Even leading capitalists admit that capitalism is broken. Green Swans is a manifesto for system change designed to serve people, planet, and prosperity. In his twentieth book, John Elkington—dubbed the “Godfather of Sustainability”—explores new forms of capitalism fit for the twenty-first century.
If Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “Black Swans” are problems that can take us exponentially toward breakdown, then “Green Swans” are solutions that take us exponentially toward breakthrough. The success—and survival—of humanity now depends on how we rein in the first and accelerate the second.
Green Swans draws on Elkington’s firsthand experience in some of the world’s best-known boardrooms and C-suites. Using case studies, real-world examples, and profiles on emergent technologies, Elkington shows how the weirdest “Ugly Ducklings” of today’s world may turn into tomorrow’s world-saving Green Swans.
This book is a must-read for business leaders in corporations great and small who want to help their businesses survive the coming shift in global priorities over the next decade and expand their horizons from responsibility, through resilience, and onto regeneration.
A thoughtful if self-aggrandizing call for sustainable capitalism arrives from social entrepreneur Elkington (coauthor, The Breakthrough Challenge). Expanding on Nassim Nicholas Taleb's 2007 book, The Black Swan, an exploration of unpredictable and large-scale events, Elkington introduces green swans, which offer "systemic solutions to global challenges." He predicts an approaching crisis in the world economy, with at stake whether democracy and sustainability a term which, he informs readers, he coined can coexist with capitalism. The most likely outcome, Elkington posits, is that capitalism will falter or crash entirely, only to reemerge in a more environmentally and socially responsible form. He discusses how the reluctance to face deep-seated issues under a free-market system that privileges short-term thinking can lead to disaster, comparing the oil business's attitude toward climate change to how the tobacco industry refused to deal with its products' health risks. In the long term, though, Elkington believes the future will belong to forward-thinking and responsible leaders, such as Marc Benioff, the co-CEO of software company Salesforce, who calls for taxes to go up, not down, on high earners like himself, to aid social spending. Enthusiastic about change, Elkington offers a much-needed shot of optimism. However, the derivative nature of the ideas within, and the author's inability to skip any opportunity to sing his own praises, is likely to leave readers feeling unfulfilled.