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 to learn more!


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.

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 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.