Soundview Executive Book Summaries


Wal-Mart Goes Local for Harvest Season

As more and more companies search for ways to create sustainability, retail giant Wal-Mart is making its own strides in the green movement. In this Associated Press article, the retailer reveals its five-year plan to increase the amount of locally-grown produce it features in its stores. The company also hopes to lower the amount of food waste at its stores by as much as 15 percent depending on the market. It’s not clear whether the retailer’s plan is in response to the growing number of consumers who support “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” campaigns that draw business away from Wal-Mart and toward smaller farms and produce retailers.

What I found intriguing is Wal-Mart’s plan to educate local farmers on sustainable agricultural practices and ways to increase efficiency. The company would like to train more than 1 million farmers in emerging markets on crop selection and sustainable farming techniques. While some may criticize this decision as an attempt to paper over a low-cost supply chain, Wal-Mart deserves some credit for attempting to create a commitment to sustainable agriculture.

Soundview has previously covered the topics of sustainability and consumer demand for green products. If you’re looking for great book summaries on these topics, I’d highly recommend the following two titles.

Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. The percentage of customers who base buying decisions on a product’s eco-sensibility is increasing. In this summary, Goleman examines the shift in transparency and how it plays into succeeding in the developing eco-marketplace. If you read the summary and want to learn more, Soundview also held an excellent installment of Soundview Live that featured Goleman discussing Ecological  Intelligence.

The Necessary Revolution by Peter Senge, Sara Schley, Bryan Smith, Nina Kruschwitz and Joe Lau. If sustainability is a subject about which you need complete understanding, few books handle the topic better than this one. Senge and his co-authors deliver memorable takeaways that will help any executive direct his or her business toward a profitable approach to solving global environmental issues.

For these and other great titles, visit Soundview’s Web site Summary.com to learn more!



The Art of Conservation

If you’re a visitor to the site that hosts my little blog, you’ve probably seen the “Freshly Pressed” page. This listing of six or eight attention-getting blog posts always offers something intriguing. I’ve made the list before, an accomplishment that I’m sure would hardly impress my children, but I digress.

This post from a nature blog caught my eye because of its message. Soundview headquarters is located in the Philadelphia area, and we’ve received an extra dash or two of snow this year. In fact, more fell last night, so the first three photographs in this post are quite similar to images I saw as I left home this morning. The blogger makes a brilliant point about leaving a city to build a home in the pastoral beauty of the country. The first step involved in building such a home is destroying the very environment we sought to enjoy when we left the city. The blogger’s plea for a more mutual coexistence between man and his surroundings echoes an important point from one of our current summaries.

Once we’ve finished knocking down trees to build a house, we stock the house with stuff. It’s the stuff with which we stock the house that has author Daniel Goleman concerned. In his book Ecological Intelligence, Goleman provides key insights for consumers and manufacturers alike about the need to reform our manufacturing and purchasing practices.

In a conversation with Soundview, Goleman said, “We’re using up fresh water. We’re using up forests. We’re using up non-renewable resources all because of, basically, our individual decisions when we go shopping because we are collectively the wheel that’s driving a gigantic industrial commercial machine that is harvesting the planet. People are seeing that we can’t do this in the same way. It’s not sustainable.”

The summary of his book is a great place to start with information about how to make the changes we need. In the meantime, maybe we could follow the blogger’s advice and let those hedges at the edge of the yard get a little ragged. After all, they look rather nice when covered in snow.



Captain Moore’s Waterview

On Monday (Sept. 7) the oceanographic research vessel Alguita embarked on a 10th anniversary voyage to retrace its first trip to study plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean. Specifically the course heads for “the great Pacific garbage patch” described in my Ocean Conservancy  calendar as “A giant floating ‘continent’ of garbage, twice the size of Texas.”

Apparently it was during Captain Charles Moore’s Pacific Ocean crossing after the Transpacific Yacht Race in 1997 when he was heading back to California from Hawaii that he had the disturbing intersection with what ABC News subsequently described as 3.5 million tons of trash that is 80 percent plastic.

Captain Moore founded the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which owns the ORV Alguita, and has ever since surrendered his time and resources to examining the impact of this massive floating swill, increasing awareness about it, and figuring out how to get rid of it. A July 2008 Discover magazine article described how in this particular area of the Pacific there is a series of currents several thousand miles wide that swirl together ensnaring trash and debris from North America, Asia and the Hawaiian Islands. The tricky part, as far as funding research and assigning cleanup dollars, is that the open ocean waters of the world are a difficult place to justify government spending.

I confess I had never heard about this huge floating garbage patch before. It makes me realize that we should be continuously promoting and adding to our Soundview Business of Green collection to give people access to information about sustainability and responsible business practices. Two other important books that we have summarized, Saving the World at Work and The Necessary Revolution shout out the importance of being environmentally responsible at work and home.

