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Book Review: Creating a Sustainable Organization

I am finally getting around to posting a review of Creating a Sustainable Organization, by Peter Soyka. I apologize for the delay to my readers and to Peter. The book is well worthwhile.

An effective sustainability strategy is not crafted or executed in a silo. Sustainability strategy must have strong ties to corporate strategy; sustainability practice must be integrated into the full range of company processes. It is this perspective, forged in the author’s many years of experience, that makes this book’s treatment of corporate sustainability distinctive and valuable. I highly recommend it to sustainability practitioners and executives alike.

Books on sustainability can often seem to be written on a blank slate, as if the concept is a new one. This book, by contrast, is rich with historical perspective and insights gained from practical experience. Indeed, the author’s introduction states that his approach “is firmly grounded in the practices that have been developed within and by the EHS profession during the past 15 years or so.” The book also has a valuable review of the history of environmental, health and safety and social equity laws and regulations, which should be enlightening to those who have not studied this history before.

I have read dozens of books on corporate sustainability in recent years. None has done as good a job rooting the topic in the real-world context of corporate environment, health and safety practices; the finance function; and the perspective of institutional investors. Sustainability practitioners who understand this context will have an edge when it comes to developing strategy, defining programs, and communicating with the diverse set of parties who claim a stake in a company’s mission, its performance and its sustainability stance.

One weakness of the book is its rather heavy, pedantic style. It is common to find whole paragraphs composed almost entirely sentences 25 or more words long. But that didn’t prevent me from reading the book cover to cover.

The book is especially valuable to relative newcomers to the field of sustainability. But I expect that even experienced professionals will find the book helpful in crystallizing and articulating the insights they’ve accumulated along the way.

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