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Our popular Dean at Darden, @Bob_Bruner, has a great blog in which he shares social and economic analysis from his travels, updates from Darden (such as this recent one on sustainability), and an annual, highly anticipated annotated list of his favorite readings of the year. Since he is a prolific reader, this is a very helpful list! To shamelessly emulate his tradition, I’d like to share some of my favorite sustainability readings. Many of these are required for MBA and Executive Education courses at Darden including:

  1. Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Professor Andrea Larson
  2. Business and Sustainability: Professors Richard Brownlee and Mark White
  3. The Executive Program (TEP): Professors Alan Beckenstein, Venkat Venkataraman and Alec Horniman

Our intention is that such coursework will equip students with an informed sustainability perspective to strengthen their managerial and decision-making capabilities, and their ability to tackle society’s greatest challenges such as poverty and climate change. This is important for careers in all areas, whether supply chain, marketing/brand management, consulting, finance or entrepreneurship. More specifically, we aim to develop in students the following competencies:

• Ability to design and execute collaborative sustainability strategies to: increase revenues through innovative products and services; lower costs through efficiencies and design; create and enhance sustainable brands; and mitigate business risk.

• Knowledge of the global and systemic impacts on natural systems and human well-being from important societal trends such as urbanization, industrialization and population growth.

• Understanding of regional and global institutions and policy instruments that influence business operations and strategy.

Below is the annotated list of eleven articles and books, plus a brief video. Do feel free to respond with your favorites via @dardensustain!


1.  Shoots, greens and leaves, The Economist, June 16, 2012

When economies are industrializing and growing by as much as 8% a year, it is necessary that development be green at the outset.

2. Company Stakeholder Responsibility: A New Approach to CSR

The Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics, Darden School of Business

Discusses why and how a company creates value by managing for stakeholders rather than focusing exclusively on pleasing shareholders in the short-term.

3. Confessions of a Radical Industrialist, by Ray C. Anderson

Engaging story about how sustainability innovator and carpet company Interface, Inc. cut waste, water and energy use significantly, and created a culture of sustainability opportunists.

4. The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World, by Peter M. Senge, Bryan Smith, Nina Kruschwitz, Joe Laur and Sara Schley

Shares true stories, including both successes and tough challenges, from individuals and organizations tackling social and environmental problems through business. It is wrapped in the context of systems thinking: approaching change by tackling the whole system and developing new capacities.

5. Sustainability: The ‘Embracers’ Seize Advantage

MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group

This article reports on the second Sustainability & Innovation Global Executive Study by SMR and BCG. It distinguishes two types of companies: “embracers” — those who highly prioritize sustainability at a strategic level — and “cautious adopters,” who are still just focused on measures to reduce energy, waste and risk. The report shares seven characteristics of embracer companies, worthy of emulating.

6. State of Green Business 2012 by Joel Makower et al, GreenBiz Report 

An overview on numerous industries and players, the astonishing amount of activity, aggregate impact (or lack thereof), and the nature of the challenges for companies to truly make progress on embedding sustainability into their operations.

7. The Sustainability Imperative by David A. Lubin and Daniel C. Esty, Harvard Business Review, May, 2010.

Sustainability, like other “business megatrends” has predictable aspects that inform companies seeking to employ a sustainability strategy to achieve long-term competitiveness.

8. Embedded Sustainability by Chris Lazlo and Nadya Zhexembayeva

Addresses, with a good blend of theory and examples of practice, how to integrate sustainability into the DNA of the company rather than achieving “bolt-on,” or superficial, changes. Also highlights three global trends that make a sustainability strategy necessary: declining resources, radical transparency, and increasing expectations. Gives excellent set of sustainability references.

9. Ernst and Young Faculty Connection – Sustainability Reporting: Becoming Mainstream by Prof. Richard Brownlee, Darden School of Business

Highlights the growing desire for transparent and credible information from companies about their environmental and social performance, along with traditional financial metrics. New reporting frameworks that integrate all such measures of performance are becoming more mainstream, necessitating that corporate leaders understand how to produce and analyze the information.

10. Sustainability, Innovation and Entrepreneurship , by Prof. Andrea Larson, Darden School of Business  

This textbook offers tremendous background knowledge on trends influencing business, such as energy, climate and health. It provides frameworks for how businesses are embracing innovation for sustainability in order to lower costs and increase competitiveness.

11. Lifecycle Assessment: Where Is It on Your Sustainability Agenda? by Deloitte Development LLC

Lifecycle Analysis (LCA) is increasingly seen as a critical tool for companies to understand the embedded energy, water and materials in their products and processes. Managers need to understand the basics of LCA, including what questions to ask and what analysis boundaries to set, in order to make operational decisions that bring about the greatest financial and environmental benefits. Additionally, companies can use LCA tools to address consumer demand for transparency about product impacts.

12. MBA Careers for Change, Darden School of Business

Last but not least, this is a video not a book or article, but it will inspire you to hear how MBAs talk about their summer internships with specific examples of tackling challenges in waste, energy and public education.

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