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The Responsibility Revolution: How the Next Generation of Businesses Will Win

ISBN: 978-0-470-55842-3
240 pages
March 2010, Jossey-Bass
The Responsibility Revolution: How the Next Generation of Businesses Will Win (0470558423) cover image


How to create a company that not only sustains, but surpasses-that moves beyond the imperative to be "less bad" and embrace an ethos to be "all good"

From the Inspired Protagonist and Chairman of Seventh Generation, the country's leading brand of household products and a pioneering "good company," comes a one-of-a-kind book for leaders, entrepreneurs, and change agents everywhere. The Responsibility Revolution reveals the smartest ways for companies to build a better future-and hold themselves accountable for the results. Thousands of companies have pledged to act responsibly; very few have proven that they know how. This book will guide them. The Responsibility Revolution presents fresh ideas and actionable strategies to commit your company to a genuine socially and environmentally responsible business and culture, one that not only competes but wins on values.

  • Points the way for innovators and influencers to generate trust by becoming transparent, elicit people's passion and creativity, turn customers into collaborators, transform critics into allies, rewrite the rules and reinvent business
  • Shows how to build a socially and environmentally responsible yet genuinely good company and an authentic brand
  • Drawing on groundbreaking interviews with real-world change leaders, Hollender and Breen present lessons and insights from the "good company"' parts of big companies like IBM and eBay, trailblazers like Patagonia and Timberland, and emerging dynamos like Linden Lab and Etsy

The Responsibility Revolution equips people with the tactics, models, and mind-sets they need to compete in a world where consumers now demand that companies contribute to the greater good.

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Table of Contents

Foreword (Peter Senge).

Preface: The Responsibility Revolution: Our Manifesto.

1 The Responsibility Revolution Takes Off.

2 The Company Takes on a Mission: “Doing Work That Matters” Matters Now More Than Ever.

3 Not a Company, But a Community: A Blueprint for Unleashing People's Potential.

4 Make It Transparent: In a See-Through World, It Doesn't Pay to Be Opaque.

5 Authentically Good: Building the Mission into Every Part of the Business.

6 The Cooperative Company: Building Profits and Solving Problems Through Mass Collaboration.

7 Beyond Responsibility: The Case for Corporate Consciousness.




About the Authors.

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"While the book lays down the business case of sustainable and responsible companies succinctly, it also gives key pointers on the way leadership is set to change in the coming years. " —CNBC.com, April 1, 2010

"Hollender’s access combined with Breen’s reporting skills produce unusually detailed and thoughtful profiles." —Inc. Magazine, April 2010

"While outwardly your business is driven by your social mission, what happens inside your company is an expression of that mission as well. That means also focusing your passionate energy inward to create a fair and beneficial work environment for your employees. In his new book, The Responsibility Revolution, Hollender describes this principleas striving to be authentically good, by building the mission into every part of your business."—Inc.com, March 31, 2010

"Most companies understand that pursuing a laudable mission can amount to a land of rich opportunity. But to successfully travel the road to corporate responsibility, an enterprise must navigate around six daunting land mines…"—HuffingtonPost.com, March 15, 2010

"Entertaining and thought-provoking."—JustMeans.com, March 15, 2010

"In his new book, Jeffrey shows companies how to surpass sustainability and makes a clear case that going beyond sustainability is a competitive advantage."—CauseCapitalism.com, March 15, 2010

"Unlike many of its companions on the shelf in the business section, this book is a pleasure to read. Much of the over-used CSR jargon is absent, the authors have jettisoned ‘bloodless buzzwords like ‘corporate responsibility’ and ‘accountability’ in the first steps of their revolution. The writing is vibrant, pointed, and succinct, much like the advice it imparts."—The CSR Digest, March 15, 2010

"Hollender is at his best when evangelizing and encouraging vision. He likes to tell the story of how his company came to be called Seventh Generation, quoting from the founding document of the native American Iroquois confederacy, ‘In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.’ Thinking like that would truly make for a responsible—and sustainable—business revolution."—Business Ethics, March 18, 2010

"Hollender, chairman of clean household company Seventh Generation, shares his own company's process of redefining its mission and values, and makes an unimpeachable argument for how sustainable business practices protect both the environment and employees."—Publishers Weekly, March 2010

Articles, excerpts, interviews, Q&A, and mentions with the authors also from:
Harvard Business Review blog, March 31, 2010
Forbes.com, March 31, 2010
CNNMoney.com, March 29, 2010
TheDailyGreen.com, March 29, 2010
Harvard Business Review, March 2010

"Jeffrey Hollender and Bill Breen give us the inside scoop on how truly responsible companies out-think and out-perform their conventional-minded competitors. Part manual and part manifesto, The Responsibility Revolution delivers a truckload of examples for growing a company that benefits society as well as shareholders. I only wish we had The Responsibility Revolution’s real-world lessons when we launched Ben & Jerry’s."—Ben Cohen, co-founder, Ben & Jerry’s

"Jeffrey Hollender is a true master of the arts in unifying business with ecology. A rarity indeed, he is one who practices what he teaches."—Horst M. Rechelbacher, founder, Intelligent Nutrients

