18 Top Business Sustainability Books to Read

By: | Updated: February 12, 2024

You found our list of business sustainability books.

Business sustainability books are guides to help companies become more environmentally responsible. Examples of these books include Green Swans: The Coming Boom in Regenerative Capitalism by environmentalism leader John Elkington and How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need by Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates. The purpose of business sustainability books is to explore solutions for real-world issues facing entrepreneurs and the corporate world.

Business sustainability books are similar to innovation books, quality control books, and business ethics books. You can read snippets from these books as part of your virtual Earth Day activities. To share your company’s views on sustainability, you can incorporate conservation methods into your organizational culture.

This list includes:

  • books on sustainability in business
  • corporate sustainability books
  • company sustainability books
  • sustainability books for beginners

Here we go!

List of business sustainability books

Whether your company is already on a path to sustainability or just starting on the journey, here are some business sustainability books that offer expert guidance.

1. The Sustainable MBA: A Business Guide to Sustainability by Giselle Weybrecht

In The Sustainable MBA, author and sustainability expert Giselle Weybrecht emphasizes that workers at every level can contribute to business sustainability. Weybrecht interviewed over 150 industry authorities to learn what makes a company sustainable and how to make meaningful changes. The result is a guide for transitioning to a more environmentally friendly business.

Notable quote: “This book does not assign blame for the challenges we face, but instead focuses on how businesses and employees can take action to be part of the solution.”

Learn more about The Sustainable MBA.

2. Green Swans: The Coming Boom in Regenerative Capitalism by John Elkington

John Elkington is the “Godfather of Sustainability” for his contributions to the global environmental movement. His book Green Swans explains the need for regenerative capitalism, with practices that focus on protecting nature rather than blindly consuming resources. The green swans in the title refer to potential solutions that can help businesses shift toward sustainability. According to Elkington, this new model of solution-oriented capitalism will allow companies to be environmentally responsible without sacrificing profitability.

Notable quote: “The single-minded pursuit of profit, it turns out, is no way to think of or run a planet for long-term health.”

Learn more about Green Swans.

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3. Sustainability Is the New Advantage: Leadership, Change, and the Future of Business by Peter McAteer

As managing director of SustainLearning, author Peter McAteer helps businesses attain their sustainability goals. With Sustainability Is the New Advantage, McAteer explores new corporate models in which environmental responsibility is a core belief. The author challenges readers to consider possibilities for businesses to benefit the world socially and economically. The need for community in lasting solutions is a theme, with McAteer stressing that if business overall is to evolve toward sustainability, then the change must be a global effort.

Notable quote: “We need to help everyone in our organizations develop a heightened degree of awareness about both the problems and the opportunities.”

Learn more about Sustainability Is the New Advantage.

4. The Business Guide to Sustainability: Practical Strategies and Tools for Organizations by Marsha Willard and Darcy Hitchcock

In The Business Guide to Sustainability, authors Marsha Willard and Darcy Hitchcock present an approach to sustainable business that readers of all backgrounds can understand. Structured like a textbook, this comprehensive guide explores how business sectors such as service and manufacturing can apply sustainability principles that work. Each chapter includes examples of the difference environmentally responsible practices can make. In addition, the authors include self-assessments to help readers identify where they fall personally on the spectrum of sustainability.

Notable quote: “From a practical, day-to-day perspective, sustainability means managing for multiple benefits, making decisions that make the economy, society and environment better at the same time, not trading them off.”

Learn more about The Business Guide to Sustainability.

5. The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability and Success by Carol Sanford

Sustainability demands innovation, a subject author Carol Sanford focuses on in her book The Responsible Business. Her text provides real-world examples of how companies like Proctor & Gamble revised their practices. These revisions helped protect firms’ consumers and rethink their impact on the natural world. Sanford explains that while corporate responsibility was a luxury delegated to consultants in the past, it is now an essential element of a business’s best practices. This guide explains how companies can commit to sustainability in all aspects of their operations.

Notable quote: “I’m concerned because the responsibility-sustainability train is finally leaving the station, and it’s going in the wrong way.”

Learn more about The Responsible Business.

6. Green Giants: How Smart Companies Turn Sustainability into Billion-Dollar Businesses by E. Freya Williams

To prove her theories about how responsibility positively impacts business, sustainability expert and author E. Freya Williams studied the world’s nine most lucrative sustainable businesses, companies she calls the Green Giants. In her book, Williams identifies six key factors in all nine companies and created a template for others to learn from. Green Giants devotes a separate chapter to each factor, exploring how qualities such as having a higher purpose and maintaining mainstream appeal play a part in these organizations’ success. By sharing strategies from companies like Chipotle and Toyota, Williams offers concrete methods for change to guide businesses looking for sustainability inspiration.

