Sustainable Excellence The Future of Business in a Fast-Changing World

Aron Cramer and Zachary Karabell

Rodale Books




288 Pages



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In Sustainable Excellence, Aron Cramer and Zachary Karabell tell the stories of the companies who are transforming themselves in response to paradigm shifts in the traditional business model—and shaping the future in the process. Natural resources are growing ever more scarce and expensive. Technology and changing consumer expectations are making transparency a fact of life. The rise of emerging economies creates vast market opportunities for companies—and better living standards for hundreds of millions. Today's business landscape is changing in fundamental ways, and only the companies that adapt business strategies to keep pace with those changes will prosper in the new climate.

From their work with these Global 1000 companies, Cramer and Karabell know firsthand how business can successfully grapple with big-picture issues like resource scarcity, supply chain complexities, and the diverse expectations of government and the public. In Sustainable Excellence, they tell the story of how Coca-Cola and Greenpeace collaborated on a refrigerator that fights climate change. They show how companies like Best Buy and Nike are transforming the very products they sell to deliver more value to consumers with less waste. They recount how GE and Google created an innovative partnership that is developing "smart grids" that radically reduce energy use. And they show how business leaders like Starbucks' founder and CEO Howard Schultz put sustainable excellence at the center of his company's business strategy.

Sustainable Excellence makes the case for a different way of doing business—one that will define both business success and economic vitality in the 21st century.


Praise for Sustainable Excellence

"Sustainable Excellence provides an insightful window into the intersection of business and environment. Companies that take to heart the lessons that Aron Cramer and Zachary Karabell provide will be well positioned as natural resource constraints reshape the business landscape."—Mark Tercek, President and CEO of the Nature Conservancy

"Essential reading for any business aiming to understand how they can turn sustainability into opportunity."—Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine and author of The Long Tail and Free

"What does it take to sustain excellence in a world where nothing seems to last? Aron Cramer and Zachary Karabell have gone inside some of the world's most forward-looking companies to answer this crucial question. They understand the extraordinary global changes now under way, and their sharp, well-written story offers an essential road map for those working hard to survive and thrive in an ultra-competitive and fast-changing world. Read this book."—Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group and author of The End of the Free Market

"Sustainable Excellence is far more than merely an engaging and illuminating book on what it means to be a responsible, profitable company today. It is nothing less than an operating manual for business success in the decades to come."—Joel Makower, Executive Editor of and author of Strategies for the Green Economy

"A veritable tool kit for entrepreneurs who want to grow big on an increasingly small planet. Sustainable Excellence goes way beyond the usual wishful platitudes into a deeper, more thoughtful examination of green business strategies that do well and do good, too. If you're looking for a field guide for business in the next decade, this book shows sustainability shedding its status as a buzz word and becoming a science."—Lisa Margonelli, author of Oil on the Brain: Petroleum's Long Strange Trip to Your Tank and a fellow at the New America Foundation

"Sustainable Excellence artfully explains how the context of business is changing—and low far-sighted business leaders can position themselves for long-term success. With natural resource constraints and emerging market opportunities reshaping our world, Aron Cramer and Zachary Karabell show how businesses can create strong franchises for sustainable economy."—Peter Knight, President (US), Generation Investment Management LLP

"The Must-Read Book."—Alice Korngold, Fast

"A smart, readable, and provocative book that argues that business success in the long run will be earned by companies that ‘integrate consideration of society and the environment into their DNA.' . . . This book gives us a reason for optimism, as well as a framework to understand the dramatic changes reshaping the corporate world."—Marc Gunther, contributing writer to Fortune magazine and author of Faith and Fortune

"A compelling case for why a focus on sustainability . . . is now a form of enlightened self-interest for businesses . . . An increasing vigilance by the business and investor community could play a big role in striking a new balance. Sustainable Excellence represents a major—and much needed—step in that direction."—AOL's Daily Finance

"[Cramer and Karabell] define a sustainable business as one that not only delivers value, but also treats people fairly, improves the living standards of its employees and community, and uses natural resources wisely. The authors are well-positioned to speak on the timely topic . . . their voices strike a nice blend between conversation and education."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Aron Cramer and Zachary Karabell

  • Aron Cramer has been the president and CEO of Business for Social Responsibility since 2004. Since he assumed the helm, the organization has more than doubled in size, with seven offices in the United States, Europe, and Asia. He lives in the San Francisco area.

    Zachary Karabell received his PhD from Harvard University. He is the author of ten critically acclaimed books, a money manager, and a CNBC contributor. He lives in New York City.