As I grabbed this book to read it, I found myself staring at the title trying to understand the message behind it. As an economics grad, it reads (obviously) as an oxymoron. Where environmental degradation has always been the price of business, ecology and commerce together were neither a drive nor a by-product of common business practice. The Ecology of Commerce shows that the natural world and our commercial can (and in fact should) help make the world a better place.
Paul Hawken bases his analysis on two well-agreed upon facts:
- we are facing a global environmental crisis that is a significantly more life-threatening than most of us realize
- the industrial age (as we know it) is on its way behind us
- Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce argues that ecological business is not just some kind of utopic hippie dream: rather, a necessity that becomes more and more evident as we grow and evolve. He writes:
“The promise of business is to increase the general well-being of humankind through service, a creative invention and ethical philosophy. Making money is, on its own terms, totally meaningless, an insufficient pursuit for the complex and decaying world we live it.”
Value to the reader:
Since most of you will be on the same page about the facts about global warming, the author doesn’t dwell too much upon that. Instead, by looking at a long-time culprit, i.e. big business, and the ecological consequences a business could have, Hawken sheds light on possible solutions and problem areas.
Therein lies the value of this book.
The book highlights the fact that a partnership between business and nature, a.k.a. “the restorative economy”, is the only way to move forward.
The idea of a restorative economy is to me the key concept to grab from this book, as it inverts ingrained beliefs about how business should work.
Although the book packs a punch, this book is a good and easy read.
If you’re not too familiar with business or economics, a quick Google search may come in handy at some points.
While some of the early chapters to be a little repetitive, other than that, Paul Hawken loses no time in trivialities and takes you straight to the point.
Like, I get it, our commercial lives are wasteful… Let’s get to your restorative economy vision! That’s what I’m most curious about.
Once I got to the part, it was delightful.
Short and sweet.
It’s light, it’s fun, and you can spend extra time writing in the margins if you really want to.
The Gem Factor:
Is this a good read? Yes!
Depending on how much you adhere to the idea of a global restorative economy, this book may be uber influential in how you think about business. For that reason, it’s pretty insightful.
Personally, I found it to be a great read and valuable resource, as the message of the book lines up perfectly with my vision for what a healthy economy should look like.
The entire reason why I am back at school studying economics is to be able to participate in the shaping of a new economics model, which breaks away from what classic economics have thought us.
This book was written 2 decades ago and, today it is even more relevant. Despite the fact that it is a short book, I have a feeling that more and more people will want to read this in the future as the look for alternative solution to wasteful business grows ever stronger.
Great read, very informative and accessible to almost anybody who’s interested in the subject.
Do we recommend? Damn straight.
A note from Idriss:
The only critique observation that I have for the work is the lack of concrete evidence to support some of the claims that were made in his book. The author made a lot of claims, gave examples, and made some comparison; however, he didn’t provide support to many of them.
This was probably sacrificed to make it more compelling to the reader, but for pragmatic nerds like me, it’s a definite downer.
Maybe not a big deal for you, normal human.
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