The Sustainable Business Case Book
Ross Gittell, University of New Hampshire
Matt Magnusson, University of New Hampshire
Michael Merenda, Whittemore School of Business
Copyright Year: 2012
ISBN 13: 9781453346778
Publisher: Saylor Foundation
Conditions of Use
The book includes thirteen chapters. The first six chapters explain concepts related to sustainability (i.e., sustainability frameworks (Chapter 1), the science of sustainability, including sustainability economics, earth’s history, and ecology,... read more
The book includes thirteen chapters. The first six chapters explain concepts related to sustainability (i.e., sustainability frameworks (Chapter 1), the science of sustainability, including sustainability economics, earth’s history, and ecology, human activity impacts on the ecosystem (Chapter 2), government, public policy, and sustainable business (Chapter 3), accountability for sustainability (Chapter 4), entrepreneurship, innovation, and sustainable business (Chapter 5), and sustainable business marketing (Chapter 6). The content of those chapters is well-organized and wide-ranging. The second half of the book focuses on case studies on sustainable businesses. Although the topics covered and are very relevant, one aspect that is lacking is focus on the social dimension of sustainability. While the author always refers to the triple bottom, stressing that the case studies followed the triple bottom line sustainability framework (environmental, social, and economic aspects), the actual content on social aspects of sustainability is very limited or practically missing—almost all content links to environmental aspects of sustainability and some points on economic aspects.
Each chapter includes learning objectives, key takeaways, exercises, and “side bars.” The theoretical/conceptual chapter includes references to case studies to support the claims. Yet, the same case studies are often referenced – e.g., Steinfeld Yogurt, Walmart, and Timberland, when referring to various topics. It is recommended that companies different from the cases in the case study chapters are referenced to enrich the content.
The content in the book is mostly accurate (considering it was published in 2012), with minor grammatical errors. A few references are missing when explaining concepts. Additionally, a few of the website and video links are inactive (outdated). Similarly, some of the content is generally outdated – mainly from 2010, 2011. Once again, there is no discussion on social aspects of sustainability when the triple bottom line is referenced, which might cause confusion with the readers/students. Considering that the book was published in 2012, a big chunk of information – e.g., statistical data, laws and regulations, as well as some case studies, need to be updated.
The book was very relevant in 2012. The content is somewhat out-of-date now (in 2021), particularly the case studies and statistical information. Some of the trends in sustainability have also changed – e.g., consumer interest in sustainability and the number of businesses pursuing change towards sustainability; new eco-labels, not discussed in the book, are also “trending.” However, the first several chapters – e.g., Chapter 1 to 4 are still very relevant as they include the “basis” of business sustainability. Chapters 5 and 6 focusing on innovation and marketing need some updates. The case studies are still relevant, but some of the information in them can be updated, and perhaps new case studies added.
The text is well-written, with adequate technical terminology used. All jargon/technical terms have been explained. The chapter objectives and key takeaways help guide the reader throughout each section. Some videos/photos links are not active, but that is expected considering that the book was published almost ten years ago.
The text is internally consistent, keeping the focus on sustainability with relevant terminology. The only “gap” is the constant reference to the triple bottom line framework, while the three dimensions were not addressed equally, the social aspect lens is practically missing from the book. Otherwise, the author stays on point/consistent throughout the textbook.
The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections with multiple subsections in each chapter, accompanied by chapter objectives, side bars with key concepts and “small” case studies, as well as key takeaways. It will be easy for an instructor to assign part of a chapter or one or two chapters from the book as a class reading. The topics are well-divided and can be used separately yet follow the same common focus.
The topics in the text are presented in a logical fashion. Each chapter builds on the previous one while also leaving it possible to be used independently. The learning objectives of each section, including the case studies, as well as the key takeaways, keep the organization clear. Yet, a table of contents would have been very helpful, potentially assisting instructors and students find certain chapters, as well as specific sub sections and case studies.
Some interface issues exist, as a few images/charts are cut or unavailable, but that is expected considering the publication date (almost ten years ago).
