The one sentence summary

Companies can succeed better by radically engaging with society


  • Companies can succeed better by radically engaging with society
  • There are four tenets that can be adopted to achieve connected leadership:
  1. Map your world: understand the trends that are shaping your context
  2. Define your contribution: quantify the value your company can contribute
  3. Apply world class management: connect the business to society at the highest level
  4. Engage radically: earn trust and credibility by engaging the external world on the front foot and being completely open
  • We have a finite pool of worry, and turn off when we hear trigger words such as ‘carbon dioxide’. A compelling vision of the future is more effective than a shaming strategy.
  • Companies that build a reservoir of goodwill are more robust when it comes to withstanding bad publicity, not always self-generated, such as when Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol painkiller was sabotaged with cyanide in 1982.
  • CSR is defective: executives see it as a fluffy, irrelevant cost centre, and civil society groups see it as meaningless propaganda that fails to achieve anything. If it doesn’t build the business, it’s unsustainable.
  • Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan successfully placed society at the heart of the business model and increased revenues by 10bn Euros.
  • A strategy can be enacted with 3 Cs:

Contest: correcting misperceptions and pushing back against unfair and illogical legislation

Concede and lead: admit when the industry has got things wrong and lead change to improve things

Collaborate: companies that act alone can rarely achieve major change


  • There are three areas that will determine company success and society’s ability to solve ecological challenges:
  1. Be better at exploiting easier win-win solutions
  2. Address long-term threats posed by unsustainable behaviour
  3. Innovation that makes a greener economy attractive and exciting
  • Lee Scott, then CEO of Walmart, only started to think carefully about sustainability after meeting river guide turned consultant Jeb Ellison. As the world’s biggest retailer, size is an advantage. Between 2005 and 2010, they sold 460m energy efficient light bulbs – the equivalent impact on greenhouse gas emissions as taking 25m cars off the road.
  • The life expectancy of US companies has shrunk from 67 years in the 1920s to 15 years today.
  • Enron’s principles were respect, integrity, communication and excellence


  • The chapter headings are unhelpfully enigmatic – it would be much easier to navigate the book if the sub-headings of each had been used on the contents page