Notable quote: “Green Giants are businesses with a billion U.S. dollars or more in annual revenue that can be directly attributed to a product, service, or line of business with sustainability or social good at its core.”

Learn more about Green Giants.

7. Work Better. Save The Planet: The Earth-First Workplace is Good for People, Great for Business by Lisa Whited

With Work Better. Save The Planet, author and workplace strategist Lisa Whited offers a process for companies to take a more thoughtful approach to their sustainability goals. Whited’s research for the book focuses on PLLANET, a seven-tiered approach to a healthier environment for workers and the world at large. The book focuses on reducing space and resource consumption and creating a practical plan to address climate change. Work Better. Save The Planet is a great guide among corporate sustainability books for companies ready to commit to sustainability.

Notable quote: “A reimagined way of working can unite people, inspire innovation, energize employees and be less harmful to the planet.”

Learn more about Work Better. Save The Planet.

8. Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage by Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston

Companies brave enough to pivot toward sustainability have an edge in the business world. In Green to Gold, authors Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston provide real-world examples of companies that turned to sustainable solutions and found greater success. The authors discuss the environmental impact of outdated business and production methods. In addition, the book categorizes the organizations with a role to play in shifting to sustainable standards. This book is a frank yet hopeful look at the stressors facing modern businesses and suggestions to help companies of all sizes make meaningful changes.

Notable quote: “In other words, an environmental lens is not just a nice strategy tool or a feel-good digression from the real work of a company. It’s an essential element of business strategy in the modern world.”

Learn more about Green to Gold.

9. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

Authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart use nature as inspiration for a new manufacturing model. The outdated standard of waste-heavy production is environmentally destructive. New methods that follow a more natural path provide sustainable solutions. The authors contrast the flaws in Industrial Revolution-style production with imaginative ways to reinvent production processes. The writers’ ideas for sustainability aim to correct past mistakes and start a new, more responsible Industrial Revolution for the modern world.

Notable quote: “Human industry has been in full swing for little over a century, yet it has brought about a decline in almost every ecosystem on the planet.”

Learn more about Cradle to Cradle.

10. Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher

Small Is Beautiful appeared in 1973 as economist E.F. Schumacher’s protest against overconsumption. The reprinted version reintroduces Schumacher’s concept of maintaining the environment, community, and nature as business guideposts. Though the original edition is 50 years old, the ideas expressed are a blueprint for business sustainability that is as relevant now as it was then. This title is a great choice among the many sustainability books for beginners.

Notable quote: “Embracing what Schumacher stood for—above all the idea of sensible scale—is the task for our time.”

Learn more about Small Is Beautiful.

11. How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need by Bill Gates

Tech pioneer and philanthropist Bill Gates shifts from software to company sustainability books with an eye on saving the planet. In How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, Gates explores the necessity of changing our ways globally, focusing on greenhouse gases and the need to reduce them. Gates explains how climate change negatively impacts communities worldwide and that the need for affordable, renewable energy resources is crucial. A five-part plan in the book explains the steps required to get to zero carbon emissions. This task is difficult, but the author believes in new technologies to help industries and businesses achieve sustainability.

Notable quote: “This book suggests a way forward, a series of steps we can take to give ourselves the best chance to avoid a climate disaster.”

Learn more about How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.

12. Sustainable: Moving Beyond ESG to Impact Investing by Terrence Keely

According to Sustainable author Terrence Keely, business and finance have major roles to play in creating a sustainable work world. The author’s authority as a top financial adviser shares his belief that investing in companies with true social and environmental impact is the best strategy. Markets need new ways of thinking about finance, a method Keely calls “impact investing.” His proposed solutions answer the need for sustainable industries to address an ever-growing population.

Notable quote: “Humanity needs continued economic growth to fuel all forms of progress, be it material, social, or—as we will see soon enough—environmental.”

Learn more about Sustainable.

13. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

In This Changes Everything, author Naomi Klein identifies the danger of climate change as a basis for fixing an unsustainable economic system. Klein also explores how social and governmental inequalities expand through rampant economic growth. Simple changes to capitalist economies may not be enough to solve the problem. A massive and difficult shift in the way humans interact with nature is key. This shift calls for cooperative capitalism as a radical solution that could save the planet.