Minor grammatical errors were identified, as well as some missing references.
The book is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. Yet, the references in chapters 1-6, as well as the case studies, could have included more culturally diverse examples, perhaps with a more international focus. Additionally, if the content on social aspects of sustainability is added, as suggested above, the book can be enriched greatly, particularly by adding content on equity, diversity, and inclusion; adding sustainability elements as pertaining to human rights, quality of life, health and safety, empowerment, community engagement, gender equality, access to education, children and family wellbeing, and many more.
The book is well-written, and I plan on using it in some of my courses focusing on sustainability, particularly the first four chapters and some of the case studies. I would recommend the book to colleagues as well. Thank you!
The textbook covers sustainability comprehensively taking into consideration its triple bottom line (Economic, Environmental, and Social perspectives). First six chapters discuss core concepts and disciplines that are directly associated with... read more
The textbook covers sustainability comprehensively taking into consideration its triple bottom line (Economic, Environmental, and Social perspectives). First six chapters discuss core concepts and disciplines that are directly associated with sustainability, such as science, policy, accountability, entrepreneurship/innovation, and marketing. The case studies also provide readers with comprehensive views in the context of the triple bottom line. There are 7 different case studies and each of them is framed with specific learning objectives based on the core concepts and disciplines discussed in early chapters.
It would have been helpful for readers to locate specific chapters if the book contained a table of contents, but the bookmarks function of PDF is well organized if readers will keep the electronic format.
I think most content in the book is accurate and the authors cite definitions and examples. However, some examples such as Toyota Prius (page 38) has become controversial about whether it actually provided environmental benefits as more scientific research results have suggested different implications since this book was published.
Examples are not necessarily up-to-date (e.g., 2006 Mintel Research study cited to explain growth of the green marketplace on page 31) but the text covers significant issues that need to be reviewed to understand what sustainability means in various perspectives. While some content still needs updating as sustainability business continues to evolve, overall content is definitely relevant to the main topic of the book; sustainability and its triple bottom line perspectives.
Content in each chapter aligns with learning objectives. Specific learning objectives for each sub-chapter help readers to stay focused on key points.
Some images are not showing as mentioned. Website links are either not working (e.g., p.375 CSR reports and Voices of Challenge) or not outdated (e.g., p.394 Pax World page not found). These figures/images and links must be updated to provide more clarity on contents.
The content is consistent throughout the text. While one may consider it somewhat redundant, the focus stays on sustainability with long-term perspective in managing a business. The authors keep bringing the same examples (e.g., Timber company, McDonald’s, and Green Mountain Coffee) to explain different best practices and concepts within sustainability.
The textbook provides learning objectives for each chapter, side bar that explains key terms and concepts, key takeaways that summarize each chapter, and exercises that provide insightful discussion questions. The book will be useful for instructors to use individual chapters or case studies as a class module.
Bookmarks function of the PDF is helpful in locating right content.
The book is substantial in content and the book refers to each chapter to supplement a concept that is introduced earlier but covered in details later in the book. The organization/structure of the entire textbook including the case studies is clearly presented with consistent order of Introduction, learning objectives, exercises, sub-chapters, key takeaways, and exercises.
Interface issues are found in several pages. On page 15, Green Mountain Coffee statement is not showing up and the source is cut and listed on next page. As previously mentioned, figures/images, and website links should be fixed or updated.
There were no grammatical errors I found.
As the authors stated on Preface, the intent of the book is not mean to exhort all business people on the path to sustainability enlightenment but to highlight some of the benefits, opportunities, and challenges, associated with sustainable business practices. In that regards, the textbook does not go overboard at all in terms of cultural issues. However, as sustainability is a global issue, the content will become more culturally relevant if the book provides examples from international companies and address the triple bottom line, especially on social perspective.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this textbook and find useful quotes and case studies that I would like to use for my class. Thank you!