With fresh summer memories typically embracing a waterview that we choose to savor until next year, this topic captures another picture we shouldn’t quickly forget.



Onward to The Green Road

One of my joys as editor in chief is reviewing the numerous book reviews that are submitted to us. We have a talented pool of writers who imbue their reviews with style and creativity. From the monthly allotment, we provide the best reviews on Summary.com for FREE. It just takes the simple step of signing up for a log-in.

Of course, my appetite for reviews doesn’t stop with the ones that fill my inbox. I go in search of intriguing reviews from many outlets, both print and online. This review, furnished by Matter Network via the folks at Reuters, deals with Andrew Winston’s book Green Recovery, published by our friends at Harvard Business School Press.

The review, as well as the book itself, make the case for continued emphasis on green thinking in business. With the recent battles over health care and the continued concern about the jobless rate in the United States, there may be those who assume that the green movement is pushed onto the side-table until other issues are resolved. This is a bit foolhardy, and Winston devotes a good bit of his effort to assert the needs of businesses of all sizes to not take their eye off the globe. Winston’s six business trends are among those commonly named drivers of the green business movement, and each has enough push behind it to ensure that it won’t leave the agenda in any boardroom for some time.

If you have a particular interest in the impact of the search for sustainability on the business world, I’d recommend Soundview’s collection The Business of Green. We compiled 11 of the most important books written to date on the subjects that rest beneath the green banner. It wouldn’t hurt to get informed on environmental issues, because as Winston indicates, a company’s ecological practices will only come under greater scrutiny in the months and years ahead. Oh, and don’t worry about the footprint of our collection … it’s available in a variety electronic formats but not on paper. No trees were harmed in its creation.



Taking the Temperature on Climate Change

As I sit here in the suburbs of Philadelphia, the temperature is in the mid-80s and we’ve got our usual dose of heavy humidity to start the summer. Meanwhile, a couple hours to our south, the temperature on Capitol Hill is starting to heat up … and global warming is only part of the reason.

While the House of Representatives works on a bill concerning climate change, the debate will swing back and forth over the details of the “cap and trade” concept. I’m not here to comment on the bill itself, but it raises the point that we will likely see more business books in the coming year that deal with the impact of environmental regulation on business. However, there are books that are currently available that take a proactive examination of climate change and sustainability.

One of my favorites is The Necessary Revolutionby Peter Senge, Sara Schley, Nina Kruschwitz, Bryan Smith and Joe Laur. We featured this book in our September 2008 edition, and it was instantly popular with our readers. What’s even more pleasing is that this book’s concepts have only grown in relevance over the last 12 months. Businesses will likely be on the receiving end of the responsibility that is doled out by government legislation. However, they also have a great opportunity to be leaders in changing the way individuals approach the issue of climate change. Sometimes the masses need a bit of a nudge, other times, the consumer is the one to do the nudging. Fortunately, this book covers the bases and more with innovative strategies to help companies solve environmental problems while still maintaining profitability.

Visit us at Summary.com to get your copy of  The Necessary Revolution. It might just help you prepare for “cap and trade,” if Congress can ever agree on anything.



Why Stop With Earth Day?

If you printed out this installement of the Soundview Editor’s Blog, shame, shame! After all, today is Earth Day, and in the ever-expanding global consciousness of all things green, we shouldn’t forget that it’s the small things that make a difference. The  notion of environmental awareness is much-discussed, but where does it actually lead? If we’re operating under the age-old adage of actions speaking louder than words, Earth Day is as good a day as any to take a long look in the mirror.

Just like so many areas of our lives, be it eating right, getting regular, strenuous exercise or going for routine medical check-ups, being green is a great idea that’s often difficult to put into practice. Who hasn’t had their feet burned on the infamous path paved with their good intentions? Making the correct decisions for the Earth can be time-consuming. It takes an effort to do simple actions like separating one’s trash or replacing every light bulb, not to mention remembering reusable grocery bags every time we set out for the store. These actions are just the basics.

It’s far more likely that people are more concerned with money than with time. The media is starting to pick up on this notion, and it’s no surprise that when put to a vote, the real “green initiative” is conserving the paper in our wallets. Fortunately, there are many companies who are working very diligently to benefit consumers and the environment at the same time. The more effort companies put into making environmentally-friendly practices a benefit to consumers, the better everyone will be in the long run. Now that’s an Earth Day wish we could all make together.

Lest you think I’m looking to cast stones from my glass-lined editorial pulpit, we’re trying to do our part as well. Check out our new collection, The Business of Green, and help your company take affordable, proactive steps to making smart choices for your business, your customers and the environment. We’re featuring 11 key summaries of top business titles with an environmental edge. What’s more, this collection is only available electronically. Like I said, it’s the small things that make a difference.