Book review for “Creating a Lean and Green Business System”

Creating a Lean and Green Business System was released on May 3rd, 2013. It was written by some very experienced authors in the world of business and sustainability: Keivan Zokaei, Hunter Lovins, Andy Wood, and Peter Hines.

This book exceeded my expectations. I was surprised by the detail of the case studies, and the additional of new tools and techniques to apply to identify green opportunities.

The book goes over the reasons why lean and green work well together, and should be fully integrated into any business’ process improvement program. There is a huge business case for this combined approach. Not only does the elimination of green wastes lead to reduced costs, but developing solutions to reduce green wastes can drive innovation and bring in new sources of revenue for a company, as well as drive closer alignment between your company and your customers.

They do an excellent job of showing how companies can be successful when sustainability is integrated into their core business and decision making. It gives aspiring companies a benchmark for their own transformation, to see what is possible. There are four detailed case studies presented: Toyota (Automotive), Adnams (Brewery), Marks and Spencer (Clothing), and Tesco (Grocery Store). The book shows how they have each integrated Lean and Green into their core business.

They also discuss key themes that need to be in place in order for companies to achieve the Symbiotic phase.


1) Strategy Deployment – The ability of the company to align values, goals, and metrics towards lean and green, and to move from lagging to leading indicators of success. Tesco is presented as the case study for this section.
2) Process Management – The most critical theme, which encompasses the lean and green tools and techniques (with some slight adjustments). Toyota is presented as the case study for this section.
3) Supply Chain Management – How to drive the same effort to your suppliers, who make up a large part of the lifecycle impact. Marks and Spencer is presented as the case study for this section.
4) Leadership and People Engagement – How well each employee is engaged in lean and green every day, not just a small group of individuals or executives working on sporatic activities. Adnams is presented as the case study for this section.

The four phases that companies go through, depending on their maturity in lean and green, are as follows:

  1. Conflict: companies feel there is a tradeoff between lean and green (more frequently deliveries to minimize inventory, but increased transportation costs). Not looking at the full lifecycle cost or impact.
  2. Benign: companies realize there is a connection between lean and green, but focus on one aspect, and try to minimize the impact to the other, but don’t fully capture the benefits or savings of either
  3. Synergistic: companies mature in lean and/or green, realize that they mutually reinforce each other, but inadvertently obtain benefits in the other (not original intent)
  4. Symbiotic: companies see lean and green as the same thing, not separate, and integration takes place early on in the design phase

The companies featured in the book are somewhere between Synergistic and Symbiotic, so even they are still working towards perfection.

The book also provides a series of easy to implement tools and techniques to help identify and prioritize lean and green opportunities.

For starters, there is a list of 8 green wastes, to compliment the 8 lean wastes:

– Excessive energy waste
– Physical waste (solid or liquid)
– Excessive water usage
– Air emissions (greenhouse gases)
– Land contamination
– Discharges to water and effluent
– Noise and nuisance
– Lost people potential

The list of wastes may be useful to help people understand what to look for.


The following list of tools are discussed in the book (many I had not heard of or used before), along with some real world examples.

– Product Family Analysis
– Process Decomposition
– Process Activity Map
– Four Fields Map
– Supply Chain Response Matrix
– Product Variety Funnel
– Quality Filter Map
– Demand Amplification Map
– System Boundary Map = Mass Balance Analysis
– Green Impact Matrix
– Big Picture Map = Summary of the Eco Maps being worked on
– Eco Maps (Water, Energy, Waste) = A3 problem solving summary
– Value Impact Ratio
– Life Cycle Assessment
– Footprint Analysis

For some of the tools provided, you don’t need much experience in order to implement them within your company. There is also a helpful Lean Diagnostic Toolkit, which displays the list of tools along the top, and the need or intent of the tool along the side, and identifies which tools to use to achieve the intended outcome.

In addition to the case studies, you will also get the following content:

– Interview with Steve Hope, Environmental Affairs and Corporate Citizenship, Toyota Motor Europe
– Profile of Karen Hester, COO and Dr. Andy Wood, CEO of Adnams.
– Profile of Carmel McQuaid, Climate Change Manager, and Louise Nicholls, Head of Responsible Sourcing, from Marks and Spencer.

The book also contains lots of great quotes, that I plan to reference in future presentations and speeches. Here are a few of the best ones.

In October 2011, Polman announced that Unilever would not submit quarterly reports. The company’s share price fell 10%. His answer: good, that’s not the sort of investor we want.

The point of lean and green is to create a more proactive approach to sustainability to seek those win–win opportunities rather than reactive fixes that are driven by compliance or mitigation

It’s hard to say whether it’s a “good thing” or a “bad thing” in terms of getting our economies onto a more sustainable path. But I have to admit that my intense apprehension at the prospect of profit-maximizing multinationals taking on more and more responsibility, without so much as a sliver of democratic accountability, is outweighed by my increasingly urgent desire to see anybody step up to the plate

We have seen various cases where lean implementation has had no positive impact or even detrimental effects on the environment due to lack of integration of the green objectives. This is why lean cannot always be regarded to be intrinsically green; there needs to be conscious design to realize the synergies between lean and green

After years of seriously investing in lean thinking and training we had only ever realized about 70% of the benefit I knew existed. Once we focused on a green factory, then the engagement really kicked in. People were more motivated to do things that directly help their family and community rather than just making a company more profitable

If you are looking to bring both lean and green to your company, this is an excellent resource, for both beginners and more experienced practitioners.

You can also read a book review from Bill Bellows from back in August 2013