Despite my best efforts, I continue to worry my way through life. I suppose it’s something with which many of our readers struggle. The business world, particularly over the last few years, is a place where worry is washed down with the morning cup of coffee. Depending on the material that makes up your cup, you could be adding to your troubles, at least, that’s what this article is speculating. Researchers are continuing to study the effects of the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), a substance that has been banned by several manufacturers of baby bottles and no-spill cups for children. Now researchers are examining a possible link between the consumption of BPA (through drinking from beverage cans and bottles) and the risk of heart disease.
While the article acknowledges the tenuous nature of the current research results, it raises further question about the materials used to make everyday products and their long-term effects on humans and the planet. These questions are addressed at length in a book featured in our latest edition of Soundview Executive Book Summaries. Daniel Goleman’s Ecological Intelligence is an excellent look into the knowledge gap between what we buy and what it does to us and our surroundings.
Goleman discusses a problem he describes as, “a fundamental disconnect between what we do and how it matters.” In reflecting on his work and how it relates to the BPA debate, I can’t help but notice that BPA gained widespread use in the 1950s. One change we’ve encountered as science and business have progressed over the past 60 years is a more determined effort on the part of companies and regulatory agencies to gain a better understanding (if only in the short term) of a product’s effects on individuals. This type of responsible manufacturing is a practice that continues to grow. Goleman notes that consumers play a key role in shaping the way companies treat the Earth.
One hopes that Goleman’s efforts to increase the number of informed consumers and producers will lead to the changes we need. Maybe then I can stop worrying about the cup in which my coffee comes and get back to something else on my list of concerns.
As we continue to contemplate the ways in which we can improve the world, many experts speculate that the secret may lie in first improving ourselves. Business books often support this logic. An organization is strengthened by having its components, from senior management to ground-floor staff, working on ways to improve their performance. With each individual raising his or her game, the company’s performance should climb, as well.
Productive communication is a key part of personal development. Psychiatrist and business coach Mark Goulston provides executives with new, powerful communication techniques in his book Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone. So much of a manager’s job is finding the right communication methods to achieve results from a variety of audiences. This book is a great asset to help make the job a little easier.
Our special bonus summary this month is James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s rewarding leadership must-read The Leadership Challenge. This summary takes the best from the updated edition and reflects the new and changing ways in which leaders address their jobs in a global marketplace.
The global marketplace and the environmentally troubled globe on which it operates is the subject of our third summary Ecological Intelligenceby Daniel Goleman. In a world that is driven by manufacturing and consumerism, what goes into all the “stuff” that fills our lives? More importantly, what happens to the “stuff” that is used to produce, package and ship all the stuff we buy? Goleman’s book attempts to answer these questions and provoke a new line of thinking on the part of both manufacturer and consumer. It’s an unsettling read but one that is filled with hope. It contains important arguments to aid the continued efforts to rescue the planet from ecological destruction.
We’ve got quite a trio of titles this month. Visit us at Summary.com to learn more!
On Monday (Sept. 7) the oceanographic research vessel Alguitaembarked on a 10th anniversary voyage to retrace its first trip to study plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean. Specifically the course heads for “the great Pacific garbage patch” described in my Ocean Conservancy calendar as “A giant floating ‘continent’ of garbage, twice the size of Texas.”
Apparently it was during Captain Charles Moore’s Pacific Ocean crossing after the Transpacific Yacht Race in 1997 when he was heading back to California from Hawaii that he had the disturbing intersection with what ABC News subsequently described as 3.5 million tons of trash that is 80 percent plastic.
Captain Moore founded the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which owns the ORV Alguita, and has ever since surrendered his time and resources to examining the impact of this massive floating swill, increasing awareness about it, and figuring out how to get rid of it. A July 2008 Discover magazine article described how in this particular area of the Pacific there is a series of currents several thousand miles wide that swirl together ensnaring trash and debris from North America, Asia and the Hawaiian Islands. The tricky part, as far as funding research and assigning cleanup dollars, is that the open ocean waters of the world are a difficult place to justify government spending.
I confess I had never heard about this huge floating garbage patch before. It makes me realize that we should be continuously promoting and adding to our Soundview Business of Green collection to give people access to information about sustainability and responsible business practices. Two other important books that we have summarized, Saving the World at Work and The Necessary Revolution shout out the importance of being environmentally responsible at work and home.
With fresh summer memories typically embracing a waterview that we choose to savor until next year, this topic captures another picture we shouldn’t quickly forget.
Every so often, I read a review of a book that leaves me (temporarily, at least) at a loss for words. This is how I felt when I came across Timothy Gardner’s review of $20 per Gallon by Christopher Steiner, an engineer-turned-journalist. I have to compliment Steiner for having a better balance of optimism and pessimism than most writers who cover the energy crisis . On the one hand he acknowledges that the inevitable depletion of the Earth’s fossil fuel supply will allow only the elite to enjoy the luxury of certain types of travel. He also offers the view that electric or alternative fuel powered cars will not be able to provide the punch needed to get one safely from coast to coast, despite being adequate for city driving.
But as Gardner points out, Steiner’s book is largely positive in its vision of a future without cheap petroleum. The book seems to take on a modern, eco-inclined adaptation of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Steiner pictures an America where people walk and bike everywhere, creating a healthier crop of Americans. He believes people will grow their own produce again and the government will reinvest in urban renewal and develop superior mass transit systems. Cleaner air? Fresh, chemical-free food? A nation that’s gone from fat to fit again?
With all due deference to the late former Beatle, you may say Steiner’s a dreamer but something tells me he’s not the only one. The fact that it may take gas prices reaching $20 for these changes to be set in motion is not easy to digest, but it is definitely a real possibility.
One of my joys as editor in chief is reviewing the numerous book reviews that are submitted to us. We have a talented pool of writers who imbue their reviews with style and creativity. From the monthly allotment, we provide the best reviews on Summary.com for FREE. It just takes the simple step of signing up for a log-in.
Of course, my appetite for reviews doesn’t stop with the ones that fill my inbox. I go in search of intriguing reviews from many outlets, both print and online. This review, furnished by Matter Network via the folks at Reuters, deals with Andrew Winston’s book Green Recovery, published by our friends at Harvard Business School Press.
The review, as well as the book itself, make the case for continued emphasis on green thinking in business. With the recent battles over health care and the continued concern about the jobless rate in the United States, there may be those who assume that the green movement is pushed onto the side-table until other issues are resolved. This is a bit foolhardy, and Winston devotes a good bit of his effort to assert the needs of businesses of all sizes to not take their eye off the globe. Winston’s six business trends are among those commonly named drivers of the green business movement, and each has enough push behind it to ensure that it won’t leave the agenda in any boardroom for some time.
If you have a particular interest in the impact of the search for sustainability on the business world, I’d recommend Soundview’s collection The Business of Green. We compiled 11 of the most important books written to date on the subjects that rest beneath the green banner. It wouldn’t hurt to get informed on environmental issues, because as Winston indicates, a company’s ecological practices will only come under greater scrutiny in the months and years ahead. Oh, and don’t worry about the footprint of our collection … it’s available in a variety electronic formats but not on paper. No trees were harmed in its creation.