This textbook provides interesting and important case studies on sustainable businesses, which highlight the challenges and benefits of following and achieving the triple-bottom-line goals of sustainability. The case studies are effective at... read more
This textbook provides interesting and important case studies on sustainable businesses, which highlight the challenges and benefits of following and achieving the triple-bottom-line goals of sustainability. The case studies are effective at delving into different sustainability considerations encountered by different industries and also provide intriguing looks at the leadership and decision-making involved in running sustainable businesses. Furthermore, the first six chapters of the textbook introduce the diverse and complex dimensions of sustainability and I was particularly pleased to see chapters on Science, Public Policy and Entrepreneurship.
While the textbook includes work from Friedmann, Porter and others, I was surprised to find missing the work of sustainability's leading visionaries and founders, such as Paul Hawken, Amory and Hunter Lovins, Bill McDonough, Michael Braungart, or Janine Benyus as well as an international references from Business for Social Responsibility, and businesses with international operations and customers There are also many books and excellent videos on this topic that are worth referencing and sharing with readers. Overall, any OER textbook needs to stay current and offer recent resources (from the last 5 years).
The introductory chapters need to provide clear, concise and accurate definitions and examples. I found that Chapter 1 confused Corporate Social Responsibility with the triple-bottom-line of Sustainability, which requires that all three pillars are met. This is a critical distinction, particularly for students who are new to this field. I also found inconsistent definitions and examples, i.e. in Section 1.3 the examples do not include social/equity examples. And I believe that most sustainable businesses (including those profiled in the case studies) would disagree that “profit and internal factors are the most important factors for motivating companies to become sustainable” (section 1.3). Rather, external factors such as making a difference in our community, upholding ethical standards, protecting places we love, empowering our employees and providing innovative products and services are documented as long-term, sustaining motivators in successful sustainable businesses. Section 2.1 could supplement the Tragedy of the Commons with perspectives from Paul Hawken, Rocky Mt. Institute and economists like Joel Magnuson (Latest book: The Approaching Great Transformation). Also, Section 2.3 needs to include human health impacts; Section 3.4 would benefit from inclusion of the Precautionary Principle; and Section 5.3 is missing the amazing innovations in Biomimicry and Green Chemistry.
The content is relatively up-to-date. As previously mentioned, faculty have the impression that OER textbooks are more current and are updated regularly (but is there funding for this?), so I’d like to see links, resources, statistics, etc. kept current (from the last 5 years).
Overall, the text is well-written and interesting to the reader. The “Key Takeaways” sections provide great clarity for students and outline how professors can integrate each section into a course. As previously mentioned, some of the definitions, theories and models could be better defined and explained. Also, I was unable to see the Figures in the online version; I had to download, save and re-open the textbook in order to see the Figures.
After the first chapter, the triple-bottom-line pillars of sustainability were well explained, particularly planet and profit. The case studies were presented consistently with good examples.
The case studies are ideal for inclusion in any class module and I also liked the “Sidebars” which encourage readers to research more about a particular topic or example. I would recommend this textbook to colleagues in departments other than business, because of the case studies.
The organization and structure of the textbook is clearly presented and easy to follow. I would have liked to see better editing in some sections that includes references to other textbook sections that offer additional explanations and examples. (i.e. Section 1.2 McDonald’s example is weak – could better reference Section 4.5)
As noted, there are interface issues, as I was unable to see any of the Figures in the online version of the textbook.
I didn’t find any errors.
This text offers business-oriented perspectives and case studies from US-based companies. I would have liked to see more discussion and examples representing the third “E” of “Social Equity” which includes cultural and social diversity, social justice and even cultural literacy, which are critical considerations for businesses that provide products and services to increasingly diverse customers.
Thank you for providing this useful case book!
In my view this text is not meant to be comprehensive but mainly to provide "real world business examples of sustainability in action." However, it does take a systems approach to the understanding of sustainability, which includes a variety of... read more
In my view this text is not meant to be comprehensive but mainly to provide "real world business examples of sustainability in action." However, it does take a systems approach to the understanding of sustainability, which includes a variety of social, political issues, natural resources, the market system and economy, and global operations. This text provides a great framework for conducting sustainable business that applies a triple bottom line (EBL) taking into consideration profit, people and planet. While the cases cover a wide product range none of them are about big box retailers. It is challenging to analyze sustainability in the discount retail industry but it would expand the audience of book if such a case is included. The case of GMCR does provide a taste of sustainability in the specialty retail industry, but again it is focused more on the product than on sustainable retail management. This text does not contain an index or glossary list.
