defined 2018.

1. Plastics and the circular economy

Ever since the final episode of Blue Planet II was aired in January 2018, businesses and governments worldwide have awoken from their slumber and begun to take action to reduce the use of single use plastics and recycle them wherever possible. It does lead me to think of the possibilities if there was a “Blue Planet” moment for carbon like there has been for plastics. The momentum would be unstoppable.

In 2018 I really liked the P&G, Suez and Terracycle collaboration to produce the world’s first recyclable shampoo bottle made from up to 25% recycled beach plastic. I chronicled this in my article Partnerships for the goals, which you can find via the link below.

PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS

I thought the collaboration summed up nicely, how even titans like P&G and Suez couldn’t solve this problem alone and enlisted the help of recycling upstarts Terracycle to help make it a reality. It’s okay to not have all the answers yourselves. Just make sure you are collaborating and working with others to help make sustainability a reality.

I would say whilst a lot of pressure and momentum was building on plastics in 2018, there has been less progress towards creating a circular economy. This would be an economy made up of a majority of businesses employing a circular economy business model. I chronicled this in my article How to overcome the main barrier to the circular economy, which you can find via the link below.

HOW TO OVERCOME THE MAIN BARRIER TO THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY

Creating a fully circular economy business model is tough. This explains why progress in this area has been slow. But there is good news. Things that are hardest to achieve are generally the most worthwhile. I remain confident that we will see major breakthroughs on circular economy principles in the not too distant future.

2. Carbon targets

This year and every year for the foreseeable future sustainability will be dominated by one problem, carbon. Whether through the combustion of fossil fuels or deforestation and forest degradation human societies continue to emit massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. This carbon is creating a greenhouse effect which is causing a rise in temperatures at a planetary scale.

One article that I published this year that I was very surprised by the response to was my article on Elon Musk’s perspective on climate change. You can find this via the link below.

ELON MUSK ON CLIMATE CHANGE

I was not really prepared for the response that I receive to this. But Elon Musk is a pretty cool guy, very intelligent and he certainly knows how to capture the attention of millennials. Hopefully when people read it, they internalised his central message, which is that this is a big problem that requires fundamental solutions.

One of the most impressive carbon initiatives that was launched in 2018 was Maersk’s new carbon targets.

In December Maersk announced its goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. To achieve this, carbon neutral vessels must be commercially viable by 2030 and new innovations and adaption of new technology is required.

I was really impressed by this and it’s now up for competitors in their industry to see if they can do it quicker.

I thought I chronicled the need for zero-based targets rather well in my article that you can find via the link below. One may be the loneliest number, but as far as sustainability goes, zero is the most important number there is.

WHY ZERO-BASED TARGETS ARE SO POWERFUL

 

3. Thinking bigger about sustainability

This is a trend that I hope will spill over from 2018 and continue to get bigger in 2019.

Whether it is through partnerships with others or ambitious individual targets, it is clear that businesses need to think bigger about sustainability.

I was pleased with the response to my article about Interface, which you can find via the link below.

IS THIS THE BEST SUSTAINABILITY POLICY OF ALL TIME?

 

I still maintain that they remain unmatched at the pinnacle of corporate sustainability. But goals are made to be broken and hopefully we see some new entrants in 2019.

I was blown away by the response to my article about the Net Positive Project, which you can find via the link below.

HOW TO MAKE SUSTAINABILITY GREAT

I think it shows that there is a clear yearning to move sustainability on from being about “being less bad” to creating businesses that are good actors who give back to the communities in which they are based. Hopefully 2019 is a big year for the Net Positive Project.

What you need to know

This article looked into a personal milestone that I will have achieved in 2018, by uploading something new to my website every single Sunday for a year.

We also looked into some interesting facts about wrapping paper. Christmas is known as a time of indulgence and not a time of sustainability. We can only hope consumers buying habits change in the future.

We then looked into 3 things that I believe characterised sustainability in 2018. These were:

1. Plastics and the circular economy

2. Carbon targets

3. Thinking bigger about sustainability

Overall, there is a lot to be positive about in 2018. Sustainability continues to rise in importance in corporate agendas. You can always complain that there is not enough change happening fast enough. But there has been a good foundation laid and things are certainly heading in the right direction.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think defines sustainability in 2018?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

WHAT ARE THE NET POSITIVE PRINCIPLES?

