The Responsible Business

The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability & Success by Carol Sanford

This book presents an evolutionary, holistic approach to business that can lift organizations to a new level of performance and responsibility. This is not about so called “Green” companies – it is about any kind of a company! And revolutionary stories in the book prove it.

Carol Sanford is considered one of the more potent action-learners on our planet.  Her keen mind exposes connections that we ordinarily miss in our fragmented approach to life and business.  Learning to connect the dots seems to unleash a powerhouse of innovation and motivation with wide consequences.  She doesn’t give easy recipes for success but clear maps for getting on the right road and staying there.

Her key teachings are 1) learning to look at all the key stakeholders (including in these The Earth) as a connected system, showing leverage points for big multiplier effects and 2) turning people around through personal development and critical thinking skills (with ideas about how to do this) and  3) looking at the big picture of responsibility by turning it into the DNA of the company.

Each chapter ends with a summarized “Conclusions” box and a free download of the key elements in the chapter. Other free downloads include: a guide for personal reflection and action, to increase the level of consciousness in personal and family life and study guide to be used in educational settings on all levels.

All of the approaches in this book are revolutionary; not quick-fixes or recipe-oriented, yet certainly inspiring with the over-the-top results they create. A very interesting chapter is a review of today’s most successful companies in light of her key teachings.  Definitely a wake-up call for businesses today.

As I have become familiar with her approach, I begin to discover others pointing in the same direction.  There is a quiet evolutionary movement going on in front of our eyes.  This book could change our conversations about business and help us to establish a responsible relationship with the Earth.  An inspiring and practical guide to the future of business.


“Carol draws on a lifetime of work with a wide variety of companies to argue that when firms focus first on “doing the right thing” and on serving all the stakeholders to whom they are responsible  from customers to employees, to local communities, investors, and the earth itself – they can not only transform their economic performance – from dramatically increasing sales, profits and market share – but also play a central role in healing the social and environmental systems on which we all depend.  At first glance this proposition might seem wildly improbable.” p. xviii foreword by Rebecca Henderson, Senator John Heinz Professor of Environmental Management at Harvard Business School.

“A Responsible Business operates in the world of the real and the living, not in the world of abstraction and numbers.  The stories contained in this book are invitations to other organizations to become more real.  Removed from their living context, the creative actions they depict become mere practices, abstract and dead.  Recipes and best practices destroy meaning. They substitute generic instructions for self-discovery, which arises from the unique dynamics and circumstances of living organizations.” p 24

“The five key business stakeholders are connected in interwoven dynamic relationships.  Stakeholder groups are nodes in a dynamic system that connect and influence on another.  The key to becoming a Responsible Business is to learn how to understand and work creatively within this system.” p. 38

“Three capabilities underlie the thinking woven through this book: agency, ableness, and affectiveness.  When I refer to self-determination, self-direction and self-management, I am describing the practice of agency.  When I talk about development of capacity or capability, I am describing ableness at higher and higher levels.  When I advocate standing in the shoes of others, enriching their lives, or caring for the evolution of living systems, I am invoking the idea of affectiveness.

Developing these three capabilities is fundamental to the realization of human potential, individually and collectively.  Though the capacity is inherent in all people, not everyone has done the work to develop them.  The Responsible Business builds its development into the way it thinks and operates and there by into the way democratic societies think and operate.”  p. 280

To buy this book click here.



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