Join our email list to receive tips, advice, and strategies!

Five Essential Books for Any ESG Professional

These books can help you be a stronger, more savvy sustainability leader

There are over 11 million Google search results for “best sustainability or ESG books” and the lion’s share of them are theoretical and/or focus on the what.

What is climate change? What is a circular economy or carbon footprinting? What are 10 of the largest companies doing to combat climate change (that they’re willing to disclose in a book)?

Don’t get me wrong, these are all important topics to master, but in order to be an effective sustainability leader, we must understand the how.

How to get people on board with ESG strategy, how to navigate the tricky issues going on behind the curtain, and how the societal, political, and economic systems that underpin our world can be reimagined and restructured to serve both people and planet.

Here are five recommendations for books that are incredibly helpful in transforming all that ESG theory rolling round in our heads into meaningful action.

Start with Why

Author: Simon Sinek

This book frames a new way of thinking, acting, and communicating that gives us the ability to inspire those around us. There are a lot of nuggets of applicable wisdom in this book, from active listening to understanding different perspectives, and how to motivate people to take action by focusing on the why. Learning how to inspire is a superpower when advancing sustainability inside organizations. 

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Where to find it: Elliot Bay Book Company, a neighborhood staple out of Capitol Hill, Seattle sells this title in-store and online. Check with your local bookseller as well!

Net Positive

Authors: Paul Polman and Andrew Winston

A big picture, challenge-your-mindset, must-read. This book is about how we can manage the issues that no one wants to talk about, but can no longer avoid. Problems (and solutions) such as companies paying their fair share of taxes, perpetuating corruption, short-termism by shareholders, and the lack of diversity on corporate boards. These issues are at play behind the scenes and can impact how successful we, as sustainability consultants, are. This book will challenge you to reframe and reimagine just about everything you think you know about business – and give you a fresh perspective and a competitive advantage.  

Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press 

Where to find it: You can find Net Positive online and in-store at Powell’s books, a Portland, OR institution selling new and used books across every category.

The Lean Startup

Author: Eric Ries

This book is helpful for understanding how to use continuous innovation in business and how to test, measure, and pivot (or persevere), which can be powerful tactics when embedding sustainability into organizations. Eric teaches readers ten different types of pivots that can be useful in assessing and improving the effectiveness of an ESG strategy. 

Publisher: Random House

Where to find it: You can get this title from, which supports independent booksellers across the country (and is a certified B Corporation).

Donut Economics

Author: Kate Raworth

This book is, “a wake up call to transform our capitalist worldview obsessed with growth into a more balanced, sustainable one that allows both humans and our planet to thrive”.  It’s a smart, savvy and an accessible read for laymen (like me). As sustainability consultants, this title can help us grasp big-picture economics and understand the incentives at play for large corporations.

Publisher: Chelsea Green  

Where to find it: You can get a copy of this book, used, from Better World Books which partners with local libraries and literacy funds, and also extends the life of the books we love most.

Climate Change: What’s Your Business Strategy

Authors: Andrew J. Hoffman and John G. Woody

“Don’t think of climate change as an environmental issue, think of it as a market issue,” the authors wrote in 2008 when this compact, Memo to the CEO was published. They encourage C-suite executives to “create your climate change strategy – know your exposure, take action to reduce emissions, assess business opportunities and get a seat at the (policy) table.” It even touches on how to directly link climate and company strategy. 

Publisher: Harvard Business Review 

Where to find it: You can find Climate Change, pre-loved, on which makes titles affordable and accessible, while keeping them out of waste streams.

Is ESG Consulting Right For You? Take a Quiz to find out!

Like this article? Share it on your favorite social media outlets.

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest