Bob Willard has written a stunning compilation of experience-based wisdom: his and that of other leaders who have done real things to work towards organizational change and sustainability in business. The Sustainability Champion's Guidebook is spot on for all levels of an organization, from high-level vision right down to individual, personal behavior. Read this book to jump-start or speed your journey to a better future.

― Ray Anderson, Founder and Chairman, Interface Inc.,
and author of Mid-Course Correction


“Sustainability” is what needs to be changed but then there is the matter of how to go about implementing such a dramatic shift so that its benefits are fully realized. This book goes beyond explaining the basics of sustainability; it outlines key issues that surface when navigating the human landscape of such an endeavor. It doesn’t just advocate what to change; it addresses how to manage the change itself. 

― Daryl Conner, Chairman, Conner Partners,
  and author of Managing at the Speed of Change
and Leading at the Edge of Chaos


Like all good writers, Bob Willard has put into words what we know but haven’t been able to articulate: Sustainability has moved beyond changing the mindset of management to become a mainstream driver of innovation and competitive advantage if you have the know-how to act on it. In The Sustainability Champion’s Guidebook, Willard provides an easy-to-use manual for managers. Readers will find practical sign-posts and experience-tested recommendations for how to lead sustainability efforts in any organization. By applying the wisdom of this book, readers will find new ways to create sustainable value – value that is good for society and the environment, and even better for customers and shareholders than would otherwise be the case. A must-read during times of economic crisis.

― Chris Laszlo, Managing Partner, Sustainable Value Partners,
  and author of The Sustainable Company and Sustainable Value


If you are working to implement sustainability in your organization then you simply must read this book. It provides clear guidance and simple, yet powerful, advice for getting the job done. Bob writes with wisdom based on experience.

― Andrew W. Savitz, author of The Triple Bottom Line


If you don’t understand the big system on which your own organization is dependent, you are probably not a leader. To step up to leadership requires competence rather than a change of values. Most people would like more skills on managing innovation, mitigating risk, and community building to address the dominant ustainability challenges of our time.  Bob Willard doesn’t turn to those who still haven’t got it but to those who need to know how to get on with it ― from envisioning to structuring, through elegant transition processes, all in an easy-to-get hands-on manual.  It’s the best out there.

― Karl-Henrik Robèrt, Founder of The Natural Step
   and author of The Natural Step Story


After reading Bob’s book there is an eerie sense that I feel he knows me or, for that matter, any other sustainability manager that is fighting for the cause of introducing sustainability within their business. It is a compelling read for those who are just starting their journey up Mount Sustainability, graphically pointing out the likely encounters that you will experience along the way. And for those like myself who started their journey with just the bare essentials of The Natural Step Framework, this book brings to life all those subliminal thoughts that make you think that Bob was right behind you the whole time.

― Dr Jason Leadbitter, Sustainability Manager, Ineos ChlorVinyls


The road to a green economy requires leaders from all sectors of society and from all levels inside companies. And leaders need clear, concise guidance on how to quickly and effectively transform company culture, products, and services for the good of the bottom line and the world. Bob Willard provides a roadmap for effective leadership that is both authoritative and accessible. Corporate sustainability evolution just clicked into overdrive.

― Joel Makower, Executive Editor,,
  and author of Strategies for the Green Economy


Happily, mainstream business education schools are finally embracing sustainable development. They help future company leaders understand how socially and environmentally responsible business decisions benefit performance in corporate, government, and non-profit organizations. Understanding is one thing; making it happen is another. Bob Willard’s new book is the perfect companion text of leadership tips and techniques for business leaders aspiring to lead the next industrial revolution. It should be a compulsory text in all business schools.

― Hunter Lovins, Founder and President, Natural Capitalism, Inc.,
 and co-author of Natural Capitalism and Factor Four


The trilogy is complete!  After inspiring us with his first two books on the “why” of corporate sustainability (the business case for sustainable development), Bob Willard has completed the trilogy with an excellent book on the “how”, The Sustainability Champion’s Guidebook.  Full of practical and proven advice for leading the transformation from within organizations, this book can transform you too --  into a successful champion.  Read it; absorb it; do it!

― Brian Kelly, Director, Sustainable Enterprise Academy,
Schulich School of Business, York University


All over the world, Boards of Directors are starting to take account of sustainability issues – financial, commercial and environmental – as they never have before.  The big question now is “how?” not “why?”  The role of a company’s Sustainability Champion has never been more important, across the company as a whole rather than in some narrow functional sense.  Hence the need for this guidebook – from one of the most experienced sustainability practitioners on the block.

― Jonathon Porritt, Founder Director, Forum for the Future,
and Chairman, UK Sustainable Development Commission


Concise, comprehensive, and compelling, this book distills a tremendous amount of theoretical and practical information into a well-chiseled guide that is exceedingly useful ― and wise.

― Alan AtKisson, author of Believing Cassandra and The ISIS Agreement


Bob Willard is a champion guide.  Learn how to keep your organization on today’s rails, but also help lay new ones—exploring future pathways to real value and wealth.

― John Elkington, Co-Founder of ENDS, SustainAbility, and Volans,
and author of The Power of Unreasonable People and The Phoenix Economy


Creating sustainable organizations is one of the most urgent and important missions of our time, and yet the sheer enormity of the challenge can overwhelm even the most committed. But not Bob Willard. In The Sustainability Champion's Guidebook, his newest book on this vital issue, Bob embraces the challenge with passion, energy, and determination. With his veteran's insight, Bob offers clear steps, proven practices, and keen insights on actions that concerned champions can take, and pitfalls they should avoid, to transform their companies from laggards to leaders in sustainability.  His real world experience and his deep understanding of the subject are evident throughout the practical tips that he offers on nearly every page. The Sustainability Champion's Guidebook is not a book that you should just buy; it's a book that you must use. Now. We don't have time to wait.

― Jim Kouzes, Dean's Executive Professor of Leadership,
  Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University,
  and co-author of The Leadership Challenge


After a decade of focusing on the why and what of business sustainability, Bob Willard has finally given us the missing piece of the puzzle-- how to do it.  The days of waiting for the CEO to drive change are over. The sustainability revolution will be led by committed champions who achieve impact beyond their titles and formal roles. In The Sustainability Champion's Guidebook, you will find the hands-on practices, processes, and techniques needed to drive the transformation to sustainability in your organization.

― Stuart L. Hart, S.C. Johnson Chair in Sustainable Global Enterprise,
the Johnson School, Cornell University,
and author of Capitalism at the Crossroads


Sustainability professionals have long understood that helping organizations become more sustainable is a formidable change management challenge. Bob Willard is a catalyst for this type of change and in this book he uses his methodical, frank, and engaging style to provide the reader with considerable insight and practical advice on how we too can become champions for change. When you are reading this book I encourage you to think like Bob ― take time to understand the sustainability challenge and how the world works, be open to new ideas and approaches, share the ones you find valuable widely, and most importantly embrace the challenge and act.

― Kevin Brady, Director, Five Winds International


Once again, Bob Willard has provided much-needed, timely insights and advice on how a business can move toward sustainability. This book hits the bull’s-eye.

― Bob Doppelt, Director, Resource Innovations and The Climate Leadership Initiative,
Institute for a Sustainable Environment, University of Oregon,
and author of Leading Change toward Sustainability


Willard’s book is a valuable guide for anyone seeking to integrate principles of sustainability into their organizational culture. It is practical, straightforward, and insightful.  This book is an easy way to access some proven practices for creating sustainable organizations.

― Brian and Mary Nattrass,
authors of The Natural Step for Business and Dancing with the Tiger


This book provides the missing link in the sustainability conversation -- a practical guidebook on how to transform your organization through sustainability. Bob Willard has summarized years of experience, insight, and knowledge into a useful tool for those of us struggling to transform sustainability ideas into reality within complex organizations. This is a must read.

― Barb Steele, Director, Canadian Business for Social Responsibility


Just as his previous books have provided the analytical tools to help readers build sustainability into financial management, Bob Willard's new book brings comparable clarity and practicality to the even more difficult and essential challenge of building sustainability into corporate culture.

― Gil Friend, President and CEO, Natural Logic Inc.,
and author of The Truth About Green Business


Canadian sustainability expert Bob Willard, who spent 34 years with IBM, offers a punchy, practical guide to leading change in your company in The Sustainability Champion's Guidebook (New Society Press, 129 pages, $19.95). He presents a seven-step model of change, seven practices that sustainability champions in companies must follow, seven paradoxes they will face, and seven "derailers" to avoid. As with his previous book, he harmoniously alternates one element of his message on each left-hand page with some background explanatory model or helpful diagram on the facing right-hand page. If you're interested in becoming a champion for sustainability in your company, this would offer useful guidance.

 — Harvey Schachter
September 16, 2009


In 1982, “The One Minute Manager” took the business world by storm. The best seller reached millions of readers in search of simple and quick advice on how to get the best out of their employees. Bob Willard’s book is better than that one — far less manipulative and much more principled.

In Willard’s own words, it is “an abridged field guide of tips for transforming organizational culture from unsustainability to sustainability, without all the supporting anecdotes and case studies.” The author cuts to the chase by tailoring the tools that have always worked in any corporate setting for the would-be sustainability champion.

After 34 years at IBM Canada, Bob Willard grasps the nature of environmental, health, and safety management. Don’t slide by that last word: management. The last 10 years at IBM were spent training executives to be leaders and agents of change. Willard has not forgotten anything since he took early retirement in 2000. He added to his storehouse of knowledge, writing two books and speaking at hundreds of conferences. The author has learned more about organizational change and sustainability, and presents the know-how in this thin volume.

Willard introduced himself to the business press with “The Sustainability Advantage.” In it he made the case that better environmental performance lowers costs and raises revenue. He even gave worksheets to use to prove it. His second installment, “The Next Sustainability Wave,” told EHS professionals not to push for sustainability within their companies. He focused them instead on solving practical business problems.

“The Sustainability Champion’s Guidebook” distills the two books to the essential techniques of effective management. A few samples from Willard’s best practices give a taste but do not do justice to the wholesome menu inside:

“Sustainability is a wonderful catalyst for self-motivation.”

“Manage expectations by under-promoting and over-delivering on the benefits of sustainability initiatives.”

“Going slow to go fast closes the gap between when a decision is made and when people affected by it buy in.”

“Compliance is extrinsically motivated obedience; commitment is an intrinsically motivated personal pledge.”

“Giving away ownership of sustainability programs to others in the company is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of leadership.”

There is structure to Willard’s dos and don’ts: Seven practices for sustainability change, followed by seven paradoxes to understand and use, and then seven derailers to avoid. The book is easy to read and a perfect disguise for Willard’s deep foundation in business management theory and his doctorate from the University of Toronto. He is serious and never glib. He makes the point from the start that the environmental situation seems to be worsening. He says more enterprises need to ratchet up their efforts to gain the momentum necessary to turn the world in the right directions.

© Victor House News, Co.

— William D’Alessandro


The most distinctive feature of the book is that it is a guide. The author underlines the importance of leadership as a means to sustainable transformation steps, where “leadership” is defined as the capacity to translate vision into reality. Another important issue is that one must primarily identify the issue of leveraging in a company and the people needed to make it happen. In the book, the process of change within companies is displayed clearly via visual tools. The second chapter is devoted to how one can change the process of the company one owns through seven steps. It should be noted that all the chapters are closely related and complementary to each other and the book as a whole is very easy to read. One can also find some questions in the book which challenge one to think about the process that currently exists in one’s given company.

Another impressive section is in Chapter 4. In this section, the topics are explained using paradoxes. Here’s a quote from that section, to give you an idea of what I mean – “You have to do it yourself; you can’t do it alone.”

So who should read this book? First of all, it’s for someone who wants to start the sustainability transformation in a company that he or she owns or someone who wants to review the existing processes in such a company. This is also a great book for people who are open to moving towards new business models, governance systems as well as products and services.

— nseferian
January 13, 2012


In his new book The Sustainability Champion’s Guidebook: How to Transform Your Company, Bob Willard presents models and practices from the best available personal, organizational and cultural management theories. Mr. Willard masterfully distils and connects frameworks from thought leaders such as Peter M. Senge, Stephen R. Covey, Peter R. Scholtes, Bob Doppelt, Andrew Savitz, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, J.M. Fisher, Doug McKenzie-Mohr, John Kotter and others.

What sets this book apart from other sustainability guides is the integration of disciplines previously studied individually, such as personal leadership development, learning organizations, team formation and effectiveness, change management, cultural adaptation, social marketing, systems thinking, human happiness and, of course, triple bottom line management. This multi-disciplinary approach is exactly what those of us working in sustainability have been looking for.

Having just completed an MBA in Sustainable Business at Bainbridge Graduate Institute, I can confidently recommend this book as providing an introduction to the most pertinent theories and resources available. For anyone passionate about bringing sustainability to every corner of our society, this book offers the tools and support for personal development and change leadership. I would encourage everyone to buy a copy of the eBook available at the New Society website.

— Jessica Vreeswijk
June 15, 2009


This is our first book recommendation.  This month, Bob Willard released his latest book, The Sustainability Champion's Guidebook.  We think it should be in the hands of anyone interested in working to steer their organization toward becoming a more sustainable enterprise.  It is written clearly and offers a practical "how to" guide for anyone, at any level in an organization.  We like Bob's lists of sevens: the seven-step sustainability change process, seven leadership practices, seven leadership paradoxes, seven pitfalls to avoid and seven summaries of personal and organizational change models.  We also like his top ten book and online news service recommendations.  

