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The Quest for Sustainable Business

An Epic Journey in Search of Corporate Responsibility

In January 2010, author, academic and social entrepreneur Dr Wayne Visser set off on a nine-month, 20-country "quest" to talk to entrepreneurs, business leaders and innovators and learn about how companies in all parts of the world can and are helping to tackle the world's most pressing social and environmental problems. His aim was to explore the many varieties of global approaches to sustainable business practices first-hand and to share some of the most innovative global examples.

The result is this treasure trove of a book, full of stories, ideas, links to more than 100 video interviews, best practices and tools for making sustainable business work in a myriad of different contexts, cultures and settings. Besides sharing insights from his 2010 "CSR Quest World Tour", the author captures his professional experiences and the evolution of sustainable business over the past 20 years.

The path begins in Africa and winds its way through Asia, North America, Europe, Australasia and Latin America. The author shares what he has learned in encounters with mega-corporations and small farmers, and conversations with CEOs and social entrepreneurs. There are facts and figures about world trends, and interviews with thought leaders and activists. This is a tale that consciously weaves the personal and the professional, mixing anecdotes and case studies. It looks outwards and reflects inwards, and is both autobiography and the life story of a global movement.

Stories, ideas, links to video interviews, best practices and tools for making sustainable business work in a myriad of different contexts, cultures and settings.


"The Quest for Sustainable Business is two things: the most important and, in certain respects the only, historical account of corporate responsibility to date, and a bloody good read."

Ethical Performance

The Quest for Sustainable Business is two things: the most important and, in certain respects the only, historical account of corporate responsibility to date, and a bloody good read. Visser's project is much-needed. CSR has long existed in a historical vacuum that has too often led to a vacuity of ambition and statement. The Quest for Sustainable Business, with a comprehensive historical sweep taking us from apartheid South Africa to the EU's Enterprise 2020 initiative, puts us back in the picture. Despite its unnecessarily transcendental title, the book is rigorously grounded in the material realities that have shaped CSR since the 1980s, and robust in its comparisons of different approaches for promoting corporate responsibility, always keeping the particular historical conditions in mind. Visser provides a crucial lesson in self-knowledge: that CSR has not always been as it is today, and that what we now accept as truisms in the industry were once hotly debated and treated quite differently. In sum: the CSR world has been one of change. The Quest for Sustainable Business is a short book, and one that mainly impresses with the ease in which it switches from one context to another at pace, allowing the reader to keep its various strands in mind. The book negotiates the difficult tension between historicising and making relevant for today, and between abstract argumentation and real-life, day-to-day business. Its lessons for the latter, as the CSR world enters another period of fluidity and upheaval, may prove invaluable.

Ethical Performance, July 2012 Ben Hickman

Author's introduction

Prologue: Roots and shoots. Early days (Zimbabwe)

PART I: AFRICA

1. Divided and united: Investing in change (South Africa)

2. Holism and hope: Towards a SANE society (South Africa)

3. Governance and greed: Accounting for impacts (South Africa)

4. Tears and flowers: Recreating a culture of ethics (Kenya)

5. Friends and foes: Oil on troubled waters (Nigeria)

PART II: EUROPE

6. Directives and policies: Eurocrats take on CSR (Belgium)

7. Green and growing: Re-engineering growth (Germany, Austria)

8. Breakdown and breakthrough: Navigating the chaos (Hungary)

9. Partnerships and poverty: New governance for a new world (Switzerland)

10. Cycles and cradles: Faster, further and higher (The Netherlands)

PART III: ASIA PACIFIC

11. Kaizen and kyosei: Driving a better future (Japan)

12. Yin and yang: Striving for harmony (China)

13. Too much sun: A slow starter (Australia)

14. Merlions and orang-utans: A new breed of entrepreneurs (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand)

15. Access and justice: Purpose out of chaos (India)

PART IV: THE AMERICAS

16. Mythology and pathology: Unmasking the corporation (Canada)

17. Plantations and houses: The lessons of shared responsibility (Guatemala, Mexico)

18. Emergence and convergence: Birth of a new capitalism (United States)

19. Globalisation and innovation: Redefining growth and progress (United States)

20. Economics and evolution: Barefoot journeys towards abundance (Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador)


PART IV: THE UNITED KINGDOM

21. Humans and ecology: From New Age to 'new' economics (United Kingdom)

22. Meaning and change: Making a difference (United Kingdom)

23. Research and reading: Landmarks for Sustainability (United Kingdom)

24. Pioneers and paradoxes: In search of sustainable business (United Kingdom)

25. Death and rebirth: From CSR 1.0 to CSR 2.0 (United Kingdom)

Epilogue: Smart, shared and sustainable. The alchemical quest

DR WAYNE VISSER is Founder and Director of the think-tank CSR International and research company Kaleidoscope Futures. He is the author of 15 books and over 180 publications, and has delivered more than 170 professional speeches in over 50 countries.

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