This article looks into the net positive principles. The Net Positive Project is an interesting take on corporate sustainability, with businesses committed to taking their sustainability efforts to new heights.

Net Positive

In their own words: “Net Positive is a new way of doing business which puts back more into society, the environment and the global economy than it takes out.”

This is certainly an impressive goal. They aim: “to become thriving organisations that deliver benefits that extend far beyond traditional organisational boundaries.”

When I first came across the Net Positive Project I was immediately struck by just how different an approach this is from conventional corporate sustainability. In their own words:

Becoming Net Positive requires organisations to be ambitious and plan for long-term success. They have to go beyond risk avoidance and incremental improvements and start to innovate.”

This is what I like the most about the initiative.

Launched in 2016 the project aims to establish itself as the global authority on net positive, creating a standard way for companies to quantify, assess and enhance their positive impacts.

Forum of the Future, WWF, and The Climate Group recommended the following 12 principles to form the basis of the Net Positive Project.

They are listed below.

1 The organization aims to make a positive impact in its key material areas.

2. The positive impact is clearly demonstrable if not measurable.

3. The organization also shows best practice in corporate responsibility and sustainability across the spectrum of social, environmental, and economic impact areas, in line with globally accepted standards.

4. The organization invests in innovation in products and services, enters new markets, works across the value chain, and in some cases, challenges the very business model it relies on.

5. A net positive impact often requires a big shift in approach and outcomes, and cannot be achieved by business-as-usual.

6. Reporting on progress is transparent, consistent, authentic, and independently verified where possible. Boundaries and scope are clearly defined and take account of both positive and negative impacts. Any trade-offs are explained.

7. Net positive is delivered in a robust way and no aspect of a net positive approach compensates for unacceptable or irreplaceable natural losses, or ill treatment of individuals and communities.

8. Organizations enter into wider partnerships and networks to create bigger positive impacts.

9. Every opportunity is used to deliver positive impacts across value chains, sectors, systems, and throughput to the natural world and society.

10. Organizations publicly engage in influencing policy for positive change.

11. Where key material areas are ecological, robust environmentally restorative and socially inclusive methods are applied.

12. An inclusive approach is adopted at every opportunity, ensuring affected communities are involved in the process of creating positive social and/or environmental impacts.

Any organisation that fully committed to these principles would be making a real difference to their trajectory.

They are farsighted and they aim to fully decouple anyone who is committed to the net positive principles from the unsustainable growth of the past. But more than that, it is about going beyond making amends for negative aspects and making a positive contribution to society and the environment.

What you need to know

This article looked into the net positive principles.

We looked into what the net positive project says about itself in their own words.

We then looked at the 12 net positive principles put forward by Forum of the Future, WWF, and The Climate Group.

Overall these are farsighted and ambitious principles. It would be fair to say that there are no organisations in the world who are currently excelling in all 12 principles. But they point towards a positive direction.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think about the net positive principles?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

HOW TO MAKE SUSTAINABILITY GREAT

This article looks into sustainability, net positive futures and how to make sustainability great.

mount fuji

There are a number of stages that businesses pass through on their sustainability journey.

Early sustainability efforts are often focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR). These are philanthropic efforts where the company lets their staff volunteer in the community, or invests in worthy projects. This is certainly better than doing nothing, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

The next stage is a bolt on sustainability stage. This is where companies build up an internal sustainability apparatus, but gives these people limited opportunities to change the strategic direction of the business.

In the next stage, companies progress to embedding sustainability within their business strategy. This is a very advanced level of sustainability. It involves the company choosing to not do things that are damaging and actively looking to create value in a way that is both socially and environmentally sustainable.

Up until recently embedded sustainability would have been considered to be the gold standard of corporate sustainability. Businesses that would have achieved this level would have had nowhere further to progress to.

But this is no longer the case. The Net Positive Project have raised the bar and there is now a new top tier of corporate sustainability. This is reserved for businesses who are committed to creating a net positive future. This means that they are not just committed to reducing all of their negative social and environmental impacts to zero. But they are committed to going into the marketplace and actively making the world a better place. The aim is to create value for all of a company’s stakeholders.

This is a much more inspiring message than the commonplace notion that sustainability is about “being less bad.” Companies that are committed to creating net positive futures aspire to be good actors. Whilst it may only appear to be a small difference, in practice it is dramatically different.

