What Matters Most:
how a small group of pioneers is teaching social responsibility to big business, and why big business is listening
Jeffrey Hollender and Stephen Fenichell
317 pages (Basic Books, 2004)
As president of Seventh Generation, purveyors of phosphatefree detergent and other nontoxic household goods, Jeffrey Hollender was one of the first American business executives to promote corporate social responsibility as anything other than a response to a toxic tort lawsuit or a run of regrettable public relations. In “What Matters Most,” Hollender and co-author Stephen Fenichell offer a fascinating inside view of the push to compel businesses to adopt environmentally friendly, nonexploitative policies.
A true believer, Hollender sees in the recent corporate scandals “a chance to redefine the role of the corporation in society.” Adoption of socially responsible practices, he writes, is “not a public relations ploy, a new financial model, or the next management and leadership trend, but a broad social movement, centered in the corporation much as the antiwar movement of the 1960s was centered on college campuses.” This may be true. But in recounting the efforts of nonprofits to compel corporations to behave more responsibly, Hollender acknowledges a varying degree of compliance – and insists that, despite free market forces, some government regulation is still necessary. The book is even printed on chlorine-free paper.