Corporate Realities and Environmental Truths. Steven J. Bennett, Richard Freierman and Stephen George, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, ISBN 0–471.53073–5, 232pp., 1993, $24.95, hardback

Corporate Realities and Environmental Truths. Steven J. Bennett, Richard Freierman and Stephen George, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, ISBN 0–471.53073–5, 232pp., 1993, $24.95, hardback

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   ook Reviews Corporate Realities and Environmental Truths. Steven J. Bennett, Richard Freierman and Stephen George, John Wiley Sons, Inc., New York, ISBN 0-471.53073-5, 232pp., 1993, 24.9 5, hardback. Corporate Realities and Environmental Truths is an ambitious book, though it is neither about corporate realities nor about environmental truths. What, then, is it about? Simply, about the sorts of things that companies can and should be doing if they are to cope with the key strategic issue of the environment. Of course, even now, not every senior manager agrees that the environment is a key strategic issue, s the authors dutifully pack in a few key points such as the impact of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, increased environment-friendly legislation, and the survival of environmental concerns among consumers in spite of the recession. They conclude that being pro-environment is now a matter of corporate survival: every company today faces a number of compelling reasons to ‘go green’. But ‘going green’ entails more than talk, meetings and tidings of ‘green cheer’ from the CEO; success with environmental issues requires a wide range of actions. The first four chapters focus on the sorts of things that companies such s Procter Gamble, DuPont, Gillette and AT&T have done to develop a ‘green’ corporate culture, and the authors report some of the mechanisms such companies have set up to translate environmental concerns into initiatives in manufacturing, engineering, product development, marketing, public relations (PR), etc. They present examples of organizational structures which have helped achieve environmental goals while improving internal communications and tapping the enormous grassroots energy of employees. They also introduce ‘total quality environmental management’, which they claim is a model that applies total quality management (TQM) techniques to the management of an environmentally responsible company, but which seems to me a somewhat superficial application of TQM to environmental concerns. The last five chapters claim to explain how to project success- fully your newly environment-friendly company to a wary public and a cynical media, while avoiding trouble with law makers, activists and regulators: in fact, the authors don’t say much about how to project anything successfully in terms of PR or publicity, but they do provide what they claim is the first comprehensive set of guidelines which might enable environmental marketers  244 Book reviews to comply with legislation concerning claims and terminology. They also tout strategic partnerships with environmental organizations (such as McDonaldls with the Environmental Defense Fund) as a way of boosting your public image, appending what they describe as a ‘Business and Environmental Resource Guide’ (which turns out to be nothiing more than an address list of administrative and activist organizations connected with the environment). From my discussion of the book thus far, it will be clear that think the book over-promotes itself. Let us take a specific section of the book to see whether this is in fact so. In their first chapter, the authors set out ‘five prerequisites for corporate environmental action’: every company must, they say, (i) exhibit ‘buy-in’ from top leaders, (ii) develop an understanding of the role that people play in causing and preventing environmental problems, (iii) integrate environmental issues into its strategic planning process, and display a willingness to (iv) exceed compliance levels and (v) to work with stakeholders outside the company. This Reader’s Digest-style list of ‘DOs’ is all very desirable, but it ducks key questions which will concern every company. Exhibiting ‘buy-iin’ from top leaders is not particularly difficult nowadays and there cannot be many companies whose CEOs do not exhibit such ‘buy-in’; but the exhortation to ‘exceed compliance levels’ is an example of the typically loose and enthusiastilc hype in which the authors like to indulge: in these recessionary days, when compliance itself imposes such large financial and :administrative burdens, is it practical to talk of exceeding compliance levels? All compliance levels? If not, which ones should a company exceed? And by how much? Or let’s take a step back from these five items, and ask ourselves: is it necessary to do each of these five things? If not, on what criteria should choices be made? Having done all these things (if it is necessary and/or desirable to do so), is the accomplishment of these five items enough of a foundation or corporate environmental action? The message of the book is essentially simple: you and your company can be doing a host of things to control pollution and contribute to environmental care. Strong on reportage, Corporate Realities and Environmental Truths mentions all the issues you ought t be aware o and everything you must know if you are to manage environmental issues, and it provides a rich store of ideas from which to fertilize your own imagination and energy. But, well-organized though it is, it doesn’t offer you an intelligent way through the labyrinth of issues of which you must take account. It is also, as with so many books by US authors, totally unconscious of anything outside the USA Prabhu Guptara Chairman Advance Management Training Ltd Journal of Strategic Change August 1994
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