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Varieties of Green Business

Industries, Nations and Time

Geoffrey Jones

This book provides rich new empirical evidence on green business as it examines its variation between industries and nations, and over time. It demonstrates the deep historical origins of endeavors to create for-profit businesses that were more responsible and sustainable, but also how these strategies have faced constraints, trade-offs and challenges of legitimacy. Based on extensive interviews and archives from around the world, the book asks why green business succeeds more in some contexts than others, and draws lessons from failure as well as success.
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Geoffrey Jones


This book has shown the deep and varied historical origins of endeavors to create for-profit businesses which were more sustainable and responsible than the prevailing norms. There is no comforting linear or upward trajectory in the story. Rather it is one of a patchy and uneven diffusion of a belief that a greener, more sustainable, business was needed, and was achievable. The uncertainties even over the very definition of sustainability and green business have been demonstrated in previous chapters. This is not a reason to dismiss the whole concept, but instead to address its complexity. Sustainability is a path whose ultimate ending cannot be precisely defined. The goal must not simply be for organic carrots or organic wines (or other green products) to capture the global market, but for companies and business systems as a whole to evolve in a sustainable fashion in all activities. The variety of mishaps and wrong paths taken evident here are not signs of failure, but rather represent the costs of discovering a new form of capitalism which addresses, rather than exacerbates, the environmental challenges and societal inequalities of the world.

The constraints, trade-offs and legitimacy challenges faced by the business leaders who have gone on this journey stand out. The problem was seldom one of identifying the challenge and proposing a solution, but rather of getting the solutions accepted and diffused. Collectively the individuals in this book, often motivated by philosophical and religious beliefs and sometimes by seeing...

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