Natural Capitalism

ISBN: 0316353000
ISBN 13: 9780316353007
By: Paul Hawken L. Hunter Lovins Amory B. Lovins

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Business Ecology Economics Environment Green Non Fiction Nonfiction Politics Sustainability To Read

About this book

This groundbreaking book reveals how today's global businesses can be both environmentally responsible and highly profitable.

Reader's Thoughts

Ross Venook

Not terribly easy to read, but full of vision and inspiring tales of companies that are both economically and environmentally sustainable.For a preview (or the whole book, if you're a cheap student) you can download pdf's chapter by chapter at [].

Amaury Sautour

If you are already advanced in the process of looking for information about what's going on with the environment and what kind of solutions can and/or should be put in place - or should I say: if you already are a more open-minded, wiser and better person who cares about the outside world? - there is no need to read this book. It will likely state the obvious to you. Rather, with some of its passages demonstrating how good can be accomplished in the world, I wish there were an english version of 80 Hommes pour changer le monde Entreprendre pour la planète (lit. 80 men to change the world), a French book that presents amazing initiatives that help, little at a time, to make things better, around the world. On the other hand, if you are at the beginning of the path that leads to environmental knowledge (what's going on, what are the solutions, who is involved, and so on), then you should read this book. It will give you a clean picture of the situation, as of 1999, and incentives to read further on the subjects, or even better to start introspective reflexion about your actions as a human being part of an ecosystem and their consequences.I'd then recommend Ray Anderson's Mid-Course Correction Toward a Sustainable Enterprise The Interface Model as a more hands-on application of the principles presented in the book.


Paints a pretty compelling picture of a possible future where capitalism and ecological stewardship are not only compatible but function symbiotically - the picture is compelling not just because it's nice to image there being a non-eschatological future, but because they use existing, real-world examples of systems and processes that need only be extended in order for that future to come about.The book is pretty personally important to me, enough that I can imagine bringing at least a part of the vision into reality as something I work at for the rest of my life.


Not quick or easy (nor off-puttingly technical), but this book has a ton of great information about what it means to overhaul society to make it greener and how doing do would make it a less anti-social society.Best read over tea, and not necessarily in order.Generally, there is a specter haunting non fiction, namely that the authors take about 35% more pages than they need to expound their ideas. I want to scream "I GET IT! LET'S MOVE ON!" but no one is listening.I'm sure there were some excellent concepts in the last 100 pages, but I'll probably never see those pages. Let's return to the era of the pamphlet, the broadside.

Angus Mcfarlane

I hope that our current political decision makers have read this. The modern experiments with climatic modelling and economic response have the potential for massive and if incorrect, costly consequences. Whether we are planning to do enough or not will only be decided by future outcomes, but in the present time I think there are many principles presented in Natural Capitalism that are easy wins and beneficial regardless of the long term climate prognostics.


I am officially giving up on this book. I've had it checked out from the library for 6 weeks, and cannot bring myself to trudge through it anymore. Not that it's bad! But it does have a few strikes against it: a) It's heavy, which makes for a lousy commute; b) the print is tiny, which makes it seem insurmountable; c) I know next to nothing about economics or business, which means that much of that tiny print goes right over my head; and d) it was written 10 years ago, which means I have no idea how up-to-date any of the ideas/claims are. For example, the authors seem wild about the idea of hydrogen cell cars, but hasn't that largely been discredited by now? Their logic supporting it seems sound though, so I don't know what to think.It did have some intriguing ideas, but about halfway through I felt I had gotten the gist and didn't need to read any more. If you want to read about stuff like this, read Cradle to Cradle--it cites many of the same stories and people, is written with the common layperson in mind, and is much shorter (and printed on recyclable plastic).