This is what needs to be done to make sustainability great. Compliance is simply not enough, it doesn’t stimulate enough change fast enough to deal with many of the pressing social and environmental problems.

CSR activities, although worthwhile often bare no resemblance to a company’s core business activities. It would be much better to leverage their core capabilities to do good in the marketplace.

For companies that are stuck in the bolt on stage, they need to place more emphasis on integrating sustainability into the overall business strategy. It is also not good value to hire a sustainability team only to not act upon many of their suggestions.

For companies in the embedded stage, the key is to think bigger and to think more systematically about how they can create value through sustainability. This includes looking at the business model they employ and seeing if a circular business model could be used instead. There are big opportunities from taking a systemic approach.

One opportunity is that through leadership in sustainability, your business could become the leader of a movement. Simon Mainwaring has a great video on how this works, which you can find via the link below.

Simon Mainwaring on Becoming a Movement

If you are the CEO of a company, then stretching the boundaries of sustainability and developing a net positive approach will mean that you are perceived in a different light. Take the outpouring of thanks and congratulations that was directed towards Paul Polman after he recently announced his decision to step down as CEO of Unilever. I found the article by Richard Edelman which you can find via the link below to be particularly striking.

PAUL POLMAN – THE CEO WHO CHANGED CAPITALISM

What you need to know

This article looked into sustainability, net positive futures and how to make sustainability great.

We looked into the various stages that businesses pass through on their sustainability journey. This used to begin with CSR and end with embedded sustainability. But this has now been surpassed by businesses who are committed to creating net positive futures.

Businesses who are committed to net positive futures reorient their activities towards creating value for all of their stakeholders. It is about having a regenerative approach, systems thinking, circular economy business models and actively trying to make the world a better place. By doing this, these businesses can lead a movement that benefits them financially by inspiring their customers and employees.

Incremental approaches and approaches that lean too heavily towards compliance simply aren’t good enough. These approaches are not getting us to where we need to be fast enough and there are much more effective and inspirational ways of operating. To make sustainability great, businesses should develop a net positive approach. There has never been a better time to demonstrate leadership in this area.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make sustainability great?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

BLUE OCEAN STRATEGY – KIM & MAUBORGNE

This book review  looks into Blue Ocean Strategy by Kim & Mauborgne. I had known about this book for some time. I was aware of the many copies it had sold and that it was responsible for coining the term Blue Ocean Strategy. Sometimes I think non-fiction books that have sold millions of copies can be over hyped, but this book is not in that category.

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This book is a treasure trove of good ideas and insights for how businesses can think differently about strategy and ultimately, be more effective.

They begin with the observation that:

What consistently separated winners from losers in creating blue oceans was their approach to strategy.

The companies caught in the red ocean followed a conventional approach, racing to beat the competition by building a defensible position within the existing industry order.

The creators of blue oceans, surprisingly, didn’t use the competition as their benchmark. Instead, they followed a different strategic logic that we call value innovation.

This really sets the scene for the central theme that the book is about.

For more information  on value innovation, the authors had this to say:

Because buyer value comes from the utility and price that the company offers to buyers and because the value to the company is generated from price and its cost structure, value innovation is achieved only when the system of the company’s utility, price, and cost activities is properly aligned.”

The diagram below is useful for showing how value innovation is created in the space between costs and buyer value.

value innovation

Effective frameworks are important during the strategy formulation process. This book has a number of excellent frameworks, but there was one in particular that stood out for me. It was the Eliminate-Reduce-Raise-Create Grid. This grid forces businesses to scrutinise every factor that the industry competes on. The inclusion of the eliminate quadrant forces businesses to not over-engineer solutions to problems. Deciding to not do something can be as important as deciding to do something. You can find more information in the grid below.

ERRC

Later on, in a chapter titled ‘focus on the big picture, not the numbers’ the authors have this advice:

“The strategic profile with high blue ocean potential has three complementary qualities: focus, divergence, and a compelling tagline. If a company’s strategic profile does not does not clearly reveal those qualities, it’s strategy will likely be muddled, undifferentiated, and hard to communicate. It is also likely to be costly to execute.”