In this blog we offer our thoughts about how business leaders can respond to climate change risks and opportunities.  When we talk about "business leaders" we aren't necessarily referring to Vice Presidents and CEO's.  Leadership can come from anywhere.  In fact, most successful businesses maximize innovative leadership from every level and area of their organization.   Creating change can be overwhelming for those in official leadership positions, let alone those who are not.  This book is for anyone who believes their organization can be successful by becoming a more sustainable business and wants to create that change.  We recommend visiting Bob's website for more information about his books and resources.

— David Cruickshank
July 14, 2009


After reading numerous books that take chapters and chapters to lay out the problem and then devote only one chapter to what to do about it, Willard’s latest book is a refreshing change. This is a cut-to-the-chase overview of the last 30 years’ theories about how to be an effective change agent and he’s converted all the theories into to-do’s (and a few don’t do’s). Willard is in a hurry for us to be better change agents because the problems are so urgent. He leaves out all the theories and stories and gets right to what you should do. The body of the book is only about 100 pages and probably 1/3 of those are charts, diagrams, etc. He covers each of the principles in a page (literally, one page per principle plus a picture of some sort!).
He offers:

I found myself struggling a bit to keep his lists of seven straight in my head, although he does provide a visual model to show the relationships. But each principle embodies a pearl of wisdom.

So the trick to getting a lot out of this book is to read it slowly. Read one principle and then stop and consider: How am I doing this or not doing this? How have I seen this done well? What do I want to work on improving? Make notes and preferably take action before reading the next section. Or better yet, attend the distance-learning training that Bob Willard will be doing for the International Society of Sustainability Professionals in November.

Bob graciously includes an entire chapter on ISSP in the bibliography, but he doesn’t mention what an important role he has played in giving ISSP credibility. We are grateful to him for that support!


The hard facts of climate change and diminishing natural resources should engage anyone who has a stake in the future of our planet. But even in the face of a looming crisis, sustainability champions who hold sway in the business world ought to be armed with a lobbying strategy that is tactful, diplomatic and, above all, sensitive to the norms of corporate politics. Otherwise, argues author Bob Willard, business leaders who are not already on board with the green movement will not listen.

In The Sustainability Champion’s Guidebook, Willard outlines the principles of effective leadership that will help sustainability champions transform their companies before it’s too late. Writing with 34 years of corporate experience, Willard is acutely aware of the entrenched values and practices of the business world. Rather than strategizing to undermine those fundamental beliefs, he argues that the best approach to provoke change is to “focus on transforming unsustainable corporate behaviors,” allowing cultural norms and assumptions to follow naturally.

The book is written for sustainability intrapreneurs—champions of environmental sustainability that seek to influence businesses that they already work for. Willard describes a determined, yet measured approach to inspiring a green vision. He advises that while there may be compelling environmental reasons for urgent changes in corporate practices, the case for sustainability must be framed in a language that senior executives are receptive to; for instance, “concern for the future of profitability” translates better than “concern for the future of the icecaps.” By couching the benefits of sustainability in economical terms, the intrapreneur stands a better chance of effecting change.

Willard also stresses the importance of humility and open-mindedness. Few people enjoy being lectured to, but high-level management is especially adverse to an authoritative tone. That’s why effective communication is better served by dialogue. Willard emphasizes the importance of understanding and responding to the concerns of others. After all, if sustainability champions intend to recruit support for their cause, they must be willing to accommodate the concerns and interests of different people.

This kind of sensible, pragmatic approach is highlighted throughout the book, under four seven-point sections: “The Seven-Step Change Process,” “Seven Practices of Sustainability Champions,” “Seven Paradoxes to Use” and “Seven Derailers to Avoid.” Each point is relegated to a succinct one-page summary, complemented by a figure on the opposite page—usually a visual representation of an abstract idea in the form of a complex Venn diagram or flow chart.

As indicated on the back cover, The Sustainability Champion’s Guidebook is the how to achieve sustainability, not the why. In essence, the book deals with rhetorical strategies that effect change in the business world: how best to project yourself, to frame your ideas and to inspire change in others. In fact, much of the book could be removed, unaltered, from its context of sustainability and still be a useful model for effective business communication.

For instance, chapter 2, “The Seven-Step Change Process,” outlines general, but important, stages in lobbying for change. For each step, from ‘Wake Up and Decide’ to ‘Embed and Align,’ Willard concisely crystallizes the development and implementation stages of a compelling vision. Such methodology is not uniquely tailored for sustainability championing; nevertheless, for those seeking to instigate environmental change, it is certainly relevant.

