Mena Impact Academy

Sustainability Reading List: Top 10 Books to Inspire Positive Change

In 1987, the United Nations Brundtland Commission defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This comprehensive definition necessitates a profound understanding of our current environmental, social, and economic challenges and their interconnectedness to forge a sustainable future for generations to come. 

Sustainability, as a field, is a captivating journey, constantly evolving and compelling individuals to become lifelong learners and foster curiosity. The literature on sustainability serves as an incredible source of knowledge and information. Here, we share some must-read books for anyone interested in sustainability.

Library cover, Mena Impact Academy

1- “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

This groundbreaking work by McDonough and Braungart proposes a revolutionary design approach where products are viewed as nutrients circulating in a closed-loop system, challenging conventional “cradle-to-grave” manufacturing.

2- “The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

Building on “Cradle to Cradle,” this book explores the concept of “upcycling,” advocating for designs that not only sustain but contribute positively to the environment, fostering abundance.

3- “Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist” by Kate Raworth

Kate Raworth introduces the Doughnut Economics model, a transformative framework that reimagines economics to ensure both planetary boundaries and human well-being are safeguarded.

4- “Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman — Including 10 More Years of Business Unusual” by Yvon Chouinard

Yvon Chouinard’s memoir outlines Patagonia’s unconventional journey, offering insights into the company’s commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainable business practices.

5- “The Future We Choose: The Stubborn Optimist’s Guide to the Climate Crisis” by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac

Written by key figures in the Paris Agreement negotiations, this book provides a hopeful guide to addressing the climate crisis, offering actionable steps for individuals and communities.

6- “Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take” by Paul Polman and Andrew Winston

Paul Polman and Andrew Winston explore the concept of “net positive,” illustrating how companies can make a positive impact on society and the environment while thriving economically.

7- “The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned From Patagonia’s First 40 Years” by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley

This book delves into the lessons learned by Patagonia over four decades, providing valuable insights into responsible business practices and sustainability.

8- “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate” by Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein critically examines the intersection of capitalism and climate change, challenging readers to reevaluate economic systems in the face of the climate crisis.

9- “Manifesto for a Moral Revolution: Practices to Build a Better World” by Jacqueline Novogratz

Jacqueline Novogratz offers a practical manifesto for building a better world, emphasizing moral practices and social entrepreneurship to drive positive change.

10- “Regenerative Leadership” by Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm

Hutchins and Storm explore regenerative leadership, providing insights into fostering resilient and regenerative approaches that positively impact both organizations and the world.

This list is not exhaustive, but these 10 references offer a solid foundation. Combining different perspectives reveals that we are not only facing a climate crisis but also a humanity crisis. Delving into sustainability exposes the realization that beneath apparent climate and social issues lies a broken system based on inequality, unfairness, and shareholder supremacy—a system in need of transformation.

For a deeper understanding of sustainability in a business context, explore our course “Introduction to Corporate Sustainability.” Learn more here. 

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