Frugal Value : Designing Business for a Crowded Planet book cover
1st Edition

Frugal Value
Designing Business for a Crowded Planet

ISBN 9781783533381
Published July 11, 2017 by Routledge
220 Pages

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USD $39.95

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Book Description

We live in unprecedented times. Climate change and ecosystem collapse are altering our world beyond recognition, and a growing global population is exacerbating the pressure on the resources that power our economies. How should the private sector respond to the new risks and uncertainties of our Crowded Planet?

Frugal Value contests the notion that companies can rise to the great challenges of our time by adopting so-called 'sustainable business' practices. Instead, the acute ecological crisis requires an all-round rethink of what business does, and how it does it. This book explores what business responsibility looks like today, and how it could be put into practice through far-reaching changes to companies, ranging from new approaches to product design and business models to reconfiguration of operations and innovative ownership structures.

Frugal Value provides practitioners and scholars with the perspective and tools they need to design companies that help drive the socio-economic changes so urgently required for a sustainable and just world.

Table of Contents

Introduction:  The Failure of Sustainable Business

The Crowded Planet

Chapter 1: The Economy-in-Planet

Chapter 2: The Transition to the Economy-in-Planet

Part 1: Products and Services

Chapter 3: The Purpose and Design of Products

Chapter 4: Properties of Efficient and Sufficient Products

Part 2: Activities and Business Models

Chapter 5: Product Stewardship

Chapter 6: Product Access

Part 3: Operations and Supply Chains

Chapter 7: The Case for Proximity and Appropriate Scale

Chapter 8: The Case for Worker-Centeredness

Part 4: Ownership Structure, Financing and Legal Form

Chapter 9: The Problem with Shareholdership in the Legacy Economy

Chapter 10: Ownership by Workers, Beneficiaries and Investors

Part 5: The Purpose, Scope and Limits of Business

Chapter 11: Profit, Financial and Worthwhile

Chapter 12: Lifestyle Creation, Through Business or Otherwise

Conclusion: What Would it Take to Make Frugal Value Possible?


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Carina Millstone is a UK-based sustainability professional and campaigner. She founded The Orchard Project and currently serves as the Executive Director of Feedback Global.


'Millstone silences the happy talk about business sustainability and brings the sustainability concept down to earth, literally. Brilliantly, she shows what sustainability truly requires for both individual businesses and for the economic system as a whole. Persuasively argued and well written, Frugal Value is a path-breaking synthesis that deserves an audience far beyond the business community.'

James Gustave Speth, former Dean, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and author of America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy

'Ambitious, serious, and inspiring. At last someone’s asking the right question. What will it really take to get business on a sustainable path? Millstone's unsparing critique of what passes today for "sustainable business" will provoke furious debate; her alternative lays out an agenda for business to become a real force for good. Required reading.'

Paul Gilding, Former Executive Director of Greenpeace International

'A well-informed and forthright challenge to conventional wisdom. Love it or hate it, just read it! This is the spirited debate we need today.'

Ken Webster, Head of Innovation at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

'Corporate sustainability has made some progress over the last two decades, but nothing like enough. Carina Millstone's insightful book calls time on the 'business case rationale' for companies trying to do the right thing, and urges instead a more radical 'moral case', based on new design and operational principles.'

 Jonathon Porritt, Founder Director, Forum for the Future

'Frugal Value reminds us that sustainability - despite its widespread abuse as a concept over the past 30 years - remains non-negotiable. The Planet cannot be 'traded off' for profit any more than oxygen can traded off for food. Frugal Value is a wake-up call to business leaders and sustainability practitioners alike: neither the 'business case for sustainability' nor current 'sustainable consumption and production' practices will get us anywhere near to the biodiverse and ecologically secure future we need to survive and thrive. Millstone calls attention to the elephant in the room - the current failure of so-called sustainable practices - and with skillful analysis, sketches out a more ambitious, transformational path: the imperative of redesigning our economic system and business models to achieve frugal value.'

Professor Wayne Visser, PhD, author of Sustainable Frontiers

'This tough-minded book isn’t afraid to cast aside the cherished shibboleths of sustainable business. It asks the hard questions, and points the way forward with challenging answers.'

Professor Jem Bendell, Institute For Leadership And Sustainability, University of Cumbria, UK

'A book that is unique and much needed…The title will present a new concept, but it is an important one, which I hope will be accepted into common parlance.'

Professor Neva Goodwin, Co-Director of the Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University

'Far from frugal, this book’s recipe for achieving customer satisfaction is through massive reduction in resource use and wide social benefit rather than by sidestepping these issues. Can’t recommend more that you read it.'

Sara Parkin, Founder Director of Forum for the Future and author of The Positive Deviant