Moving the Needle

85% of US Millennials are likely to switch brands in order to be associated with a good cause, given the items have a similar price and quality; and 85% would stop buying products from a company if they learned of irresponsible or deceptive business practices. (Cone Communications, 2015 CSR Study).

Have you heard of the triple bottom-line? More and more businesses are adopting this framework because it evaluates economic performance based on more than just profit. In this framework, a community's health can be scored my measuring social, environmental, and financial health, rather than by just measuring the finances and development potential of a place. 

It's pretty interesting...

The Indiana Business Review published an extensive article about what it is and what it has to do with sustainability, but here are some quick highlights:

  • TBL is an accounting framework that incorporates three dimensions of performance: social, environmental, and financial.
  • Dimension of TBL are often referred to as The Three P's: People, Planet, Profits. 
  • There are measurements to calculate the effects of TBL, and those include economic, environmental, and social measures.
  • The TBL and its core value of sustainability have become compelling in the business world due to accumulating anecdotal evidence of greater long-term profitability. Ex: Reducing waste from packaging benefits the environment, but it also reduces costs, raising profits, making it easier to pay employees more.
  • By focusing on comprehensive investment results -- that is, with respect to performance along the interrelated dimensions of profits, people and the planet -- triple bottom line reporting can be an important tool to support sustainability goals.

The triple bottom-line is often touted by 'Buy Local' campaigns as a reason for supporting local artists and businesses -- a huge part of TBL is keeping your money in one place from beginning to end. It's why we'd rather go to the local camping store than REI: if our money is 'grown' here and stays here, then its shared with local folks whose values are inline with ours. Those same folks will probably be spending that money on local employees who will turn around and spend their money locally, in local restaurants and markets that support regional food production and employ local folks, and pay local taxes that help make our town work. 

The fewer dollars that get lost in translation during the purchase of goods made overseas (money spent on packaging, freight, all the people involved in production of that good, the warehouses, factories, etc.), the more there is available to improve your local economy and make an abundant life more easily accessible to all. 

Going a step further from the camping store analogy, think of local artists. If it's better to buy products from business owners who live here, but the goods they sell are made god knows where, then it must be REALLY good to buy from people whose goods are actually made here with supplies and materials sourced here, right? Right. 

Piece by   Rise and Ramble

Think of a local seamstress who sells her clothes in town. Chances are, she buys her material and thread (at least some of it) locally, she creates the items here and employs local support staff, and then she sells it here. No outsourcing, no shipping, little waste. The hope is that she's successful enough to start shipping things out (mindfully) to other places as well, but the bulk of the business is right here. 

Craft fairs like The Patchwork Market are an important part of this economical model because it creates access to a largely local marketplace filled with people who live, produce, source, and employ, right here, in the region. Y'all, all that money goes right back into the pockets of your friends who own restaurants, who care about the same local school tax issues as you and live in your neighborhoods; it goes back into the hands of farmers at local markets, the existence of whom makes it possible for you to enjoy a Saturday morning choosing fresh food for the week; it goes into the registers of local retailers who also support local, and whose values align with what you want to happen in downtown, and who have the money and influence to make it happen.

We all know what it means to vote with your dollars, but TBL is at the heart of it. If you want to see social change happen, the income gap needs to be smaller, and environmental sustainability needs to be in your thoughts when you make purchases that involve lots of travel and packaging, and it all starts with keeping more dollars in your neighborhood. 

Grand Rapids, MI uses the following to measure their TBL:

Environmental Quality

  • Waste: trends in recycling, refuse, and yard waste.
  • Energy: energy consumption, natural gas consumption, and alternative fuel usage.
  • Water: water consumption (it requires water to produce packaging!)
  • Air Quality: toxic release inventory and number of air pollution ozone action days (more freight = more pollution).
  • Built Environment: number of LEED registered and certified projects.
  • Land Use and Natural Habitat: Inventory of land use and forest canopy.
  • Transportation: public transportation ridership.

Economic Prosperity

  • Personal Income: personal income per capita. 
  • Unemployment: unemployment rate.
  • Redevelopment, Reinvestment and Jobs: results from brownfield redevelopment investment and job creation (support local businesses and they create more, local jobs!)
  • Knowledge Competitiveness: third-party report ranking US regions.

Social Capital and Equity

  • Safety and Security: crime statistics (more money in town for all = less crime). 
  • Educational Attainment: degree attainment levels.
  • Health and Wellness: infant mortality rate and blood lead levels trends.
  • Quality of Life: home ownership, poverty, and reduced price and free lunches trends (see how it's all connecting?)
  • Community Capital: calls for assistance, voter participation, and population and ethnicity.

There are certainly challenges to cultivating more of this in a local economy, but it starts with keeping as much money here as possible by reducing money spent on packaging materials, outsourced food, products shipped from far away, and employing people. 

Now get out there to your local co-op/farmer's market/craft fair/retailer/restaurant/coffee shop/record store and spend some $$!


For the love of threes,


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