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Summary

Runaway climate change and gross inequality are ravaging the world. Who can help lead us to a better future? Business.

These and other massive challenges threaten our very existence on the planet. Yet division and discord risk undermining our response, just when we need to come together. 

At this critical time in history, the imperative to reimagine our economies and companies could not be more urgent. Fortunately, many in the business community are helping to solve our most profound challenges, deploying long-term, purpose-led business models that put people and planet first. The key question has flipped from "Why would you do sustainability?" to "Why wouldn't you?"

In this paradigm-shifting book, former Unilever CEO Paul Polman and sustainable business guru Andrew Winston provide a model to help leaders build companies that contribute more to the world than they use or take - that is, net positive companies.

Net Positive outlines the principles and practices for surviving and thriving based on the experience of one world-leading company, Unilever, and other groundbreaking global organizations. This essential book is for leaders, executives, managers, and professionals who want to succeed, but know that winning requires caring deeply about serving the world.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2021 Paul Polman and Andrew S. Winston (P)2021 Ascent Audio

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Too polarised & cliche-ridden

Some interesting examples, especially about Unilever, but then goes too far beyond reasonable business, economic & behavioural practice.

Lots of tired clichés such as the “finite planet” trope, which overlooks energy (& therefore GDP or any other economic measure) courtesy of the Sun & gravitation, not to mention almost endless potential from nuclear power & other sources.

Yes, mathematically growth cannot be “infinite” but if it’s sustainable for a billion years until the Sun goes nova, we have other things to worry about.

The section on externalities also seems to consider it a unique issue for capitalism, when it obviously applies to *all* economic systems and even personal actions. There are externalities *everywhere* (some of them positive) and unless you try to calculate them ubiquitously, the argument seems to sound uniquely anti-capitalist rather than pro-environmental.

There is also insufficient attention to technology as a way to fix or solve problems - whether that’s with carbon capture or AI for energy efficiency.

Lastly, it seems to bundle too much together. E, S and G (& additional concerns) should be considered individually and separately, as attitudes & opinions vary over time and place, as does appetite for risk.

Worth listening to, but sadly this made me want to push back against the rhetoric far more than it made we want to push forward the ideas into businesses I advise.

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  • Erik Foley
  • 24-01-22

Good read but superficial in its treatment of the topic

I have read many sustainable business books and teach this topic and work with companies. I went back-and-forth between finding the book helpful with its examples and reference of certain groups and resources I was not aware of. But it also reads as a public service announcement for Unilever, a deserving company but this removed from the book in my view.

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  • Yaxa
  • 09-01-22

Sharing the journey

The challenging scene towards net zero is clearer through the lenses of Unilever’s path. Inspiring stories within opens the will to act and the possibilities if the aim is high.
An essential book for boardroom members, CEOs and leaders.

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  • T. Harrison
  • 21-11-21

Net Regenerative

Net Positive is an important read that disturbs with respect to its clear stand that our current capitalist system is unsustainable and leading us rapidly into self-destruction. Thankfully, the book mostly encourages with respect to the vital disruption net-positive business can make. Seems clear to me that net positive is a critical shift needed now, as we move rapidly into genuine nature-based regenerative systems that will not simply slow our demise, but that will heal our world and nurture all life.