Our Top 10 Books For Sustainable Businesses
When it comes to sustainability, there isn’t just one right answer. Building a sustainable business is a journey that requires curiosity, vulnerability, and determination. No brand is completely perfect, but each step towards zero-waste, circularity, or an ethical supply chain does make an impact.
In order to do that, sustainable brands have to keep up with a constantly evolving set of knowledge. As Maya Angelou once said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."
In order to help you learn more so your business can do better, we’re sharing 10 of our favorite books that have helped us along on our sustainability journey.
Check out our 10 favorite books for sustainable brands below!
1. Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart
This guide to sustainable design provides a hopeful framework for building a better future. It’s a meaningful book for a number of our team members here at Recurate. Our founder, Adam Siegel, says “Cradle to Cradle is the book that got me into sustainability in the first place. It provided a framework for how to take resource efficiency to the extreme. As a budding engineer at the time, that efficiency really struck a chord in me. It was clear that global industry wasn’t using natural resources efficiently, and that there was a real possibility there.”
2. Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia
“Business unusual” is how Yvon Chouinard describes his journey as an entrepreneur and businessman. This book details his experiences as a rock climber, environmentalist, and CEO. With a focus on how he has chosen to weave his respect for nature into the heart and values of Patagonia’s brand, Chouinard talks about the courage it takes to operate your business in a sustainable and conscious manner. This is what bestselling author of This Changes Everything Naomi Klein said about the book: "This is the story of an attempt to do more than change a single corporation--it is an attempt to challenge the culture of consumption that is at the heart of the global ecological crisis."
3. Sustainability Marketing by Frank-Martin Belz and Ken Peattie
Not sure how to talk to your customers about sustainability? Then this book is for you. This textbook shows systematic and step-by-step approaches to marketing for values-driven brands. Here’s what Recurate marketing director Deanna Pratt has to say about it: “Sustainability Marketing had a profound impact on my life because it opened my eyes to viewing marketing as a force that shapes the world (for better or for worse). This book empowered me to pursue sustainability marketing as a career and vehicle for positive change.”
4. The Conscious Closet by Elizabeth Cline
Where Cline’s first book, Overdressed, discussed problems in the fashion industry, her second book acts as a guide for those who want to support fashion’s sustainable side. Including fresh research and personal anecdotes from her own journey towards a more conscious closet, Cline offers actions and resources for solutions-oriented readers. Our blog writer, Faye Lessler, says, “The Conscious Closet is more than just a resource guide for sustainable fashion and design. It’s also an illustration of how choosing conscious fashion is neither a singular nor linear act - it’s a winding journey that prompts you to go so much deeper than just the clothing in your closet.”
5. Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter
This is the journey of a secondhand garment, from the donation bin to destinations scattered across the globe. Journalist Adam Minter explores the industry of secondhand clothing, uncovering the business of resale while discovering the environmental and social impacts of all our stuff. The book packs a heavy punch, but ultimately offers opportunities for hope and change. In her review of the book, Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction, wrote that it was "revelatory,” and “terrifying, but, ultimately, hopeful."
6. Biomimicry by Janine Benyus
Written in 1997 well before sustainability became a buzzword, Biomimicry is a game changer. The author went on to found a consulting agency and the Biomimicry Institute which works with design companies to identify environmentally friendly solutions inspired by nature. Biomimicry has become a global concept, one that teaches designers to look to nature for the most elegant and sustainable designs. When this book came out, The San Francisco Chronicle called it “provocative,” saying that it “could very well provide one viable answer to the wake-up call that Rachel Carson sounded in Silent Spring.”
7. Natural Capital: Valuing the Planet by Dieter Helm
In this smart read, economist Dieter Helm describes a framework for establishing a balanced and sustainable economy. Holding the environment at the core of all systems and valuing it as a crucial part of the economy is the elegant solution that Helm offers for solving the climate crisis and building a better future. “This book is a solutions-oriented overview of the connection between politics, economics, and protecting our natural world. It stresses the importance of understanding what our environmental impact really looks like,” says COO Wilson Griffin.
8. Slave to Fashion by Safia Minney
According to a report by the Walk Free Foundation in 2018, the fashion industry is one of the biggest supporters of modern day slavery around the globe. In her book, People Tree Founder Safia Minney takes a look at slavery in the global supply chain, showing exactly how problematic the fashion and consumer industries have become. Minney also provides real-world examples of brands that have found success by championing ethical manufacturing and humane worker conditions. “What gives this book unique power is that Safia has lived every page of it in her lifelong fight to shine a light into the darkest corners of fashion’s best-kept secrets. What emerges is a painful portrait of unnecessary suffering but also a much-needed roadmap for anyone intent on making a better world,” says Andrew Morgan, Director of The True Cost movie.
9. Fashionopolis by Dana Thomas
In her first book, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, fashion and culture journalist Dana Thomas spins a tale of beauty and destruction in the luxury fashion space. But it’s her later book, Fashionopolis: Why What We Wear Matters, that truly inspires.
Thomas explores brands big and small that are experimenting with new solutions like 3-D printed clothing, waterless denim processing, hyperlocal manufacturing, upcycling, and lab-grown leather to get to the heart of how the fashion industry can move towards sustainability.
10. The Fifth Discipline by Peter M Senge
The Fifth Discipline is all about leadership. Author Peter Senge demonstrates how business leaders can free themselves from constrictive mindsets and zoom out to see the big picture, while never losing sight of important details. Incorporating interviews with experts at some of the world’s biggest companies, this book creates new patterns of thinking. Here’s what Recurate founder Adam Siegel had to say about it; “The author clearly defined a discipline, with systems thinking and a toolkit for effecting change on an organizational and global scale. The concepts from The Fifth Discipline have become the bedrock for how I see the world and how I consider making it better.”