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The Breakthrough Challenge: 10 Ways to Connect Today's Profits With Tomorrow's Bottom Line

ISBN: 978-1-118-92393-1
272 pages
July 2014, Jossey-Bass
The Breakthrough Challenge: 10 Ways to Connect Today


The world’s most forward-looking CEOs recognize the real challenge facing business today: a fundamental shift in the nature of commerce. While sustainability programs, government action, and nonprofits are all parts of the solution, CEOs and other leaders must focus on social, environmental, and economic benefit—not only because it will make the world a better place, but because it will ensure lasting profitability and success in the business climate of tomorrow.

The Breakthrough Challenge is both an inspiring call-to-action and a guide for this transformation, based on the work of The B Team, a major initiative uniting leaders in sustainability. As a founding advisor and member of The B Team, John Elkington and Jochen Zeitz map out an agenda for change. The most important goal for businesses must be redefining the bottom line to account for true long-term costs throughout the supply chain. To achieve this, leaders must rethink everything: what counts on balance sheets, how to incentivize performance, who does what in the C-suite, and even what inspires us. The Breakthrough Challenge draws on over 100 exclusive interviews to show this shift in action, sharing the pioneering work of leaders such as Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever; Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of The Huffington Post; Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman of the Nestlé Group; and Linda Fisher, pioneering Chief Sustainability Officer at DuPont, among many others.

Change-as-usual strategies are not enough to move business from breakdowns to breakthroughs. The Breakthrough Challenge shows leaders how to achieve a true transformation and refocus the definition of profitability on the lasting wellbeing of people and planet—for the lasting success of their business.

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Table of Contents


Sir Richard Branson ix

Preface xi

Introduction: Profit from Tomorrow’s Bottom Line 1

1 Adopt the Right Aspirations 23

2 Create New Corporate Structures 39

3 Apply True Accounting Principles 55

4 Calculate True Returns 71

5 Embrace Well-Being 87

6 Level the Playing Field 107

7 Pursue Full Transparency 123

8 Redefine Education 143

9 Learn from Nature’s Model 167

10 Keep the Long Run in Mind 179

Conclusion: Get Ready to Break Through 193

Notes 211

Acknowledgments 229

About the Authors 235

Index 239

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Author Information

John Elkington has worked for forty years in the environmental, sustainability, and social innovation fields. He has cofounded four companies, sits on more than twenty boards or advisory boards, and is a founding advisor of The B Team advisory board. He is the author or coauthor of nineteen books, including The Power of Unreasonable People. He has received awards from the UN, the Skoll Foundation, Fast Company, the Rockefeller Foundation, and others. John lives in London.

Jochen Zeitz is cofounder and cochairman of The B Team. He is a director at Kering (formerly PPR) and chairman of the board’s sustainable development committee, after having been CEO of the Sport & Lifestyle division and chief sustainability officer (CSO). Previously, he served eighteen years as chairman and CEO of Puma. He was the youngest CEO in German history to head a public company. He is a board member of Harley-Davidson and Wilderness Safaris and is coauthor of The Manager and the Monk (Jossey-Bass, 2012), which has appeared in fifteen languages. Among other awards, he was named the Financial Times Strategist of the Year three years in a row. Jochen lives in Switzerland and Kenya.

For more information, please visit www.thebreakthroughchallenge.com and follow the authors on Twitter via @VolansJohn and @JochenZeitz.

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