People Planet Profit

The award-winning book by Peter Fisk, on how sustainability drives innovation and growth

  • introducing a more inspired, more balanced approach to business. Full of case studies and practical tools, it is the essential guide for managers
  • Addressing social and environmental challenges through customers and brands in a way that has more impact than politicians or environmentalists ever could.
  • Recognised as Management Book of the Year 2010 by Management Today

“People, Planet, Profit” by Peter Fisk is published by Kogan Page, now available from Amazon at £18.99 with a now with 40% discount.

Why does it matter? 

• People do not trust business. They increasingly see companies as irresponsible, greedy and inhuman. Climate change and economic downturn have accelerated new expectations. 

• Businesses need to reengage people, to understand their new priorities, rethink their role and propositions, work in new ways, and enable people to do more themselves. 

• Resolving the many paradoxes faced by customers who want the best things but also to do “the right thing” and business leaders who want to grow but in more responsible ways. 

How is it different?

• Positive not negative, about opportunities not problems, driven by creativity not compliance, a whole business challenge, not left to a few people. 

• Connecting social, environment and economic challenges, to achieve a new balance, that is more different from competitors and inspiring your people. 

• Building brands in way that builds capacity rather than just making sales, enabling people to do more for themselves and their worlds, rather than just buy your product or service.


We live in a time of unprecedented change. In business we face challenges and opportunities that are more critical and complex than ever - where the consequences of failure are unimaginable, and the impact of our decisions are felt instantly across the planet.

A fragile economy and a climate out of control, poverty across half the planet and scarcity of natural resources, the extinction of species a explosion in population, ethical dilemmas on every corner, and low confidence and trust in business: symptoms of a changing world.

Change is all around us. The cries for help at the end of an industrial age, the shift in power towards the developing world, from big to small, masses to niches, and the recognition that we can only sustain our livelihoods with new thinking, new behaviours, and new balances. We know that the old short-term, sales and wealth-obsessed models of business are broken, and we are now beginning to feel the consequences.

We struggle to balance our priorities and ambitions - the pursuit of personal and business success, whilst also seeking to make the world a better place. Is it possible to do both? These are challenging times to lead and manage a business, even more difficult to create and sustain profitable growth.


Social and environmental issues are more important than ever. For business, they represent some of the greatest opportunities to find new markets of profitable growth, more lasting and engaging sources of competitive advantage, and more effective ways to reduce cost and risk. Consumers no longer feel conflicted by the issues, but committed to supporting change.

Doing good is no longer about sack cloth and frugality, it can feel and taste good too. We realise that it is no longer a nice to have, but a must do. We realise that it is no longer a peripheral activity but fundamental to every aspect of how we do business, every day, for everyone. People, Planet, Profit is about business opportunity, operational improvement and competitive advantage. 

This is a practical handbook for CEOs and business managers who are searching for new ways to create value, to make sense of business in a rapidly shifting landscape, to deliver profitable growth whilst also doing “the right thing”.

Can business growth be good? 

Of course the world faces immense problems, so great that few organisations have the power or scale to solve them. Business is unique in this sense. Through engaging brands and thoughtful innovation it can mobilise consumers to change behaviour in positive ways. By adapting the resources it uses, and the ways it works, it can make huge difference to the environment. It can be a powerful force of positive change.

There is no paradox or conflict, as some suggest. Business really can grow and be good. People, planet and profit are not alternative goals, or a compromise result. A positive impact on people and planet can be achieved whilst delivering profitable growth too. Indeed, a positive impact on people and planet is increasingly becoming the best source of profitable growth.

Despite a rapidly increasing global population and carbon emissions that threaten the air we breathe – it is possible to continue to grow economically, and replenish the resources we use. Of course it is likely to be a different sort of growth. It will be less about volume, more about profit; less materialistic production and more about supportive services, less self indulgent and more enabling people to live better lives. Whilst the importance of social and environmental issues might seem obvious, they are not always seen as key to business success. Indeed, waves of restrictive legislation and anti-capitalist lobbying can put them in conflict. This is because we haven’t seen the connections.

However, as Ben Clarke from Kraft Foods says “Sustainability is now about profit ... it is the opportunity of the twenty-first century.” The business case for “people and planet and profit” is based on both the profitable new opportunities of sustainable markets – embracing these issues within existing markets, and investing in new marketspaces such as renewable energies - and also on the significant cost and risks likely to be incurred by unsustainable practices in future.

These growth opportunities are rapidly being embraced, the gold rush is on. Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs are now firmly focused on sustainable markets. Similarly the costs and risks are already hitting balance sheets. Investors are penalising “dirty” companies for their vulnerable future cashflows, and finance managers are calculating their liabilities. The consequences of not changing are not just for the world we leave behind for our children, but more immediately through the liabilities of increasing financial penalties imposed by governments (for example, taxation on transport and industrial emissions), by supply chains, and ultimately by consumers (for example, the prohibitive cost of insurance in areas vulnerable to extreme weather).