The quotation above sums up the overarching theme of the book. Effective strategy cannot become all about doing new things. It should be about doing things that a company already does but doing them better and about eliminating things that don’t create value.

Later on, there is a great section on technology and how it applies to Blue Ocean Strategy. The authors had the following to say:

Unless the technology makes buyers’ lives dramatically simpler, more convenient, more productive, less risky, or more fun and fashionable, it will not attract the masses no matter how many awards it wins. Value innovation is not the same as technology innovation.”

I thought this quotation was great. Too often technology is thought of a panacea where more is always better. In reality it is only effective technology that we need more of, not technology for technology’s sake.

The price that a company decides to charge for its product or service is a key component of the strategy formulation process. The authors issue the following guidance:

The key here is not to pursue pricing against the competition within an industry but rather to pursue pricing against substitutes and alternatives across industries and nonindustrues.

Towards the end of the book, the authors offer the following advice for how to create a successful strategy:

At the highest level, there are three propositions essential to the success of strategy: the value proposition, the profit proposition, and the people proposition. For any strategy to be successful and sustainable, an organisation must develop an offering that attracts buyers; it must create a business model that enables the company to make money out of its offering; and it must motivate the people working for or with the company to execute the strategy.

This is great advice, which if taken onboard will help companies with the strategy and execution process enormously.

If companies do manage to transition away from a red ocean into a blue ocean, they may find that others try to copy them. The authors set out a number of barriers that limit this imitation.

One is the alignment barrier. Aligning value, profit and people into an integrated system is not easy. This limits imitation.

The cognitive and organisational barrier. Imitation often requires competitors make substantial changes to their existing business practices. Organisational politics prevents this from happening.

The brand barrier. Brand image conflict can prevent companies from imitating a blue ocean strategy.

The economic and legal barrier. Natural monopoly blocks imitation when the size of a market cannot support another player.

What you need to know

This book review looked at Blue Ocean Strategy by Kim & Mauborgne. Some books really force you to think differently and leave a lasting impression. This book certainly had that effect on me.

Even if you consider yourself to be astute at strategy formulation, by reading this book you can learn something.

Strategy when used incorrectly can be dangerous and can lead organisations to pursue lost causes. But when used correctly, it can be a potent force for change.

I would definitely recommend this book.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What is your favourite book on strategy?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

GREEN, GRÜN, GRÖN: WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

This article looks into various definitions of the word green in sustainability.

green bean

Words are powerful. They can inspire a nation to greatness or lead them towards darkness. Ideally, we would have a fixed sustainability lexicon, where individuals would be free to use terms and those terms would be widely understood. But when it comes to the word green, it is very hard to define what it actually means.

A great resource in this regard comes on page 19 of Patrick Moore’s book Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout. He states that:

At its worst, green is a shameless marketing slogan, used to promote various products and services as environmentally friendly. Yet it is a useful term, a way of distinguishing relatively damaging technologies from ones that have less impact, if it is used objectively.”

Patrick goes on to conclude that:

Green is more of a political or marketing term than a scientific one and therefore refrain from using it when renewable, sustainable, or clean will do. If asked what green means to me, I would say it must pass the test of being sustainable and clean.

Patrick’s contribution is a welcome one, as the former co-founder of Greenpeace, he should certainly know something about the word green and its use in mass communication. His analysis is that it must be used objectively, and that ‘green’ products or services must pass other tests to justify their environmental credentials.

I came across the shades of green framework by CICERO recently and I thought it was really interesting. It should make it easier to decipher between projects that are green and projects that are not. You can find the framework below.

CICERO is Norway’s foremost institute for interdisciplinary climate research. Their opinions are graded dark green, medium green and light green to offer investors better insight into the environmental quality of green bonds.

Green

Bonds that they flag as dark green must go towards financing projects that are aligned with a long-term low carbon future. This includes projects such as wind energy.

Those that they flag as medium green represent a half-way house towards a long-term low carbon future and includes projects such as hybrid busses. These are more sustainable than regular busses, but not quite as sustainable as fully battery powered busses.

Bonds that they flag as light green are projects that are environmentally friendly, but not attached to a long-term vision. This includes projects such as efficiency for fossil fuel infrastructure. These are better than nothing, but do not decouple development from its ties to fossil fuels.

Those that they flag as brown are the last category. These do not deserve the banner of green at all, as they are in opposition to a long-term low carbon future. This would include new infrastructure for fossil fuels, especially coal.

