It is time to move on from theTriple Bottom Line …

It is time to move on from theTriple Bottom Line …

We have become very familiar with the Triple Bottom Line approach for Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility, ie Environment, Society and Economic. It forms the basis of many environmental and sustainability visions, policy statements, and development initiatives.

In the business arena, this is the acknowledged responsible ‘bottom line’ of meeting economic goals (usually profit) whilst also meeting environmental (impact) and social (community) goals in carrying out business activities. The triple bottom line approach provides a practical framework for the development of policies and strategies to drive institutional change.

roots coyo triple bottom line
Triple Bottom Line as drawn by COYO students

And of course we are now familiar with the well used triple bottom line venn diagram. If like me you loved Venn Diagrams at school, then its a real pleasure to see such vital and complex issues such s sustainability expressed as three interwoven circles. The Triple Bottom Line has also been represented as a three legged stool or as three columns.

As mentioned previously on this blog, this triple bottom line thinking can be traced back to Patrick Geddes who, now recognised as the Grandfather of Town and Country Planning coined the triptych Place, Folk and Work. Its current concept however is credited to John Elkington in his 1998 book Cannibals with Forks:Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business.

Whilst we can easily identify Geddes’ Place as being the Environment circle, (note, interestingly the Living Building Challenge renamed its Site Petal as Place for version 3), the Work aspect is readily identified as the Economy circle, there is an uneasy fit with people or folk within the Society circle. Are staff part of society, and where do the governance arrangements of a business (including vital for sustainability ISO 9001 related quality and organisational arrangements / controls) fit into the sustainability three circles?

Quad Bottom Line
Quadruple Bottom Line introduces Governance as the fourth ‘Petal’

The Quadruple Bottom Line introduces Governance as the fourth bottom line, or perhaps better, as Culture

Governance, or Culture is defined here as including both the formal business, administrative and ‘control’ processes of an organisation, as well as the informal networks, traditions and cultural and behavioural norms which act as enablers or disablers of sustainable development.

Sustainability governance therefore could include those organisational items that are increasingly seen as the vital enablers for sustainable development – many of which are embedded within the modern sustainability building programmes such as the Living Building Challenge, JUST, or Well Building Standard, including:
Diversity
Equity
Fairpay
Education
Collaborative Working
Working Places
Biophilia
Health and Wellbeing
Happiness
Communications and social media

This new, fourth leaf on the sustainability venn diagram, raises both important questions and huge opportunities for advancing sustainability development, and could usher in a new generation of sustainability thinking.

For example, what are the ‘governance’ issues of construction site facilities, welfare and administration that enable sustainable construction … more

Extract from forthcoming FutuREstotative

Living Building Challenge 3.0 Released

International Living Future Institute refines and upgrades the building certification program to raise the bar even higher for restorative design. 

PORTLAND, Ore. — May 22, 2014 —The International Living Future Institute™ today
released the next iteration of the Living Building Challenge.

Widely considered the built environment’s most rigorous performance standard,
Living Building Challenge, the 3.0 version represents an important step forward in the
program’s evolution, with several new innovative elements as well as important
refinements.

“These changes reflect the many discussions and compelling feedback provided by
Living Building Challenge project teams pursuing certification,” says Amanda
Sturgeon, the International Living Future Institute’s Vice President in charge of the
Living Building Challenge. “We believe the 3.0 version of the program helps advance
our goal to rapidly diminish the gap between current limits and the end-game positive
solutions we seek in the built environment and beyond.”

On initial reading, I am (perhaps not surprisingly) impressed with the more headline improvements, reinforcing that there is more to built environment sustainability than just the building.

  • The Site Petal renamed the Place Petal, reflecting deeply held belief in viewing each project location as a place with unique and important  characteristics.
  • A more clearly defined Equity Petal, which integrates with JUST™. This is encouraging, not only reflecting the current interest in Equity issues as a key component of sustainability, but embedding within the standard.
  • The Car Free Living imperative becomes Human Powered Living, including “Advocacy in the community to facilitate the uptake of human powered transportation”
  • Water and Energy is simplified, for water ‘net zero water’ redefining water as a precious resource’ and for energy ‘net zero energy’. One hundred and five percent of the project’s energy needs must be supplied by on-site renewable energy on a net annual basis, without the use of on-site combustion. Profoundly simple, profoundly challenging.
  • Happiness is added to the Health imperative, this is a great move, taking the sector responsibility beyond just healthy buildings. A built environment salutogenesis – focus on what makes people happy and healthy – rather than the causes of ill health or sick building syndrome.
  • Appropriate Sourcing strengthened to Living Economy Sourcing in respect of location for materials and services.
  • I am not so sure about renaming of Conservation and Reuse as Net Zero Waste.  A strength of the 2.0 imperative was that is was not called Waste, moving the focus upstream to deal with causes of waste.  The strengthening of circular economy, cradle to cradle thinking is to be to welcomed with the requirement to find ways to integrate waste back into either an industrial loop or natural nutrient loop.
  • Imperative 18 is a big focus on the JUST programme, requiring at least one  project team members must have a JUST Label for their organisation. But why is the contractor not one of those required to do so is surprising. It is more likely that the contractor will have the least just practices, thinking for example of diversity within construction organisations and unacceptable labour practices on football stadium in Qatar. An opportunity missed?
  • Another opportunity missed may be in the education imperative. One of the most powerful means of communicating and sharing sustainability lessons and advances is through social media. It’s great that every project should have an educational website, but also real-time sharing through blogs and (eg) twitter could be a very powerful advocacy platform.

More observations and insights to follow, but once again the Living Building Challenge raises the bar, but there is more to come …

In response to the growing need for sustainability solutions that move across industries and scales and better address the social and environmental crises humanity now faces, the International Living Future Institute™ has created the Living Future Challenge ™.

Based on the elegant and profound architecture of the Living Building Challenge, utilising nature as the ultimate end-game metric for success, the Living Future Challenge will extend to all aspects of society as various programs are launched over the next few years: Living Buildings, Living Communities, Living Products, Living Food, Living Enterprises, Living Lifestyles. 

Living Building Challenge 3.0 can be found here.

Further Reading and Blogs

Living Future “unConference” Sets New Model of Shared Resources by @PaladinoandCo

What You Need to Know About the Living Building Challenge 3.0 by @KatieWeeks