The Essential Sustainable Business Reading List

Our top book recommendations on Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainability & Social Impact from the team at Reconsidered

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We are so excited to share Reconsidered’s first summer reading list with you.

From searing exposés to pioneering classics to the fascinating backstories behind your favorite sustainable companies — we’ve compiled a list of essential reads to last you through your summer travels (and beyond).

Enjoy — and let us know which books really stick with you!

📈 How Change Happens (Cass R. Sunstein)

I’m deep into this new read from legal scholar and behavioral economics pioneer Cass Sunstein, which explores the important and relevant question of how social change happens. From political activism, to sexual harassment, to attitudes around climate change, Sunstein highlights the role of social norms and nudges in driving societal transformation. — Jess

Bonus: If this summary sparks your interest, download our free playbook “Making Change Sustainable” to dig deeper into how insights from the world of behavioral science can supercharge the way companies embed social responsibility into their business.

🤚 Give Work: Reversing Poverty One Job at a Time (Leila Janah)

As our sector trends away from CSR as an afterthought, models like impact sourcing are becoming more relevant. This memoir from Samasource founder Leila Janah — whose hybrid for-profit/non-profit social enterprise model has ushered in a new way of doing business — is useful for understanding this shift. — Amirah

💰Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World (Anand Giridharadas)

This book is appropriately summed up by the headline of an op-ed Giridharadas wrote (and we shared) last year: “Beware Rich People Who Say They Want to Change the World”. The full read is just as searing as you might expect — and if you work in social impact, it’s likely to spark all sorts of emotions, from frustration to guilt to utter agreement. Above all else, it will make you rethink the assumptions and context behind the notion of “doing well by doing good”, which is more important now than ever as we enter a new chapter of social and environmental urgency. — Jess (also recommended by readers Alden W. and Amelia A.)

🌳 The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate―Discoveries from A Secret World (Peter Wohlleben)

This pick is a wildcard, but hear us out. German forester Peter Wohlleben humanizes trees by explaining how they co-exist within social networks much like those that exist in ours — communicating, competing with and supporting one another. It provides an important reminder of how interconnected our world is, and a timely invitation to reconnect with nature. — Sam

👗 Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion (Elizabeth L. Cline)

Even if you’re familiar with the ills of fast fashion, this 2013 book is worth reading for Cline’s thorough overview of how the business of fashion has changed over the last three decades and her practical ideas for a path forward. If you’ve already enjoyed it, pre-order ‘The Conscious Closet,’ her consumer-focused style guide due out this August. — Bryn

🔥 The Big Pivot: Radically Practical Strategies for a Hotter, Scarcer, and More Open World (Andrew S. Winston)

The cornerstone of my Intro to Sustainable Business class in business school, this book is a must-read for those new to corporate social responsibility. Winston was one of the first to articulate that sustainability efforts can’t exist as a silo within an organization, but rather that companies must pivot their entire way of doing business to a model that “solves the world’s biggest challenges profitably.” Winston offers up 10 practical strategies, like “Fight short-termism” and “Pursue heretical innovation,” each with a handy “How to Execute” section. — Jess

🚗 Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (William McDonough & Michael Braungart)

This pioneering guide to circularity — published long before #circulareconomy was a buzzword — encourages an approach to designing, manufacturing and consuming products that is built on systems of nature. It makes the point that making the world more sustainable will require completely reimagining how we live today. Fun fact: the original version was printed on a synthetic paper designed to be upcycled rather than downcycled. — Bryn

🏄 Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman (Yvon Chouinard)

Patagonia is often held up as a best-in-class example of a responsible brand, making this memoir by its climber/environmentalist founder a must-read for anyone interested in building a business backed by values. — Amirah

🏭 Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China (Leslie T. Chang)

Over the past few decades, the manufacturing sector has completely transformed China’s economy and society But how much do we know about the people fueling this transformation? This page-turner follows the everyday lives of the female factory workers who make our everyday objects, highlighting their hopes, their dreams, their relationships, their families and their changing view of themselves. — Jess

💡Perspectives on Impact: Leading Voices On Making Systemic Change (Nina Montgomery)

This collection (along with its companion ‘Perspectives on Purpose’) brings together insights from leaders at organizations like Ben & Jerry’s, Sephora, Airbnb, and Sesame Workshop, (as well as a set of essays by young voices in impact curated by yours truly!) to provide a snapshot of the state of change-making today. — Amirah

👌 This is a Good Guide — for a Sustainable Lifestyle (Marieke Eyskoot)

Dutch sustainable lifestyle expert Marieke Eyskoot has created a modern handbook for conscious living that is both practical and aspirational. Oh, and some of Reconsidered’s recommendations are featured too. 🤩 — Jess

We also got loads of recommendations from our readers! CLICK HERE FOR MORE 👉

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Thought-provoking content on corporate social…

Jessica Marati Radparvar

Written by

Corporate social responsibility + sustainability + social impact strategist. Founder of Reconsidered. Newsletter curator:


Thought-provoking content on corporate social responsibility, sustainability and social impact.

Jessica Marati Radparvar

Written by

Corporate social responsibility + sustainability + social impact strategist. Founder of Reconsidered. Newsletter curator:


Thought-provoking content on corporate social responsibility, sustainability and social impact.

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