Review of “Good to Green” by Maclean & Phyper

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The book, written by Paul Maclean and John Phyper – two consultants, is an exhaustive review of environmental management practices and helpful examples of companies leading the charge towards a more sustainable future. The title, taken from Jim Collins über-business book “Good to Great”, tries to mimick its style – and deviates. “Good to Great” sets a number of highly selective criteria for a what makes a company “Great” (growth over time, growth compared to the industry, profitability…), then proceeds to find common traits amongst those companies. “Good to Green” does the opposite, it outlines the best management practices for building, implementing and reporting on sustainability, then finds examples of companies who are doing it.

This difference is partially inevitable due to the lack of data and research on sustainability initiatives and it is partially a choice by the authors. Unlike pollution and green initiatives, there is a lot of publicly available financial information on public companies. So, it is simply not possible to write an environmental equivalent of “Good to Great” – at least not yet.

The method may be different, but there is green gold throughout the 429 pages of examples, bullet points, charts and visuals. It is not a light read, but it is a valuable one. With Good to Green, you can quickly survey the sustainability landscape and understand what works and what doesn’t. Any company thinking of moving towards a comprehensive sustainability program should take a long, hard look at this book.

Above all, the book is rammed with resources – studies, surveys, websites and examples. What it lacks is narrative. “Good to Great” is peppered with interesting boardroom antics, strategic decisions and personal stories that make the hard numbers more enjoyable. “Good to Green” sticks close to its sustainability guns, avoiding stories. Unquestionably, some chapters are more readable than others. The first few chapters throw more data at you than you might care for; but by the end, the book has found a greater balance of fact and storytelling. The chapters on Emissions Trading, Human Resources and the Path towards the Future seem like practical information for any wanna-be-green executive.

Sometimes the book reads more like a laundry list of green dos and don’ts than a story, but you might find a laundry list useful for doing the laundry.

Full Disclosure: Paul Maclean is a friend, business partner, and shareholder in Nimonik.