Yes. The content is accurate and appears to be unbiased.
Content is relatively up-to-date. Though the year of publication is not indicated in the text most references were from before the year 2012. Literature and practices of sustainability change very rapidly. Thus, the content does require frequent updating but it should be easy to implement.
The text is overall well written. In a few cases, the theories or models could be explained more. For example, the authors mentioned Porter's corporate social responsibility (CSR) model and explained its importance and application without fully describing what this model is and its key constructs (see p. 35). / Some of the important sustainability frameworks or models are integrated into the discussion of other topics and could easily be missed by the reader. If they each had a subheading with more substantial descriptions, interpretations, and applications it would be better understood.
The three economic, environmental, and social perspectives were applied throughout the entire text with an emphasis on the first two. The cases generally followed a consistent format in presentation.
This text contains very useful modules, such as Key Takeaways, Sidebar, and Exercises, which could help to better understand the concepts and ideas presented in the text. Other modules could also be developed, such as basic facts about the reviewed business cases, etc.
Organization is clear and logical. Writing could be more succinct. There is sometimes redundancy. For example, the idea that companies need to achieve profitability is repeated several times (see p. 5).
There are some interface issues. For example, some of the images captured from online are not showing up (See p. 10, 11, 26, 278, 285, 290 etc.) in the book although the links could lead you to the original images. An empty space in where the image should be looks like an editorial accident. Formatting could be more consistent. For example, the authors mentioned stakeholder management and corporate citizenship as parallel concepts. But one is in bold the other is not (see p. 29). In some cases space is oddly left and managed (see p. 284).
I found no grammatical errors. Way to go!
The text is business oriented and not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. However, it would be interesting if it slightly expands its scope and includes business cases especially from developing countries as they are facing even more urgent environmental challenges.
Overall, a very useful text for studying sustainability. Cases are great!
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Introduction to Sustainable Business and Sustainable Business Core Concepts and Frameworks
- Chapter 2: The Science of Sustainability
- Chapter 3: Government, Public Policy, and Sustainable Business
- Chapter 4: Accountability for Sustainability
- Chapter 5: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Sustainable Business
- Chapter 6: Sustainable Business Marketing
- Chapter 7: Case: Sustainable Business Entrepreneurship: Simply Green Biofuels
- Chapter 8: Case: Marketing Sustainability: Seventh Generation Creating a Green Household Consumer Product
- Chapter 9: Case: Brewing a Better World: Sustainable Supply Chain Management at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.
- Chapter 10: Case: Oakhurst Dairy: Operations Management and Sustainability
- Chapter 11: Case: Accounting for Sustainability: How Does Timberland Do It and Why?
- Chapter 12: Case: Sustainable Investing: Pax World Helping Investors Change the World
- Chapter 13: Case: Strategic Mission–Driven Sustainable Business: Stonyfield Yogurt
About the Book
The issue of sustainability and specifically sustainable business is of increasing interest and importance to students of business and also students in the sciences, government, public policy, planning and other fields. There can be significant benefits from students learning about sustainable business from the rich experiences of business practice.
The Sustainable Business Case Book by Gittell, Magnusson and Merenda is one of the first of its kind. It combines the the theory of sustainability with key concepts, analytical information and contextual information with a collection of cases which provide insights, perspective and practical guidance on how sustainable businesses operate from different business functional area perspectives.
The Sustainable Business Case Book can be used as a stand-alone text or as a supplemental textbook for undergraduate courses that have an interest in sustainable business. While the book's primary focus is on the relationship between business and sustainability, the book can also be used in courses offered in fields other than business, including environmental and earth systems sciences, environmental studies, urban planning, economics and public policy.
