Corporate Impact | January 19, 2021

New books on the new rules for a new era of business

Amy Cortese
ImpactAlpha Editor

Amy Cortese

ImpactAlpha, Jan. 19 – From the COVID pandemic and climate change to the racial justice uprising and assaults on democracy, the tumultuous events of the past several months have upended business as usual and accelerated shifts underway. A slew of new books attempt to chart a course forward (and enhance that bookshelf in your Zoom background).

“Co-create, don’t compete” is No. 6 among Judy Samuelson’s Six New Rules of Business: Creating Real Value in a Changing World,” just published by Berrett-Koehler. Samuelson, who runs the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program, offers a guidebook for the new stakeholder capitalism. 

Edelman’s latest Trust Barometer suggests business has become society’s most trusted institution. Almost 9 in 10 respondents expect CEOs to lead on societal issues; 7 in 10 say business should step in where government fails. Among Samuelson’s new rules: Reputation and trust rather than balance sheets and tangible assets, drive business value, she says (Rule No. 1). And corporate purpose can help companies transcend short-term pressures (No. 2). 

Impact investing. In Making Money Moral: How a New Wave of Visionaries Is Linking Purpose and Profit, due next month, Judith Rodin and Saadia Madsbjerg, both ex- the Rockefeller Foundation, chart the rise and future of sustainable investing. “The real opportunity for companies – and something investors are increasingly seeking – is to reshape the core strategy,” they write, boosting long-term profits by delivering positive social and environmental impact. Examples: Koninklijke DSM, a Dutch life- sciences company, has focused on advancing the SDGs. In Belgium, Umicore has transformed itself from a mining company to a recycler of metals. (Wharton School Press)

Beyond ESG. Complex, interlocking challenges require system-level solutions. In 21st Century Investing, Redirecting Financial Strategies To Drive Systems Change, The Investment Integration Project’s Bill Burckart and Steve Lydenberg demystify what it means to be a systems-level investor (see, “Call No. 22: Rooting out racism as a systemic risk). Their aim: to show investors how to tackle structural racism, climate change and inequality by integrating such thinking into their practices. (Penguin Random House

Getting to net-zero. Bill Gates has been studying climate change and investing in innovative solutions for more than a decade. His Breakthrough Energy Ventures has invested in solutions from battery tech to regenerative hydropower and low carbon steel. In How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, coming next month, Gates offers a roadmap to net-zero emissions. (Penguin Random House)

Inclusive energy transition. We’re in the midst of an historic transition to clean energy. But will it be inclusive? Northeastern University’s Shalanda Baker explores the intersection of climate, race and energy access in Revolutionary Power, An Activist’s Guide to the Energy Transition. She urges people of color, poor people, and indigenous people to help create a new energy system that upends the inequality in the current system. (Island Press)

Power shift. The past year has brought new scrutiny to how impact investments are made and who benefits. “The social sector, along with so many of our institutions, is at a moment of reckoning,” write ImpactAlpha contributor Meg Massey and Village Capital’s Ben Wrobel in Letting Go: How Philanthropists and Impact Investors Can Do the Most Good by Giving Up Control. The book, due next month, explores the emerging landscape of “participatory funding” with profiles of grantmakers and investors who are ceding decision-making power. (New Degree Press