Sustainable agenda: how social and environmental issues have moved
from the organisation fringes to core business

Sustainability is no longer an adjunct to business. It is no longer a separate department, or even a team within the corporate affairs department concerned only about compliance and reputation. It is no longer enough to have some worthy goals, a sustainability strategy as an appendix to the business plan, or a sustainability report as an afterthought.

CSR (corporate social responsibility) strategies were typically peripheral compensation for the damages already done, relieving the guilt of companies that couldn’t see the light. They were the clean caring icing on the big dirty cake. They sought to protect superficial and increasingly fragile reputations.

“People and planet and profit” is much more than that. It is about moving the issues of sustainability from the fringes to the heart of business. It demands that business leaders rethink fundamental strategic questions – why we exist, where we should focus, how we are different, and why people will choose it, want to work for us, and invest in our business.

People and Planet

The social and environmental challenges are known and numerous. But by rethinking they also represent some of the best opportunities for business.
Consider just some of them.

As the global population mushrooms towards 9 million, cities like Beijing, Los Angeles and Mumbai will triple in size.

Whilst the global “middle class” is the fastest growing section of society, with its high aspirations and higher consumption, a billion people survive on less than $1 a day, 3 billion on less than $2 a day.

3 billion people have no access to clean water, 800 million are hungry, and 10 million children die before they are five.

Yet the “bottom of the pyramid” have dreams too, they seek better lives and demand more. Together, they represent an estimated $5 trillion market.

Add to this, the environmental challenges. Every year we destroy 44 million acres of forest, creating an increasing imbalance in the way nature produces and absorbs carbon dioxide. We lose 100 million acres of farmland, cutting down trees, diverting natural irrigation, and creating 15 million acres of new desert around the world. We emit 8 billion tonnes of carbon into our atmosphere, only 3 billion tonnes of which can be reabsorbed. We use 160 billion tons more water each year than is being replenished by rain, enough to require a 450,000 km convoy of trucks.

As a result of this damage 200 million people will become refugees due to flooding and drought if the climate warms by 2-3 degrees by 2050. Or financially, insurance claims will increase by $320 billion due to storms and floods, if carbon emissions continue to rise at present rates – making insurance premiums too expensive for most individuals or companies. The deforestation will reduce crop yields across Africa by 33%, adding to the hunger. And a 5m rise in sea levels, caused by melting polar ice caps, will wipe out many coastal areas, with consequences including a predicted 11% decline in China’s GDP.

World changing: 250 years of population, economic and consumption growth,
and the impacts on our environment (sources: WEF, WWF, New Scientist).

“In a world where the ideology of free enterprise has no real challenges, why have free markets failed so many people?” questions Noble prize-winning economist Muhammad Yunus, arguing that “Instead they exacerbate poverty, disease, pollution, corruption, crime and inequality”.

Challenges and Opportunity

The challenges are complex and connected. Whilst we seek to reverse climate change, conserve water and relieve poverty, we also care about issues such as human rights, fair trade and supporting our local communities. Whilst we seek to act more ethically and responsibly, we also care about our own wellbeing and happiness.

Green is not enough. It requires a more joined-up approach. It requires business to do more than improve, but to think differently, to change its game.

Maybe blue is a better colour.

The new business world demands “blue sky” thinking, ideas that open up new “blue oceans” of opportunity, and redraw the blueprints for business practice.

It is not just about “reducing, recycling and reusing”, as the mantra goes. It is about rethinking.

Climate change is most effectively addressed by rethinking and redefining the resources we use, rather than seeking to limit the damage by belatedly planting a few more trees. Similarly, in business it is not about product enhancements and campaigns that jump on the bandwagon. People quickly see through the greenwash, demanding real transparency in return for trust


         People and planet and profit: Economic growth is only sustainable if business activities are integrated with social and environmental priorities (source: GeniusWorks).

“People and planet and profit” is a more connected approach to business. It demands systems thinking, seeing the bigger picture of why and how we work. It will require us to reject many of the conventions and conveniences of business that created past success - taking new perspectives, finding new solutions, and even finding new measures of performance.

It requires us to reconnect with consumers who have lost faith, suppliers who feel beaten up, and sometimes even with competitors where together we can have more impact. 

Inspired Leaders

It demands the vision and courage of business leaders, and every manager across the organisation, to release business from the shadows of a failing world, to realise a new spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation through which we and others can prosper.

Crisis is the prelude to change. Whilst some see change as a threat, others seize the new opportunities. If we look to the East, perhaps to learn a new language as well as find new markets, we would find that the same character in Chinese script represents both ideas, threat and opportunity.

Welcome to the dawn of a new business world.

It’s time to think and act differently

The People Planet Profit Manifesto

Leaders of business

This is your wake-up call.
You’ve been living on borrowed time.

Raping the natural world of its resources, and leaving a toxic mess in its place.
These weather patterns are not freaks, they are the world you have created.

Blinding the man on the street with your superficial innovations and image.
What about the sweatshops, the emissions, the packaging, the greed?

It doesn’t look good.

Business, society and nature need to find a new way to co-exist.
If you aren’t sustainable, you are irresponsible.

It’s time to adapt or suffer the consequences.

The business world is about to go through a rapid, fundamental change.
What an opportunity, but also what a threat.

It’s time to rethink.

Time to stop living in the past, and think of our future
Business is not a machine, it’s a dynamic system – it lives, adapts and grows.

You need to think again about what is a cost and a risk, and what really
creates value in the world today.

But it will take a lot more than reducing, recycling and reusing.
It requires a fundamental rethink, radically and creatively.

Rethink your business purpose and strategy.
Rethink your processes and technologies.
Rethink your markets and audiences.

Imagine that you are looking at a piece of impressionist art. Short term, too close, you are blinded by millions of dots, stand-back and you see a bigger vision.

The environment is not a commodity, and people are not disposable.
New legal codes and financial penalties will protect them.

But this is not just about compliance. It’s much more than CSR
It goes to the heart of business. To why you exist.
Where you focus, how you succeed.
To connect business and the world in new ways.

People and planet and profit. Together, achieving more.

Business is a societal good. It has a responsibility beyond itself.
Brands and consumerism, profits and wealth can be incentives for change.
Available to anyone, the benefits shared by everyone.

Be brave. Seek out ideas beyond your comfort zone.

Create a new language of sustainability that transcends traditional disciplines
Redefine stakeholders more broadly

Everything is possible. Nothing is off limits.
From nuclear energy to GM foods, we need to rethink our prejudices too.

Collaborate with your competitors, and even your fiercest critics.
Work with governments and activists to explore new solutions.

Together we can do so much more.

We need innovation to find new ways to overcome conflicting priorities,
to make inspired choices, to find brilliant new balances.

Sustainability is about creating a more lasting and fairer world.
Where we can work and play, laugh and smile.

And our children will be able to too.

Grow by putting our future at the heart of your business.
Grow better by being and doing good as a business.

Be bold and brilliant.

Be the change.

Who are the winners?

The best companies combine the three Ps –creating a fairer society (people) within environmental limits (planet) and delivering sustained business growth (profit).

The book compares the many different approaches of leading companies around the world, their different priorities and techniques, and who is doing best. Whilst there are diverse strategies for addressing these challenges, depending on what is important and most urgent for your market and organisation, we created some "head to head" play-offs ...

Adidas (1) v Nike (3) ... Nike bounce back with “Considered” after poor start in Asia

Coke (2) v Danone (3) ... French yogurts win with a social entrepreneurship business model

M&S (2) v Walmart (3) ... The US retailer uses it buying power to transform an industry

Patagonia (2) v Timberland (2) ... Two great brands that do more for people and the world

Apple (1) v Nokia (0) ... We love our iPods, maybe iPads, but Apple could still do more

Google (1) v Microsoft (2) ... Gates’ billions turns software giant into a force for good

“People, Planet, Profit” by Peter Fisk is published by Kogan Page, now available from Amazon at £18.99 with a special introductory 40% discount.

Contents of the book

Part 1: Rethinking Business

Chapter 1: Purpose beyond Profits

• Making people’s lives better
• Defining an inspiring purpose
• Turning promises into reality
• Google and Microsoft

Chapter 2: Strategies for Growth

• Finding markets with sustainable growth
• Creating differentiation by doing good
• New business models for a new world
• Apple and Nokia

Chapter 3: Inspiring Leadership 

• Leaders of the new business world
• Leaders as the catalysts of change
• What it means personally
• Patagonia and Timberland

Part 2: Reconnecting Business

Chapter 4: Conscience Consumers

• Enabling people to be good
• The new consumer agenda
• Segmenting the conscience consumer
• Coca-Cola and Danone

Chapter 5: Sustainable Innovation 

• Social and environmental drivers of innovation
• Innovating every aspect of business
• The creative potential of social entrepreneurs
• Amazon and eBay

Chapter 6: Engaging consumers 

• Engaging people through enlightened dialogue
• Building networks to do more together
• The “good” consumer experience
• Marks & Spencer and Wal-Mart 

Part 3: Releasing Business

Chapter 7: Sustainable Operations

- Working better together
• Good sourcing, transporting and producing
• The power of sustainable energy and technology
• Adidas and Nike

Chapter 8: Delivering Performance

• Certification, labels and sustainable impacts
• Linking sustainability to business results
• Managing business performance and reputation
• News Corporation and Time Warner

Chapter 9: Transforming Business

• Making sustainable change happen
• Articulating the case for change
• Managing the implementation
• Ikea and Interface

Chapter 10: Sustainable Futures

• Leading in the new business world
• Sustainable innovation and lifestyles
• Business as a force for positive change

Part 4: Resources

 The People Planet Profit A to Z
 The People Planet Profit Blueprint
 The People Planet Profit Directory
 The People Planet Profit Programme

“People, Planet, Profit” by Peter Fisk is published by Kogan Page, now available from Amazon at £18.99 with a special introductory 40% discount.

What will you do?

• Take part in the PPP Programme for individuals and teams, exploring the best opportunities for you to do more, in your work and life.

• Evaluate where you are, and need to be, developing your PPP Blueprint which defines the right sustainable priorities and actions.

• Develop the right PPP Solutions with a network of the best partners that help you innovate and communicate, with more inspired people and enabled by digital technologies.


The People Planet Profit Programme is an accelerated development experience for senior executives and inspired people. It can be tailored to the specific issues your business, and can be delivered as a learning experience, or as a practical way to start addressing your real issues. It is typically delivered as an executive retreat – a four day accelerated learning experience, when we will also explore the more personal challenges of leadership


  • Day 1 pm: World Changing

    Making sense of the changing business world
    Global challenges, shifting power, instant and connected
    Balancing economic, social and environmental agendas
    Best practices: From Air Asia to Amazon, Zara and Zopa
    Essential tools: Future Radar, Scenario Planning, Customer Insight

    Day 2 am: Inspiring Purpose

    The enlightened business, one with a purpose beyond profits
    How business can make a bigger difference to our worlds
    Aligning a higher purpose with the pursuit of value creation
    Best practices: From Camper and Cemex, to Danone and Disney
    Essential tools: Purpose Definition, Corporate Brands, Storytelling

    Day 2 pm: Growth Strategy

    Making better strategic choices in times of change
    Choosing the best markets, better differentiation and business models
    Aligning the organisation to work within strategic rules
    Best practices: GE gets imagination, whilst Tata focuses on new markets
    Essential tools: Value Disciplines, Strategy Framework, GG Planning

    Day 3 am: Authentic Leadership

    Management and leadership, heads up or heads down
    Why business needs new leaders for a new world
    Inspiring direction, discipline decisions, building teams
    Best practices: Apple beyond Jobs, Rosso and the engine of Diesel
    Essential tools: 5C Leadership Model, Personal Effectiveness Framework

    Day 3 pm: Sustainable Innovation

    Creative disruption and renewal, innovation and entrepreneurship
    Future back thinking, outside in action, left and right brain people
    Ventures, incubators and rocket ships for practical innovation
    Best practices: Lego’s creative play and GE’s sustainable creativity
    Essential tools: Creative Disruption, Sustainable Business Models

    Day 4 am: Personal Wellbeing

    Living, loving and thriving in the new business world
    Health and fitness, how to feel good, and how to do more
    Confidence and courage, how to stretch and surprise yourself
    Best practices: From Google’s workstyle to Virgin’s lifestyle
    Essential tools: Body Works, Mind Works, Action Works

    Day 4 pm: Enlightened Performance

    Delivering results, short and long-term, in crisis and in good times
    Value creation, value drivers and value management
    Metrics and scorecards, incentives and rewards.
    Best practices: Toyota’s performance culture, Nokia’s contrasting approach
    Essential tools: Performance Metrics, Rewards, Value Management

    Day 5 am: Real Commitment

    What it takes to become a new business leader
    Planning the change programme for you and your business
    Milestones and workstreams, how to make change happen
    Best practices: Nike Considered and Unilever’s holistic approach
    Essential tools: Impact Zoning, Leader Guide, 90 Day
  • Contact the author

    Peter Fisk, author of the book, is an experienced business leader and advisor, best-selling author and inspirational speaker. He is founder of the Genius Works, a strategic innovation firm, and was recently described by Business Strategy Review as “one of the best new business thinkers.” He is also author of the best-selling Marketing Genius which explores the left and right-brain approaches to competitive success, and has been translated into more than 28 languages. Customer Genius defines a blueprint for the customer-centric business, Business Genius explores the challenge for business leaders of sustaining profitable growth in turbulent times, and The Complete CEO, what business leaders really should be doing.

         Contact Peter at and find out more at the GeniusWorks 

    Other contributors include Diana Verde Nieto (WEF), Anthony Kleanthous (WWF), Hannah Jones (Nike), Santiago Gowland (Unilever), Jonathan Horrell (Kraft), Harriett Lamb (Fairtrade), and many others.

    Enjoy the book!

    “People, Planet, Profit” by Peter Fisk is published by Kogan Page, now available from Amazon at £18.99 with a special introductory 40% discount