(3 of 5) Book Review “Sustainable Value: How the World’s Leading Companies Are Doing Well by Doing Good” by Chris Laszlo

Sustainable Value by Chris Laszlo 2


The second part describes some real life sustainability stories and how the world’s leading companies such as DuPont, Wal-Mart, Lafarge and NatureWorks are doing well by doing good. The book caters four excellent case studies and insights into the current business practices. The author provides with various examples showing that the societal and environmental challenges faced by the companies can also prove to be huge business opportunities for them to pursue. This part also explains how today’s leading companies are adding values and gaining competitive advantage by including sustainability into their core organizational activities.

To satisfy its arguments, the book includes a range of companies (with a variety of end products) which are consciously integrating the environmental and social dimensions into their core businesses. Each of the case studies is designed to provide the organizational journey of leadership efforts as well as decision making and execution of the planned strategy. The book makes a remarkable point that the companies which are delivering profits to shareholders, while destroying value for society, are incurring hidden liabilities which could be disastrous from the risk control standpoint.


The case study of DuPont is best described by the Part-I scenarios faced by Deena in her struggle to align the company with sustainable values. The book presents that DuPont moves from lobbying government to slow down climate change regulations to encouraging such regulations. DuPont’s key success factors identified by the book are primarily the top management support and the integration of sustainability into the performance metrics as well as the company’s line management. The sustainable growth strategy also helped the company to move beyond the phase of mere cost avoidance, compliance and risk mitigation.


The case study of Wal-Mart is interesting although there are a couple of points which may not prove it to be the front runner example of an ideal sustainable company. At the time of the case study the sustainable strategy of the company was only four years old, therefore, it might had been too early to declare it a success example in the book. It should be noted that it takes a long time to adopt a CSR culture and takes even more to make the similar cultural shift within an organization.

Besides, the book only includes the environmental initiatives of Wal-Mart and largely stays away from many social problems for which the company had been widely criticized at the time. Thus the company probably does not meet the sustainability’s triple bottom line expectation namely people, planet and profit. “People” largely remains out of the equation, hence the readers might not find it a very good model candidate for the CSR culture and sustainability discussion.


The case study of Lafarge, a French global leader in building materials, is quite impressive in its thorough CSR approach towards environment as well as the community. The major environmental challenges faced by the company are energy efficiency and CO2 emission. The social issues are mostly related to community wellbeing, employee safety and human rights.

Lafarge has implement its CSR activities with impressive social initiatives in Bangladesh, Morocco and Zambia such as relocating employee families, providing primary-school education, employment solution for laid-off employees, and HIV/Aids awareness/prevention activities for the community. Hence, the company is able to demonstrate its alignment of CSR activities with the stakeholder’s value.

The business of Lafarge widely benefitted from the strong partnership with the local government & authorities, loyal manpower, better labor union relationship, improved reputation and professional status. Altogether, three key success factors can be drawn from this case study; Transparency and communication at every level, Partnership with local stakeholders and Adaptation to local culture. Despite being a French company, Lafarge has succeeded in demonstrating a good CSR/Sustainability culture as well as environment protection initiative, even in foreign soils. (To be continued….)


(2 of 5) PART I

(4 of 5) PART III


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