Notable quote: “The challenge, then, is not simply that we need to spend a lot of money and change a lot of policies; it’s that we need to think differently, radically differently, for those changes to be remotely possible.”

Learn more about This Changes Everything.

14. Natural Capitalism by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovens

The idea of natural capital centers around treating environmental resources as business capital. In Natural Capitalism, authors Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovens introduce natural capital as renewable resources that are out of balance with financial, human, and manufactured capital. The result is a capitalist system that needs reinvention to survive. The authors explain why natural capitalism must lead the way to true business sustainability, a fact that most contemporary companies are beginning to understand.

Notable quote: “Natural capitalism recognizes the critical interdependency between the production and use of human-made capital and the maintenance and supply of natural capital.”

Learn more about Natural Capitalism.

15. Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World by Gary Hirschberg

According to author Gary Hirschberg, sustainability and profitability can go hand in hand. Hirshberg runs Stonybrook Farms, the largest organic yogurt company in the world. His experience building a sustainable company helps him illustrate how saving the planet is a money-making endeavor. Entrepreneurs and business leaders looking for books on sustainability in business will learn much from Hirshberg’s dedication to ethical practices for a healthier planet.

Notable quote: “Business is the most powerful force on the planet; it got us into this mess and is the only force strong enough to get us out.”

Learn more about Stirring It Up.

16. Making Sustainability Stick: The Blueprint for Successful Implementation by Kevin Wilhelm

In Making Sustainability Stick, sustainable business leader Kevin Wilhelm shares his thoughts on transforming companies into environmental and social responsibility leaders. Wilhelm focuses on how companies can make meaningful changes that lead the business world into a new era of sustainable industry. Interviews with other sustainability leaders give insight into what it takes to make successful changes. Understanding the many challenges this sort of change presents, Wilhelm offers encouragement to readers at all stages of their sustainability journeys.

Notable quote: “There is a strong business case for sustainability. Done right, it adds value, saves money, drives innovation, reduces risk, enhances your brand, and increases both customer and employee loyalty.”

Learn more about Making Sustainability Stick.

17. Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take by Paul Polman and Andrew S. Winston

To become “net positive,” a company needs to give more than they take, a tricky feat for businesses trying to stay profitable. Former Unilever CEO Paul Polman collaborates with corporate sustainability expert Andrew S. Winston on Net Positive. This book explains the necessity of making impactful changes. Polman and Winston use Unilever as an example, citing the company’s transition into a more sustainable organization. Their book explores the benefits of a company becoming net positive, helping both the business and the planet. According to the authors, this modern corporate model is critical for addressing environmental balance as well as earning and keeping the trust of customers and investors.

Notable quote: “We need companies to go far beyond just cutting some carbon emissions and being less bad; the work must move into positive impact territory.”

Learn more about Net Positive.

18. Sustainable Marketing: How to Drive Profits with Purpose by Michelle Carvill, Gemma Butler, and Geraint Evans

Marketing is an important factor in a company’s ability to uphold its commitment to sustainable practices. Sustainable Marketing explains how social and environmental responsibility will improve a company’s marketing methods. As marketing experts, the authors share their wisdom on why a sustainable marketing approach is vital to a company’s authenticity. This book also offers a guide for designing and using sustainable practices for companies ready to adopt a new business model.

Notable quote: “It has become increasingly clear that, as marketers and business owners, we all need to take responsibility for the impact our companies and their activities have on the environment.”

Learn more about Sustainable Marketing.


Business sustainability books demonstrate that companies can be responsible while maintaining their core business functions. Successful modern companies face many challenges balancing corporate, environmental, and social concerns to minimize their impact on the planet. With advice and ideas from experts in both business and sustainability, these books offer a path for companies looking to take the first step.

Next, learn about managing stress with our lists of work-life balance books and workplace wellness books, and check out these Earth Day activities.

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FAQ: Business sustainability books

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about business sustainability books.

What are business sustainability books?

Business sustainability books are guides that explain the importance of environmental and social responsibility in the business world. These books explore the issues at hand, such as climate change and economic inequality, while offering solutions companies can implement.

What are the best books about business sustainability?

The best books about business sustainability include The Business Guide to Sustainability by Marsha Willard and Darcy Hitchcock and Stirring It Up by Gary Hirschberg.

Author avatar


People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com.
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at teambuilding.com. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.


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