Leading Change toward Sustainability : A Change-Management Guide for Business, Government and Civil Society book cover
1st Edition

Leading Change toward Sustainability
A Change-Management Guide for Business, Government and Civil Society

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ISBN 9781874719649
Published September 1, 2003 by Routledge
270 Pages

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Book Description

Although an increasing number of organisations have embraced the idea of sustainability in the last decade, why do so many initiatives fail, leading to wasted resources, frustration and cynicism? Why have so few organizations successfully adopted more sustainable policies or practices? And when they do get launched, why do so many efforts plateau after a short time and fail to ascend to the next level of excellence? What process is required to create change within organizations to move them towards sustainability?

Because so few resources are available to answer these questions, Bob Doppelt spent three years researching how the leaders of both private and public organizations that have initiated and sustained significant sustainability programmes designed and approached them. His findings, presented in this hugely readable book, will demystify the sustainability-change process by providing a theoretical framework and a methodology that managers can use to successfully transform their organizations to embrace sustainable development.According to Doppelt, discussions about what to do-which new technologies and policy instruments to apply-have dominated the public dialogue on sustainability. Practitioners place comparatively little emphasis on how organizations can change their internal thought processes, assumptions and ingrained behaviours to embrace new tools and techniques. Organizational and cultural change is the key missing ingredient in the operationalization of sustainable development. Without such change, sustainability efforts usually stall soon after they begin or fail outright.

Changing organizational culture requires interventions in two key areas:

First, the governance system of the organization must be altered. A majority of organizations today hold a mechanistic, autocratic view of governance. In contrast, organizations that have made the most progress toward sustainability view all of their internal members, as well as external stakeholders, as vital parts of an interdependent system. In the leading sustainability organizations, these beliefs engender a skilful distribution of information, power and wealth among employees and stakeholders because managers realise that all of the parts of the organizational system must feel valued and be meaningfully involved for these higher purposes to be achieved. Transforming systems of governance to acheive these results requires seven core interventions. Each intervention builds on and reinforces the others. Part II of the book describes these interventions and how the leading organizations employ them to establish an enduring systems approach to change.

The second intervention is leadership. Organizations that develop effective governance systems typically have good leadership. Effective sustainability leaders have the ability to keep their organization focused on achieving its higher mission while simultaneously managing numerous, sometimes contradictory, streams of activity. Savvy leaders can inspire and mobilize employees and stakeholders to embrace change as an exciting opportunity to learn. In the exemplary organizations, this style of leadership pervades not only top management, but also most levels of the enterprise.

Doppelt found that, when an organization has an effective governance system and effective, forward-looking leadership, it is much more likely to be able to marshal the tremendous forces required to transform its culture and successfully adopt sustainability-based thinking, values and behaviours. When an organization lacks an effective governance system or sufficient leadership, its culture will remain static and the adoption of a more sustainable path will be stymied, no matter what type of new technologies are adopted, quality-control tools are used, or consultants are hired.

Crammed with case examples, interviews and checklists on how to move corporate and governmental cultures toward sustainability, the book argues that the key factors that facilitate change consistently appear in the ongoing and successful (but incomplete) efforts Doppelt examined at companies such as Nike, Starbucks, IKEA, Chiquita, Interface, Swisscom and Norm Thompson and in governmental efforts such as those in the Netherlands and Santa Monica in California. For these and other cutting-edge organizations, leading change is a philosophy for success. In fact, in many ways Leading Change toward Sustainability is just a restatement of what their leaders already know and do.


Based on a study of practices at firms like Interface, Herman Miller, Patagonia, Collins Companies, Chiquita, Xerox and Starbucks, this book serves both as a primer and study of the cutting edge. (4/5) - Business Ethics, Fall 2003

Anyone involved in a business or agency that wants to transform itself into a better environmental citizen would do well to read this book. - Earth Justice, Winter 2004

Starting from a seldom-discussed reality – that some sustainability initiatives simply fail ... his findings are presented in the form of a theoretical framework and methodology that can be used by managers to help their organizations embrace sustainable development. - UNEP Industry and Environment, Oct–Dec 2003

This book is a really useful read for those leading or indeed aspiring to lead change to sustainability in organizations worldwide ... Read it and you can make a difference. - Consultnet, April 2004

... represents a comprehensive and passionate attempt to demonstrate that embracing sustainability is the only way, though not necessarily the easiest, for both humanity and the environment to escape a bleak future. - Natural Resources Forum, August 2004

Doppelt takes an honest and insightful look at the complexity involved in striving for sustainability, using numerous real-life examples of organizations that are both succeeding and failing in their efforts. ... Even though the book describes complex and high-level concepts about change management, Doppelt provides the reader with many tangible, practical tips and tools for implementation, such as appendices of organizational assessment exercises to use in your organization. His approaches involve a healthy dose of common sense but are not overly obvious ... Many change-management recommendations made in this book are not unique to sustainability. I found the chapter relating to vision to be particularly effective in explaining an abstract and difficult concept. His comments about the importance of persuasive and attention-grabbing communication tactics were equally insightful. Because of Doppelt's holistic and comprehensive approach toward sustainability-change management, I believe this book is appropriate for all who are considering sustainability initiatives or currently struggling with sustainability policies. In fact, Doppelt's insights are universal enough to benefit anyone who is interested in learning more about effective methods to manage and measure all types of organizational change. - onPhilanthropy, 12 May 2003 - Connette Gayle

Why does everyone talk about sustainability, but real changes are hard to find? According to ... Bob Doppelt, organisational change is the key to achieving lasting success. Both public and private organisations are the target of his research on how successful sustainability can be initiated and – even more important – effectively sustained...practical examples ... on successful AND failed initiatives provide useful examples. - European Circular Issue 21 (Autumn 2004)