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

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Bhutan’s ecosystem and green wealth is worth nu 700bn a year

As the UK calls on countries to start green accounting, putting value to nature, biodiversity and ecosystems, Sonam Pelden writing recently in Bhutan Business recently gives a fascinating insight into the country’s Gross National Happiness accounting system. Based not only on the market economy but also natural, social, cultural and human wealth, demonstration perhaps that a triple bottom line economy can work at national levels. A demonstration also then of NSR National Social Responsibility?

A new study on Initial Estimate of Value of Ecosystem Services in Bhutan revealed that the country’s ecosystem is worth more than Nu 700bn a year, much higher than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nu 72.3bn a year.

The staggering value of the ecosystem in Bhutan was arrived at to come up with a new national accounting system apart from the GDP. The accounting system, based on Gross National Happiness (GNH), would not only count what market economy produces but also consider natural, social, cultural and human wealth. Benefits are in terms of clean air, healthy soil, recreation and other values.

Recognising the value and importance of forests, not just as market value but as environment and social value is a key component. Something we here in the UK need to heed …

Bhutan’s constitution mandates the country to preserve a minimum of 60% forest coverage for all time to come. Today, Bhutan has total forest coverage of 74.5%.

Sonam and Business Bhutan are on twitter at @sonampelden and @business_bhutan

sustainability and the crunch

The UKGBC released results of a survey earlier this week, which should be seen as important reminder that sustainability is here to stay despite the economic situation.

Results released today from a poll held during a webinar hosted by the UK Green Building Council have revealed that British companies see sustainability as a growth area over the next 3 years, despite the current financial crisis. More than 92% of respondents felt that sustainability would either grow as an issue or stay at the same level despite the credit crunch.

27% said that the financial crisis has had no adverse effect on their organisation’s efforts to tackle sustainability and more than half (55.54%) said it had caused it to become an even bigger focus for them over the past 6 months.

The general consensus from respondents was that during these times of uncertainty, it is important for government to stick to ambitious green targets, maintaining the direction of travel for policy and regulation. More than 96% either agreed or strongly agreed with this statement.

This was supported recently via colleague Pam Broviak, who recently sent live tweets and comments (via Twitter) from the US GreenBuild08 conference:

Me: whats the buzz re green v credit crunch ?

Pam:  everyone says it really hasn’t affected it a lot

Of course if we consider the triple bottom line, of environmental, social AND economic sustainability this makes sense. But as has been commented here before the survivors of this financial crisis will be those who have resilient practices and approaches in place – and that this must include social and environmental

is the code for sustainable homes working

Building Design asks the question is the code working and carries two viewpoints. Andy von Bradsky sees it as credible tool that will evolve and allow us to lead the field in zero carbon futures, whereas Mark Brinkley sees it as a graveyard of intentions.

The article finishes with a what do you think prompt…

I couldn’t resist replying, and include my post to that page below

Code level 6 is, as I have mentioned more than once, the wrong tool for the wrong job.

Why?

It doesn’t pick up on the wider sustainable communities issues, the triple bottom line and CSR issues that contribute to sustainable homes/developments, ie the eco-home within the context of an eco-place.

More importantly it does not address the construction process as Mark illustrates, allowing business as usual for the builders, other than integrating or assembly new bits of building kit. (I was not surprised to hear that the Hanham Hall project will not be monitoring or attempting to improve the carbon footprint of the construction process)

I also question whether we (the UK) are indeed leading the field in zero carbon futures. Are we not just waiting to be led by legislation, and then complaining when its too hard, too expensive, too different ? (as illustrated by bidders pulling out of the next eco-challenge project at Peterborough). I sense elsewhere they are just getting on and doing it – because it makes good sense, commercially, for image, and for the planet.

Time for a re-think on this one. But then thats what targets are for – to learn and improve.

Postscript:

Jonathan Poritt’s view point on this is well worth a read – as he says, Continue reading