"My hat is off to Jeffrey Hollender and Bill Breen for their daring new book, The Responsibility Revolution. Drawing on their personal experiences in building the highly successful company, Seventh Generation, and on a wealth of other material, they show with force and eloquence what’s required for corporations to transcend the failed promise of ‘corporate social responsibility’ and give real leadership in building a new economy where people and planet flourish. No more hype and platitudes, The Responsibility Revolution is the real item—a Baedeker for businesses that want to be part of a future that works."—James Gustave Speth, author of The Bridges at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing From Crisis to Sustainability

"The Responsibility Revolution is a welcome, hopeful, and timely road map for truly sustainable 21st-century commerce in which people and the planet actually count, and profits are the means but not the ends. Cynics beware—their optimistic analysis derives from real evidence that we may in fact be getting commerce right. Their guidance is visionary and their vision gives great guidance. This is a must-read 21st-century primer for investors, entrepreneurs, consumers, and policy-makers alike."—Gary Hirschberg, president and CE-Yo, Stonyfield Farm, Inc.

"Jeffrey Hollender and Bill Breen have collaborated to produce a remarkably detailed road map for businesses that are searching sincerely for the path to good reputation, high purpose, and deep respect. Read this book for a new clarity about the power of all three qualities, and the path to authentic realization thereof."—Ray C. Anderson, founder and chairman, Interface, Inc.

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Press Release

March 01, 2010
How the Next Generation of Businesses Will Win

On the one-year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, President Obama summoned corporate America “to a new era of responsibility.” Considering this year’s low point in values, the growing mistrust of business, and the decline of brand loyalty, we have no choice but to rethink corporate responsibility and discover new ways to get past green washing and lip service and to seize on sustainability as a source of innovation. The costs of not doing better at doing good are too high. 

THE RESPONSIBILITY REVOLUTION: How the Next Generation of Businesses Will Win (Jossey Bass; March 15, 2010. $27.95), argues that for too long, our definition of what constitutes “responsible” corporate behavior has been dangerously timid. To confront the economy’s and society’s daunting challenges, companies must do more than monitor factories, donate to charities, and trumpet efforts to be a little less bad. The responsibility revolution is about reimaging companies from within: innovating new ways of working; instilling a new logic of competing; redefining the very purpose and possibility of business. 

Written by Jeffrey Hollender, co-founder and chairman of Seventh Generation, the country’s leading brand of non-toxic household products and a pioneering “good company,” and Bill Breen, the co-author with Gary Hamel of The Future of Management, this blueprint for CSR 2.0 tells how revolutionary companies – ranging from industry heavyweights like IBM, Nike and British merchandising giant Marks & Spencer to emerging dynamos like Linden Lab and Etsy – are winning customers and driving profits by: 

  • Taking on a cause. Revolutionary responsible companies believe that what you stand for is far more important than what you sell. When Organic Valley organized itself around a mission that mattered—saving the family farm—it sparked employees’ imaginations and became a magnet for powerful partners. The result: it’s now the nation’s second largest brand of organic dairy products.  
  • Daring to wear the see-through. To be a truly responsible company, you can’t be opaque. So the Danish pharmaceutical Novo Nordisk, the world’s largest maker of insulin, invites animal-welfare activists to tour its labs and improve its protocols for animal experimentation, which were later incorporated in the Council of Europe’s guidelines on the protection of animals in medical research. The drug-maker understands that by acting transparently, it stands a better chance of turning critics into collaborators.  
  • Scaling innovation. Green marketing campaigns don’t cut it anymore; insurgent good companies focus on innovation rather than reputation. Nike harnesses the creativity of its designers through the Considered Index, which rates the ingredients for each product and suggests more sustainable alternatives. The 2009 Air Jordan XX3 is the first version of Nike's most celebrated sneaker to marry sustainability and performance—and is expected to sell 500,000 pairs. 

These and many more actionable strategies from the book will help businesses large and small win the race to the future. In fact, a recent study by A.T. Kearney found that during the recession, companies authentically committed to sustainability outperformed their industry peers by an average of 15%, adding an average of $650 million to their market capitalization. As the economy improves, doing good will be the key to doing well. 

Why? Because authentically responsible companies outdo their competitors at confronting the transformational forces that are changing the way business is done today: 

  • The growing army of activist consumers and watchdog non-governmental organizations, who expect global brands to promote social well-being;
  • A talent war for A+ employees who demand a karmic paycheck in addition to their salary;
  • Stakeholders who are pressuring institutional investors to adopt a responsible investing strategy. 
  • Global climate change is forcing business to confront a world of scarcer resources and a swarm of new regulations.  

With Internet-savvy customers scrutinizing companies’ activities and organizing boycotts at the slightest sign of misbehavior, “bad” businesses have nowhere to hide. Fringe notions that business should be environmentally and socially sustainable have moved to the mainstream—and the business landscape has been fundamentally transformed. 

In an entertaining and inspiring read, Hollender and Breen show that those companies that effectively commit to a genuine socially and environmentally responsible business and culture will land on the upside of the change curve and create real, sustainable value.


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