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Papers & Presentations

“Triple Bottom Line”,
“Environmental Literacy”
and “Natural Law”

Learning to read and interpret the ecological dynamics that govern our economies on a case by case, or on a daily basis. Recognising the ways to capitalise on the “win win win” opportunities that this presents.

A short overview of what ought to be common knowledge:

TBL (Triple Bottom Line) is a term arrived at from an extended view of basic accounting. Accounting matches the sum of all income against the sum of all expenditures. The 'balance' or the figure on the bottom line tells us whether we are in the black or in the red (in debt). This form of accounting which is as old as the practice of trading of course also applies to modern corporate income and expenditure.

Over time technological advances brought about new, innovative and/or more efficient options to spend labour-hours. Accordingly some job situations were considered undesirable or even demeaning and inhumane. With more educated and more outspoken workers and an alternative of new job-opportunities elsewhere, leaders soon realised that unhappy work conditions could turn black ink to red as skilled helpers headed for 'greener pastures'.

Faced with a loss of financial profit in the face of 'human rights' thinking, a positive social bottom line (the second bottom line) was sought. Originally neither written law nor definition, but good business sense and ethical behaviour dictated this bottom line. Later with the input from unions and other proactive groups some laws were built to protect against exploitation.

Gold fever (or money fever) however has it's own dynamics. There will always be those that will exploit a neighbour of even a family member for financial gain if they can get away with it. On a more subtle level ignorance (a lack of being informed) can also lead to exploitation eg Not knowing that one of your most loyal workers is having difficulties at home: She is 'up tight' and now ordinary work-pressure can cause her to drop her level of performance, or a maintained level of performance will emotionally drain her and perhaps even make her leave… there are many hidden emotional components involved in the social bottom line; if these are not accounted for, the result is often a drain of the human resource at our disposal. Equally as subtle, is the draining of both renewable and non-renewable natural resources.

The fact that 'lack of environmental health' is now directly affecting both the financial and the social viability of economies in many countries, has lead us to recognise that there is a third and more telling bottom line to consider: the ecological bottom line. Despite an unprecedented wealth of knowledge and information about our environments, our inadequate levels of actual 'environmental literacy' contribute to our current 'environmental ignorance' as a species. (This of course applies across the whole spectrum of our society from pre-schoolers, through board-rooms to national policy makers.)

A major challenge to effective triple bottom line accounting is to be capable to distinguish between environmental issues that relate to the social bottom line (industry opportunities, job opportunities, peoples' perceptions and emotions) and those that relate to a violation of natural law (known and unknown laws that govern eco-system function and thus the survival of species - humans included).

1. What are we measuring?

Financially: Quantity.

We are measuring quantities of money; The laws we need to know about are governed by simple mathematics (plus and minus).

Socially: Quality.

Meaningful work, job satisfaction, a happy and safe workplace, good promotion and retirement prospects are all qualitative and hence cultural issues. The laws that govern here are man made, they are traditional, legislative, political, ....

Ecologically: A Quantity of Quality.

We see a multidimensional continuum ranging from the pure Quantity to pure Quality. It is governed by -, and subject to 'natural law' (mathematical laws, physical laws, chemical laws, biological laws, emotional laws, psychological- and even [perhaps?] the spiritual laws that govern processes in this solar system).

2. What is the desired score?

Financially: Out-put needs to justify in-put

A defined or an acceptable return on the investment (ROI) or on the total assets managed (ROAM).

Socially: The satisfaction of knowing that things are well as they are, and a belief that they will stay that way or get better.

This feeling needs to permeate the whole structure of governance from the strategic to the operational levels. Internal and external perceptions need to be sought and monitored. It may call for a requirement to rate certain performance of the business/enterprise eg quality of physical products, standard and reliability of service components, integrity and management of intellectual property.

Ecologically: Dysfunctional situations need to be turned around and improving; Intact situations need to be stable or improving.

All benchmarking needs to be orientated towards a positive out come and not comparative (eg 'doing less harm than current best practice' is not good enough. The approach needs to be a proactive 'safe' approach that focuses on required, positive outcomes.) Positive and/or negative impacts on the immediate and down-stream/-wind environments need to be monitored and analysed. The spectrum runs from the fulfilment of basic needs for biological survival (adequate and appropriate supply of air, moisture and nutrition) to the satisfaction of the desire for comfort at levels where the functional roles (of individuals, groups, populations and species) can be performed and sustained.

3. How do we know what the TBL is telling us?

Financially: We need to analyse the 'cash-flow pattern' and identify if we are building or eroding our financial asset base.

(Read: "Rich Dad, Poor Dad", and then "Cashflow Quadrant", both by Robert T. Kiyosaki)

Socially: We need to analyse the 'cash-flow pattern' of our emotional bank account and that of those who influence our overall performance. Provided we have an established bench-mark, this will tell us if and when action is required.

(Read: "The Seven Habits of Highly effective People" by Stephen R. Covey)

Ecologically: We need to analyse the 'energy-flow patterns' that we influence as well as those that influence us. This will enables us to distinguish between the desirability, sustainability and necessity of an action. This also enables us to identify the net impact we may have on the ecological asset base we leave behind for future generations.

(Become environmentally literate: learn about key eco-system processes and learn to interpret what they are telling you; visit http://managingwholes.com/__ecosystem.htm or enrol in an environmental literacy course)

4. Who/What defines an acceptable score?

Financially: It is the golden rule of 'whoever has the gold makes the rules'.

Socially: To date history has been the fairest judge. (Wait 50 years! J )

Ecologically: A net reversal of desertification on a global scale leading to a situation where biological populations are sustained in accordance with the laws of nature. (We cannot afford to wait 50 Years! L )

It seems that: Nature does not mass-produce; nature runs on current solar energy; in naturally functional situations: waste = food


Fuel: the input required for a desired output

The fuel of any economy is Energy expressed in $, labour and in other either latent or immediate forms of energy

Things to remember:

For all intents and purposes all our disposable energy derives from the sun. This energy can be represented in: -

For all intents and purposes in matters relating to how the ecology of our planet works, this 'Solar Energy' flows… It continues to flow until it is spent … (How it flows is what makes life so exciting! L & J )

The flow patterns can incorporate cyclical patterns or they can be linear; very often we get to choose! J

Finance, Commerce, Tax-accounting and Economics are four different things. (? L)

Human economies can no longer afford to ignore the ecological facet of TBL.
(Why? Because as a species we are well in the red and have trouble even paying the interest on the ecological debt we have run up over the last three hundred years. Incidentally we were in debt before that as some of our deserts testify, but we were not as many humans and our individual expectations not as great and mother nature found ways to maintain a balance without many of us really noticing. L )

TBL has implications for everybody (the individual, the house-hold, the enterprise, the business, the corporate entity, the nation, the multi-nationals, the transnationals, etc).
(Why? Because natural law has been violated and we are in the red and our ecological asset base is eroding faster than it is being renewed. L )

Early adopters have great opportunities to capitalise on TBL for the right and for the wrong reasons.
(Why? Better and improving ecological out-comes spell improvement and hope for all. Get paid to pioneer, introduce and provide new sets of skills that will: enable other people and corporations to first identify and then cut existing overheads in many instances, reduce opportunity cost in many instances, and would simultaneously help create better social situations [by enabling people to pursue their goal in a manner that does not conflict with natural law] and assist in reversing the deterioration of our ecological assets. J )

We have not even begun to scratch the surface of new job, enterprise and industry opportunities that arise directly from restoring energy-intake into our bio-sphere.