Willard realizes that good ideas will not spread by their merit alone. It is imperative that they be packaged and presented well, because ultimately, the struggle for a sustainable future will be won or lost in a battle of ideas. While legal sanctions, carbon taxes, and other proactive measures are important, forcing change is itself not a sustainable solution. Instead, it is critical that industry leaders be persuaded to make their businesses environmentally sustainable. For that reason, sustainability champions, communicating change according to the kind of guidelines Willard proposes, may be the most vital players in securing a livable future.

One of the most compelling chapters in the book is that focused on the “derailers” to avoid. Click here to read the chapter.

— Lenny Talarico
September 8, 2009
Lenny Talarico is an editorial intern with Green Business


Boots on the Roof is the premier Wind and Solar Energy training provider in the United States, with the mission of training the next wave of Renewable Energy Contractors, Engineers, Architects, Sales Professionals and Business Entrepreneurs.

December 15, 2009

There’s always talk about green companies, and green entrepreneurs, and although these people and companies are providing a great service to our economy and way of thinking, we can’t help but notice, “how did they do that?” Many of us can clearly see that renewable and greener more efficient processes are much needed in today’s business and domestic worlds, but it’s hard to go against all of the old habits many of us hold so dear. In order to take a stand for sustainability takes a certain kind of person, a real “sustainability champion”.

Being a sustainability champion is no small task, it involves thinking not only outside the box, but dealing with your old box and its problems at the same time. This often means that the most forward thinking green people in companies hit the most resistance from those in charge who are perfectly happy with the way thing run now, and that alone is enough to stifle any plans for a more sustainable company. But fortunately there is hope! With the proper dedication and strategy, it is possible to win over the old wasteful ways of the past and usher in a new era of green business. And as more companies make this change there is even more evidence to back up your own companies switch to green habits. With the right guidance your company, not just other peoples’ companies can go green.

If you find yourself going against the grain and thinking too green for your company, then you too might be a “sustainable champion” and not yet know it. The book appropriately named  The Sustainability Champion’s Guidebook  by Bob Willard is an easy to follow summary of the best general ideas to keep in mind when overthrowing the faulty systems from the past. Many other such books are out there, but the point is to get the advice u need to take a stand, if you’re fed up with the system, then help bring in a new one! The green revolution isn’t happening because people want things to be greener, it’s because they are taking the time and energy to make things greener. Get informed, do your part, and together we can keep the green revolution charging.


A lot of books call themselves guidebooks, but few seem as simple, directional and concise as Bob Willard’s “The Sustainability Champion’s Guidebook.” In fact, the information could easily be presented as a series of flash cards, which the book’s graphics even mimic.

The author of previous books such as “The Sustainability Advantage” and “The Next Sustainability Wave,” Willard spent 34 years as an executive at IBM (NYSE: IBM) and takes a meticulous approach to writing. Each chapter is divided into seven points, each of which is limited to a single page, paired with simple visual diagrams, sidebars, lists and discussion questions.

The book is not meant to be an expansive look at the challenges of transforming corporate culture. After all, that wouldn’t fit the one-page-per-point formula. What’s more, the writing, unfortunately, like many books in the business genre, is riddled with clichéd expressions and advice. Even so, there is plenty of good advice here about how to align everything from energy use to waste management. It’s really, however, a kind of motivational text on leadership broken down into a series of steps and proverbs. Willard’s holistic view of the business landscape is enlightening and his enthusiasm contagious.

— Brian Libby
February 1, 2010


The subtitle of the book is what it's all about: How to Transform Your Company. This short, 128-page book captures the essence of modern business thought: Peter M. Senge, Stephen R. Covey, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, George Ainsworth, John P Kotter, and Everett M. Rogers. Wow! It shows how applicable all those thought leaders are to moving sustainability forward.

In the author's words, here's what you get: ". . . practices that have always worked for effective leaders championing any kind of organizational change. These are the lessons learned–without the backup theory, stories, case studies, and anecdotes." This is powerful stuff – so much information in such a small space.

Another insightful paragraph: "Sustainability initiatives thrive on meaning. When corporate values align with personal values, employee energy, creativity and commitment are unleashed, accelerating sustainability changes and adding passion capital to the financial, natural, and social capitals of sustainability."

Make no doubt about it, the author wants to advance sustainability. But, truly this book will help any executive move change through an organization. And, this is the kind of book you'll read more than once. I'm going to start my second read right now!

— Liz Cawood, President
February 23, 2010


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November 2009

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