The first part of The Sustainable Business Case Book, Chapter 1 through Chapter 3, introduces students to the meaning of sustainability, and the practice of sustainable business. The introductory chapters also describe key concepts, analytical frameworks, and contextual information relevant for the understanding of business sustainability. Chapter 1, defines sustainability and describes how and why businesses choose to engage in sustainable practices and how sustainable business practices relate to corporate profitability and social responsibility. Chapters 2 and 3 provide important background and contextual information affecting sustainable business practice. Chapter 2, The Science of Sustainability, reviews scientific evidence about climate change and the human and business influences on climate change. Chapter 3, Sustainability, Public Policy and Business, describes the significant role of government and public policy in sustainability, including setting the rules, regulations and laws that define the market and market opportunities for sustainable business practice.
After presenting a framework for understanding business engagement in sustainability and helping your students develop a core background of information on sustainable business seven case studies across the business disciplines illustrating business sustainability practices are presented. At the beginning of each case study chapter Learning Objectives are listed with major sustainable business points and principles that the case will illustrate and illuminate. Each case chapter includes listing of Key Takeaways, Key Terms and Exercises for students. In each case chapter, there are four main areas of focus:
Context and motivating interest in sustainability for company;
Description of the sustainable business practice and how it was implemented;
Results in terms of changes in sales/revenues, costs, profits and competitive positioning from the sustainable business practice;
Challenges and opportunities, and future considerations as a result of the company implementing the sustainable business practice.
About the Contributors
Ross Gittell is the James R. Carter Professor at the University of New Hampshire's Whittemore School of Business and Economics. Professor Gittell’s scholarly focus involves applying economic, organizational and management theory to regional, state, and community economic development issues. His main areas of specialization and research include entrepreneurship, the environment and the economy, and collaborative public and private sector economic development efforts. He is the author of two books and over 70 academic articles. In 2002 Professor Gittell received the University of New Hampshire’s Excellence in Public Service award and in 2004 the University’s Outstanding Associate Professor award. Professor Gittell’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Energy Foundation. His applied research activities include work for the states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the New Hampshire Business & Industry Association, the State of New Hampshire’s, Department of Environmental Services, the New Hampshire Small Development Center, the Children’s Alliance of New Hampshire and the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy. Professor Gittell is Vice President, forecast manager and on the board of the New England Economic Project. He is also on the board of the Exeter Trust Company, the Endowment for Health, Exeter Health Services and Exeter Hospital. Ross Gittell received his Ph.D. from Harvard University, M.B.A. from University of California at Berkeley, and A.B in Economics from the University of Chicago.
Matt Magnusson is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Whittemore School of Business and Economics with a master of business administration. He currently is earning his PhD in natural resources and environmental studies at UNH and is also an adjunct lecturer at UNH, teaching sustainability business models. He has provided analysis on the economic impacts of several different environmental public policy initiatives, including work on the NH Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a carbon cap-and-trade program in the Northeast. Other research includes “New Hampshire’s Green Economy and Industries: Current Employment and Future Opportunities,” “Economic Impact of the Proposed Antrim 30 MW Wind Power Project in Antrim, New Hampshire,” and the economic analysis of policies proposed in “The New Hampshire Climate Action Plan,” performed for the NH Climate Change Task Force.
Dr. Michael Merenda is a Professor of Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship and Chair of the Management Departments in the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire. His current research interests are in: Case research, The Role of Entrepreneurial Education in Fostering Entrepreneurship; TMT Experience in Venture Creation and The Strategic Use of Information Technology in SME Competitiveness. His research has appeared in: International Journal of E-Business Research, International Journal of Case Method Research & Application, Journal of Excellence in College Teaching, The Case Research Journal, Telecommunication Policy, Journal of Industrial and Corporate Change, Sloan Management Review, Journal of Business & Entrepreneurship, and International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal. Mike is Director of the University’s Annual Holloway Prize, Innovation-To-Market Competition and his students regularly participate in the Annual I2P (Idea to Product) Global Competition. Mike received his B.S. and M.B.A. degrees from Northeastern University and Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts.