A reading club with a view to the future

450 Paul Polman, Andrew Winston: Net Positive

“Net Positive” explores the concept of going beyond sustainability to create positive social and environmental impacts while driving business success.



 In "Net Positive," Paul Polman and Andrew Winston present a groundbreaking approach to business sustainability that goes beyond reducing harm and aims to create a net positive impact on society and the environment. The book challenges traditional business models by advocating for a paradigm shift where companies actively contribute to the well-being of people and the planet while simultaneously driving profitability. Drawing on real-world examples, the authors outline practical strategies for businesses to implement a net positive approach across various sectors. By focusing on innovation, collaboration, and transformative leadership, "Net Positive" offers a compelling vision for a future where businesses become agents of positive change.


  1. Title: Net Positive 
  2. Authors: Paul Polman, Andrew Winston 
  3. Publishing Year: 2019 
  4. Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press 
  5. Length: 12 hours and 17 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. Redefining Success: The book challenges the notion that business success is solely measured by financial performance and advocates for a broader definition that includes positive social and environmental impacts.
  2. Beyond Sustainability: "Net Positive" introduces the concept of going beyond sustainability by actively restoring and regenerating natural and social capital.
  3. Transformative Business Models: The authors highlight the need for businesses to rethink their models and strategies to align with a net positive approach, emphasizing innovation, circular economy principles, and stakeholder engagement.
  4. Collaboration and Partnerships: "Net Positive" emphasizes the importance of collaboration across sectors and the formation of partnerships to tackle systemic challenges and scale up positive impacts.
  5. Leadership for Change: The book underscores the critical role of leaders in driving the transition to a net positive future, exploring the qualities and actions required to inspire and mobilize organizations towards transformative change.

5 funny quotes

  1. "Imagine a world where businesses compete not only on profit margins but also on positive impact margins."
  2. "Net positive businesses: where doing good and doing well go hand in hand, like a perfectly choreographed dance."
  3. "Sustainability superheroes: coming soon to a business near you!"
  4. "Being net positive is like giving the planet a big, warm hug and getting a profitable embrace in return."
  5. "Join the net positive revolution - it's the coolest club in town, and everyone's invited!"

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "Business as usual is no longer an option; it's time for business as a force for good."
  2. "The future of business lies in creating value not just for shareholders, but for all stakeholders and the planet."
  3. "Sustainability is the floor, net positive is the ceiling; it's time to aim higher and redefine what success means."
  4. "Businesses have the power to transform challenges into opportunities and create a world that works for everyone."
  5. "The greatest risks and opportunities of our time lie in addressing global issues through a net positive lens."

5 dilemmas

  1. Balancing short-term financial pressures with long-term sustainable and net positive goals.
  2. Navigating the tension between shareholder demands for immediate returns and the broader interests of stakeholders and the planet.
  3. Choosing between incremental sustainability improvements and transformative business model innovations.
  4. Addressing trade-offs between social and environmental priorities when striving for net positive impact.
  5. Managing the complexities of collaboration and partnerships in pursuing net positive outcomes.

5 examples

  1. Unilever - a multinational consumer goods company known for its sustainable business practices and commitment to social and environmental impact.
  2. Interface - a global modular flooring company recognized for its Net-Works program, which transforms discarded fishing nets into carpet tiles while empowering local communities.
  3. Patagonia - an outdoor clothing and gear company renowned for its commitment to environmental sustainability, fair labor practices, and advocacy for conservation.
  4. DSM - a global science-based company that integrates sustainability into its business strategy, focusing on areas such as nutrition, materials, and climate solutions.
  5. B Corp Movement - a global community of certified B Corporations that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

Referenced books

  1. "Cradle to Cradle" by William McDonough and Michael Braungart
  2. "The Responsible Company" by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley
  3. "Natural Capitalism" by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins
  4. "The Sustainable MBA" by Giselle Weybrecht
  5. "Doughnut Economics" by Kate Raworth

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"Net positive businesses: where doing good and doing well go hand in hand, like a perfectly choreographed dance."

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