I just skimmed this book to find the essence of its argument and pick out excerpts for my Jensen tutorial. The main thesis is that natural capitalism can do things better for people and the planet in the long term. The premises of natural capitalism are of course intuitive and appealing. However, the book ends up being a bundle of great individual ideas masquerading as a plan for saving the whole economy/society. The ideas on offer could and would be picked up by individual entrepeneurs and make them a bundle of money while saving the planet and helping people. Hawken and the Lovins seem to believe that that's all they can or need to do (which is fine, if that's what they want to accomplish). Yet their unbridled optimism pushes them to go further and assert that business owners who don't adopt natural capitalist principles will be left behind by the new wave; that the economy will simply shift on its own in the same way that it shifted from coal to oil or into industrial capitalism. I looked through the whole book and came to the conclusion that this is simply an article of faith: they never discuss its likelihood or any evidence about the question. Since natural capitalism is predicated on system-level design and shifts in high-level political policy, this is a startling omission. Individual business owners might make some money using resources more efficiently, but natural capitalism won't come about unless systemic change occurs, and this book offers nothing but faith and optimism about that. They don't even exhort readers to lobby for those system level changes – they seem to think that would be a waste of time, since it's inevitable anyway. That said, the evidence they marshal is rich and great, and they really do have some great specific concepts and ideas in here. It's just framed in a really idiosyncratic way that makes it seem like more than it can really be.It was also interesting to me that Hawken just treats the course of history as this series of brilliant innovations that solve engineering and distribution problems, coupled with all these bumbling errors and clumsinesses that cause all these mishaps and make the whole thing fail to achieve its real potential and true goal (which he asserts is to make everyone happier or whatever). What's interesting is that he doesn't ignore social inequality and racism and these issues - he clearly cares about them deeply. But he doesn't ever engage in a class analysis or something that would show that these problems are caused by some to benefit themselves at expense of others. This precludes him from addressing the fact that those who benefit might try to influence the growth of natural capitalism away from the social and environmental values he sees it creating towards a more or less sustainable version of today's social order.


Originally published in '99, I read this book 4 years ago, but had to reread it because of its unparalleled ability to provoke thought. This isn't just a book on economics or a book about saving the environment, this book represents the next evolution in economic thought. It posits that environmentalists and capitalists are not at odds in any way, in fact, they want the exact same things, namely to save resources and build a resilient (eco)system. I truly cannot say enough good things about this book; if you love money or the planet earth, then you owe it to future generations to read this book.

Linda Westegaard

I think this book should be a must read for every single person in America. Whether you believe that Global Warming is happening or not, it gives food for thought on how simple changes can have a big impact on how we consume.


The Lovins' from the Rocky Mountain Institute and Paul Hawken (author of The Ecology of Commerce) team up for a fantastic and hopeful read on how capitalism can be harnessed and directed to restore our planet and our communities. Far from a utopian vision of the future, the book teems with anecdotes and scalable solutions which are practical and require no further advance in technology. The Lovins' engineering and technical expertise coupled with what is undoubtedly Hawken's prose make for a great non-fiction read.

Xiaosen Xie

This book should be required reading for all econ and business majors. However, humanity is already way past the point of turning back the tide of environmental destruction. The damage is still being done, and the only thing we can hope to do now is lessen the impact of this damage.Currently, the majority of environmental destruction is being done in the third world (thanks mainly to the greed of first world countries, or, rather, our insatiable need to maintain our current standard of living). What needs to be done then, is to spread ideas touted in this book to those countries.


I'm still in the middle of this one and although it's become a little dated (it was written in the mid 1990's), it's still a great way to help readers get the big picture of how capitalism needs to change in order to support sustainability efforts. I am a firm believer in capitalism as a way for us to get out of this mess - innovation and customer demand being two of its strong points. Some think it is too positive - utopian even - but I appreciate the positivity given the increasingly dire nature of the news about the planet's decline these days.

Don Shelby

The world's economy is based on natural resources, the extraction of them and the making and selling and buying of those things which come from nature. As a result, the environment is being despoiled, and resources are diminishing. The authors suggest a new theory of economics and that is to place a value on that which comes from nature. That which has cash value is preserved and carefully used. It is the basis for an economic sustainability model that will help manufacturers, allow capitalism to continue, and to protect the environment. For instance, what is the value of the planet's hydrologic cycle, the natural cleaning of water and replenishment? What would it cost to build such a system if the natural one fails? Earth operates efficiently doing expensive work for humans, plants and animals. If it reaches a point where it cannot perform, humans must build systems to replace failed natural systems. Hawken and the Lovins are no strangers to controversial and prescient ideas. This is another one, supported by well researched metrics. I recommend the book t o anyone who likes capitalism, and cares for the environment.


This book changed my life and set me on my current path, which I hope will be a career in corporate sustainability. Basically, this is a primer for the next industrial revolution which we are currently entering and seeks to change the paradigm which says sustainability and a good bottom line for countries/corporations are mutually exclusive. In fact, it is now emerging to be just the opposite. The Lovines and Hawkin were prophetic in their predictioins, as we are now seeing what they spelled out in their book.


Hawken's work enlightens the reader about the depth of obvious contemporary issues regarding industry and modern life vs. the environment while suggesting possible solutions based on studies and approaches already executed by industry leaders and visionaries throughout the world. The writing style and overall narrative of the book may be a little too technical and academic at times, since it goes into painstaking detail (from statistics to lengthy study references) of the environmental impact of certain practices (such as irrigation for mass agriculture and the production of aluminum cans for sodas) as well as the details of innovative environmentally-conscious practices. In the end, this is a work aimed to persuade people within their respective industries more than a reading intended for anyone interested in the environment.

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