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The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability Paperback – Jun 3 1994

4.7 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Business; Reprint edition (June 3 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887307043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887307041
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #459,046 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Paul Hawken, the entrepreneur behind the Smith & Hawken gardening supplies empire, is no ordinary capitalist. Drawing as much on Baba Ram Dass and Vaclav Havel as he does on Peter Drucker and WalMart for his case studies, Hawken is on a one-man crusade to reform our economic system by demanding that First World businesses reduce their consumption of energy and resources by 80 percent in the next 50 years. As if that weren't enough, Hawken argues that business goals should be redefined to embrace such fuzzy categories as whether the work is aesthetically pleasing and the employees are having fun; this applies to corporate giants and mom-and-pop operations alike. He proposes a culture of business in which the real world, the natural world, is allowed to flourish as well, and in which the planet's needs are addressed. Wall Street may not be ready for Hawken's provocative brand of environmental awareness, but this fine book is full of captivating ideas.

From Publishers Weekly

Hawken ( Growing a Business ) touches on a raw nerve here. How might millions of people live and work in a complex business environment while causing "as little suffering as possible to all and everything around us?" Hawken, no Luddite, believes that "we need a design for business that will ensure that the industrial world as it is presently constituted ceases and is replaced with human-centered enterprises that are sustainable producers." Avoiding stormy rhetoric, Hawken thoughtfully reviews ecological theories and disasters and insists that "ecology offers a way to examine all present economic and resource activities from a biological rather than a monetary point of view." Calling for a restorative economy, he proposes rational, achievable goals: stop "accelerating the rate that we draw down capacity"; refrain from "buying or degrading other people's environment"; and avoid displacing "other species by taking over their habitats." This noteworthy study should kindle debates within the business community.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When I first tried to read this book, I didn't even get past the first chapter. But when I picked it up again almost a year later, I absorbed it like a sponge. Even when I interviewed the president of a sustainable business for my website,, I found that the same thing happened to him. The fact of the matter is, this is an excellent book, but it's also somewhat of a pragmatic call to arms. It wasn't till I'd explored and developed my ideas about the environment and resolved to do something about it that I could fully appreciate this book. For someone who's still exploring their position on these issues, Paul Hawken's prescriptions for action will probably seem irrelevant and premature. But if your ideas are ripe and you're ready to put them to work, The Ecology of Commerce is an invaluable resource.
Before I read this book, I used to think that business and the environment were inherently at odds. But then I realized that this doesn't have to be the case. According to Hawken, the problem lies in our economic system's design, and no amount of management or programs is going to change that. In order to make things better, we're going to have to rethink our economic structure, and in that possibility is where Mr. Hawken finds hope. As he so eloquently put it:
"To create an enduring society, we will need a system of commerce and production where each and every act is inherently sustainable and restorative...Just as every action in an industrial society leads to environmental degradation, regardless of intention, we must design a system where the opposite is true, where doing good is like falling off a log, where the natural, everyday acts of work and life accumulate into a better world as a matter of course, not as a matter of conscious altruism." (Hawken, p.
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Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. As someone with two business degrees, you get used to hearing a fairly narrow perspective on the economy, the environment, and the way businesses are meant to operate. I was initially drawn to the book by a documentary in which the CEO of a rather large organization talked about how it had impacted his life. On reading it, I found that it challenged me to think differently about the way that I live and the way that I think about the role of businesses in modern society. Overall, it was quite an impactful book and I'd recommend it to others.
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Format: Paperback
As we all know, everyone crows on the "failure" of communism, but no one crows about the REAL failure of capitalism. It is a more slow dying weed than the "socialism" of communism, but it is a dying weed as well. When the vast majority of the population is dying a slow death from failing lungs in the form of asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, when all the ills of our "capitalistic" economy are enumerated including increasing failure of our children to have IQ above retardation level, i.e. "Survivor", etc. and most of them have failing immune systems, how can capitalism have survived?
Paul Hawkens, I believe, is the first real thinker to address the issue. He gets rid of those self-assured Americans who name themselves environmentalists because they put out their trash at the recycling curb while proceeding as usual otherwise.
The other frivolous reviews you have at the first is further evidence of the old business ethic that is afraid to rethink or,indeed, to even think!
Put my review at the first where it belongs, corporate giant, soon to be owned by Wal-Mart, the corporate giant that dots the American landscape with even more junk and cuts every tree in its path!
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Format: Paperback
Don't get me wrong: I agree with the vast bulk of this book. Yet Paul Hawken's attempt at a new vision of corporate behavior and business ethics is more mirage than masterpiece.
I have two main criticisms of this otherwise eloquent book. First, although Hawken bravely tries to bridge the ideological gap between his two different audiences (the rapacious businessman and economically-uninformed environmentalist), he ultimately has to pull punches on both fronts; this is okay for political compromise, but not for building vision or revealing "inherent" truthes (which seem to be the book's aims). Second, and more important, the book has almost no helpful detail, either for policy or for corporate behavior. Perhaps I'm really just complaining that the book is too short, but a call for Pigovian taxes and a vague yet comprehensive overhall of business philosophy does not a vision make.
But read the book anyway, since there's little else out there in this vein (though I recommend When Corporations Rule the World, David Korten). ;-)
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Format: Paperback
In the current economy we seek to minimize economic costs and maximize profits while ignoring most everything else. Virtually no aspect of the economic equation factors in the true cost of anything - the toll it takes on the environment, the massive amount of energy consumed to maintain our lifestyle, or the biodiversity of the planet, which is continually diminished.
The Ecology of Commerce addresses these issues from both business and environmental points of view. It recognizes there will be immediate, sometimes substantial, economic costs during the transition to a sustainable economy. The point is made, however, that should the strain on the planets resources exceed carrying capacity, the consequences would be devastating.
We don't, and probably can't know the precise limit till we get there. At that point things are likely to get ugly. Really ugly. Paul correctly argues that we need to move toward a sustainable economy that more closely mirrors biological systems. He suggests production processes that begin with the end of the useful life of a product in mind so that waste can easily and continually be recycled into new products.
The book seems to be overly optimistic that business will see the light and move to adopt sustainable business practices. While some are moving in this direction, they are not moving fast enough. As the most powerful nation in the world and the one that uses far more resources than any other in the world, the US must lead the way. Some companies are taking positive steps, but efforts need to increase dramatically.
The Ecology of Commerce is a good start. It lays out the direction in which we need to move. The vision is an economy in which the full economic AND environmental costs are factored into the cost of goods and services. This book lays out where we need to go; now we just need to figure out how to make a smooth transition to get there.
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