How to build business sustainability from your cubicle: Tim Sander's Saving the World at Work

What were you thinking about on September 16, 2008? Green business ideas probably weren’t at the top of the list… September 15 was the day that Lehman Brothers went belly up, and you were probably more focused on your portfolio and savings. As such, Tim Sanders’ book Saving the World at Work (released on — you guessed it — September 16) got buried under talk of a second Great Depression.

Sanders and publisher Doubleday decided to give the book another go, and relaunched it on September 16th of this year. I’m glad they did: while the title led me to believe I was going to be reading another “how to” book on greening the workplace (which is not a bad thing), Sanders goes well beyond tips on saving paper and electricity. There are ideas for “greening” a company, but Sanders contextualizes these action steps within an examination of the “triple bottom line,” and a broader “Responsibility Revolution”: “…a broad-based movement of people and companies taking a disruptive approach to making a difference — contributing to our quality of life, locally and globally, for current and future generations.”

At the heart of this revolution are individuals Sanders dubs “Saver Soldiers”: people willing to take steps and risks to move their companies in more responsible and sustainable directions. Joyce Lavalle, the Interface, Inc., sales director who got a copy of Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce to CEO Ray Anderson, is just one example of many employees who took action aimed at moving their employers in greener and more people-focused directions.

Saving the World at Work pushes the reader to expand their concept of “business as usual,” but does so with a light touch: the book is brimming with ideas, but the author presents them in a straightforward, no-nonsense manner. I read it in a single afternoon.

If you’ve got ideas about how your own company might better address environmental and social issues while maintaining profitability, Saving the World at Work is definitely worth a read. Getting ideas like this into the corporate mainstream could ensure that other books like this aren’t overshadowed by gloomy news stemming from short-sighted approaches to doing business.

If you think you might want to read this one, buy it before the end of October: $2 from every book sold by Halloween will go to the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues.