Stonyfield CEO’s book could cause a stir.
Gary Hirshberg is the CEO of one of the most high-profile dairy food companies in the U.S.; he’s also an environmentalist and political activist, a soccer coach and father of three, and now he’s an author.
Earlier this month Hyperion Books released Stirring it Up: How to Make Money and Save the World. It’s a CEO book with a unique angle, an angle that’s ripe for 2008.
In the book, Hirshberg explains how Stonyfield’s counterintuitive way of doing business demonstrates that companies can make bigger profits than their more conventional counterparts when they adopt environmentally conscious policies. But Stirring it Up isn’t just about Stonyfield. The book dedicates at least as much ink to similar stories from other companies in such varied ventures as carpet making to auto sharing. There’s TerraCycle, a company with a near-zero carbon footprint that uses worms and cafeteria waste to produce an organic plant food that’s packaged in used on-liter soft drink bottles and sold at Menards and Target. A few pages later it’s Colorado’s New Belgium Brewery, which gets all its power from a windmill grid, recaptures its CO2 and gives employees bicycles to ride to work.
Interspersed with these anecdotes is the story of how Stonyfield has become the world’s largest organic yogurt company, $330 million a year, still giving 15% of its profits to environmental causes, and so on. There are details here that you might not be familiar with, even as a reader of Dairy Foods.
Hirshberg told us last month that he had been working on writing the story of Stonyfield since 1999, but the spark for Stirring it Up came about much more recently.
“I gave a speech about three years ago on these subjects and by luck, there was an agent in the audience, Helen Rees. She pretty much attacked me and said I must get this book out, so I told about what I was working on and she said, ‘no, not that book, this book.’”
When he spoke with Dairy Foods in November, Hirshberg had just done a Barack Obama fundraising appearance in New Hampshire with Oprah Winfrey, so there’s some chance that Winfrey may provide her Midas touch to the tome. Hyperion will get Hirshberg in front of some potential readers, perhaps with some national media exposure.
“I still have a job to do at Stonyfield, so I’m not going on a formal book-signing tour, but I am on the road a lot next year,” he says. “It gives me an excuse to go and out and see more customers too, which is something I used to do a lot of, maybe way too much of it, if you ask my wife.”
Hmmm, a CEO book about sustainability in business in 2008, from someone who really knows the subject. Might have some potential to create some buzz, right? How’s the buzz on the book so far?
“It’s very timely,” Hirshberg says. “Not only speaking on carbon footprints, but being able to speak from an executive perspective and speaking from a profit and lost aspect of all of this is refreshing. For the most part these topics have been kind of a gloom and doom, hide my head under the desk sort of thing, and now that’s changing.”
The CEO book is a an active and crowded genre recently, and Hirshberg says he’s always made a habit of “skimming” those kinds of works. He also notes that he is encouraged to see that big business is embracing the idea of environmentalism. It’s a major theme in the book, too.
Asked about what else might be in store for Hirshberg the author, he notes that he’s really not yet done with Stirring it Up, thanks in part to that ubiquitous creature that Al Gore helped to invent.
“We’re getting encouragement to create a more dynamic Web site on the book with interactive functions, including a whole section where readers can contribute their own stories on how they have learned to save money while decreasing their carbon footprint,” he says. “So in a way the book will continue to be a living project.”