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December 2009
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Finding the Right Balance

Triple Bottom Line Accounting. The notion is that you account for the economic profits, the environmental impact, and the social costs and benefits; People, Planet, Profit.

This was borne out of the idea that we need to do a better job at protecting our natural environments; simply exploiting them for economic gain was going to mean the earth’s eventual ruin. John Elkington coined the phrase in 1992 in his book Cannibals with Forks: the Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business.

We can weigh the economic profits against the environmental and societal costs and truly capture the costs and benefits of the things we do

Lately I have been doing a lot of research around triple bottom line accounting. I’ve noticed that recently we have done a much better job at capturing the environmental costs and benefits and incorporating this into the total cost of new projects.

What about the third pillar? The costs to society? What is there is a benefit to society?

While working on a paper this really struck a chord with me. I was looking at the life cycle cost of a lift at a snow resort when it consumes electricity from the conventional grid compared to when it consumes wind-generated energy. I had focused much of my analysis around the environmental benefits of using wind-generated electricity, the environmental costs of conventional energy and the economic cost to install a turbine and use conventional energy. But I hadn’t thought about the social cost of installing a wind turbine at a ski resort of the social benefits of a snow resort.

With limited time to complete my paper I had to concede and look at the societal costs qualitatively, while evaluating the economic and environmental costs qualitatively. But it really got me thinking about how we neglect these ‘societal’ costs sometimes. Moving forward my personal goal is to think more about the societal costs when I evaluate something, which I think overall we can all do a little more of.

After all to be truly sustainable there must be balance between all three.


Pingback from sasha on the street » A Country of Polite Polluters
Time December 2, 2009 at 9:01 pm

[…] I wrote about the triple bottom line accounting principle, people, planet, profit. Harger is regressing, […]

Pingback from sasha on the street » The Greener Side of Blue
Time December 22, 2009 at 7:45 pm

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