Review of The Quest for Sustainable Business: It’s not the destination, it’s the glory of the ride

Wayne Visser: “Travelling to a new country, and soaking up the sights and sounds of a different culture, gives me a real high.”

Wayne Visser has had a peripatetic career. He rambled about as a consultant, visiting professor and lecturer, and wayfaring author. He wrote 15 books, including three volumes of poetry, in less than 10 years – counting the stretches of time he spent acquiring academic degrees in human ecology and corporate social responsibility.

He quit a master’s programme in Holistic Business at the University of Cape Town in 1994 to work for the international consulting firm Capgemini for a year and a half in South Africa. That was his baptism into the world of commerce. He made his first trip to the US then too, nearly 25 years after the start of the modern environmental movement.

So where does he get the cheek to write a memoir after only 18 years of professional life, and then call his experiences “an epic journey”? He doesn’t tell. But readers will be glad he did.

He offers one clue: “Travelling to a new country, and soaking up the sights and sounds of a different culture, gives me a real high.” The man seems compelled to want to make us share his passion.

Visser hit the road again in 2010, taking off from his cozy nest at the University of Cambridge on a nine-month tour in 20 countries. He went to talk to progressive social thinkers and entrepreneurial business owners about their pursuit of sustainable policies and practices. When he started to put pen to paper, he decided to meld what he found on this exploration with his own personal history. He turns the book into a reflective diary about the places he visited over the years, and about the people he met and the ideas he collected and developed himself about sustainable enterprises.

The man seems compelled to want to make us share his passion… readers will be glad he did [the journey]

The book is not sequential. Visser organises the material by country and region, not by time. He arranges the recollections, on-site reports, and opinions in chapters dealing with Africa, Europe, Asia Pacific, the Americas, and the UK.

Many of the interviews he conducted are available on the CSR International channel on YouTube or on the Cambridge University website. (CSR International is the non-profit Visser launched in London in 2009 to promote his model for transformative corporate social responsibility.)

What is the upshot of Visser’s odyssey?

Alas, there no grand climax here. After all, the quest is not extraordinary. Visser simply set out to find new ways of doing business. The author meets up with some heroic figures whose deeds in the pursuit of sustainability are valiant, inspirational, and entertaining. And in the end Visser makes a few pointed predictions about the future. But as with all road stories, the ultimate meaning is not found at the destination but in the act of getting there.

This review appeared in Crosslands Bulletin.

Dr Wayne Visser is the founder and director of the think-tank CSR International. He is Senior Associate at the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership as well as a Professor of Sustainability at Birmingham Graduate School and Adjunct Professor in CSR at the La Trobe Graduate School of Management.

He is the author of The Quest for Sustainable Business, the fruit of his 2010 “CSR world tour” to share best practice on sustainability and responsibility. The path begins in Africa and winds its way through Asia, North America, Europe, Australasia and Latin America. The author shares what he has learned in encounters with mega-corporations and small farmers, and conversations with CEOs and social entrepreneurs. The Quest for Sustainable Business is available direct from Greenleaf Publishing. Buy online and receive a 30% discount. Just use code QUEST321 at the checkout.

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