Whilst there is a lot to like about the CICERO shades of green framework, there are still things left unanswered. This includes the fact that green is being used to describe innovations like wind turbines and solar panels, even though they are made from non-renewable materials and often require fossil fuels to create them. The fact that the shades of green framework exists at all shows that there is a spectrum of projects that can be described as ‘green’ with varying degrees of sustainability.

What you need to know

This article looked into various definitions of the word green in sustainability.

We looked at the analysis of Patrick Moore, who personally doesn’t use the term, because of its lack of specificity.

We looked at the CICERO shades of green framework which can be used to rank the projects that green bonds fund from dark green to brown.

Overall, I don’t think the word green is a particularly useful term. It is far too vague and lacks any real meaning.

Clearly green when used in the context of sustainability is being used to describe a product or service that confers some sort of social or environmental benefit. But, it is in that window of uncertainty that unscrupulous businesses will use greenwashing to oversell the benefits of their offering.

Companies pronouncements of how green their projects or initiatives are should therefore be treated with caution, until you can verify what additional sustainable benefits are involved.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What does the word green mean to you?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

WHAT IS DRIVING TROPICAL DEFORESTATION?

This article takes a quick look at tropical deforestation and its causes.

deforestation

Tropical deforestation is an issue that raises passions among many people. The thought that the worlds most valuable ecosystem, made up of trees that have stood for hundreds of years could disappear in the next one to two hundred years is something that most people know is wrong. More than half of the world’s plant and animal species call the tropical rainforests their home. They are the most outstanding terrestrial ecosystem. But if we know all this to be true, why has so little progress been made in solving this problem?

Deforestation and tropical deforestation in particular are closely linked to climate change. Deforestation is responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Trees store carbon, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and release them when they are cut or burned. Climate change is a complex problem to solve, but reducing deforestation is one of the cheaper and easier options available.

In one of my first articles back in February 2017, I wrote about the 3 deadly C’s. These are combustion, cattle and chainsaws. These were outlined by James Lovelock as being 3 aspects of human activity that are having an outsize impact on the environment. You can find a link to my article below. 

The 3 Deadly C’s & Sustainability

I think we can build on James Lovelock’s analysis and be more specific about the drivers of tropical deforestation.

Forest Trends have a great paper, which you can find via the link below. Some of the figures point to what the drivers are.

Supply Change: Tracking Corporate Commitments to Deforestation-Free Supply Chains, 2017

Commercial agriculture is driving at least 2/3 of tropical deforestation globally. This means that action in this area is absolutely essential to controlling tropical deforestation.

The majority of forest clearance stems from the production of the big four commodities. These are:

  1. Palm
  2. Soy
  3. Timber & pulp
  4. Cattle

It is fairly straightforward to understand that a forest would be cleared for the valuable timbers that it holds within it.

The recent focus on palm oil has brought a greater degree of attention to the links between this commodity and deforestation.

But I think the link between soy and cattle, and deforestation is less well understood. Forests are cleared to create land to graze cows. Further land is cleared to grow soy to feed to the cows. This is not only a highly inefficient process, but destroys an irreplaceable ecosystem, not to satisfy human needs, but to satisfy human wants. More emphasis of the benefits of plant-based diets is needed.

What you need to know

This article looked at tropical deforestation and its causes.

We looked at how tropical deforestation poses a threat to biodiversity as well as contributing towards climate change.

We looked at how commercial agriculture is the primary driver of deforestation, with the big four commodities making up the lions share of that deforestation.

Little progress has been made in solving this problem, because of the disconnect between the environmental destruction and the products that it creates. Until recently there was little public understanding  of the link between the palm oil in their goods and deforestation. A lot of people may not have been aware of the presence of palm oil at all.

Timber and pulp are areas that have been well covered by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). But there are still a lot of uncertified forest products on sale in developed countries and in developing countries there is only a small appetite for certified products.

With regards to soy and cattle, which I will link because 70% of soy that is grown is fed to animal livestock. There is little public understanding that their desire for low cost meat is driving deforestation. Despite progress in the other two areas. Progress in this area will remain slow until there is a clear link in the mind of consumers between their desire for beef and tropical deforestation.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. How do you think tropical deforestation can be controlled?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby