No Ordinary Disruption

Richard Dobbs, James Manyika and Jonathan Woetzel PublicAffairs, 288 pages, $27.99

Sustainability suffers from an image problem. Not with granola-crunching sandal-wearers, but with executives and the middle-of-the-road consumers to whom they want to sell their wares. Margins have always mattered more than the environment. But resources can stretch only so far: By the middle of the century the global population will be 9.7 billion people, up from 7.3 billion now, according to the United Nations.

Richard Dobbs, James Manyika and Jonathan Woetzel all work for McKin­sey's Global Institute and have written "No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends." They see the circular economy chiefly as a clever way to cut costs amid the vast technological and demographic shifts already underway. The authors' clear assessments explain why bosses cannot afford to view sustainability merely as a costly fad. Start-ups have never been better placed to challenge incumbents across the world. Mid-tier cities across the developing world incubate such companies with vital local knowledge. Western firms may owe their future success to fast-growing centers they have not yet heard of. Like Surat, which accounts for two-fifths of India's textile production.

Increasing interconnections between markets mean behemoths will suffer when suppliers fall short. Recycling and using resources sparingly will help firms survive despite the onslaught of newer foreign rivals.