The Initiative on Triple Bottom Line Development evolved from the College's Social Equity and Opportunity Forum. The following provides an introduction to the concept and our key activities.
The Initiative on Triple Bottom Line Development
Triple Bottom Line development is defined by three integrated elements – natural resource stewardship, economic vitality, and community well-being. The concept is also referred to as the Three P’s (planet, profit, people), the Three E’s (environment, economy, equity), or Sustainable Development (meeting the current generation’s needs while maintaining future generations’ ability to meet their needs).
The need for a Triple Bottom Line approach to development investment is widely recognized, however, significant questions remain regarding how to achieve and measure an integrated bottom line. This is true at the level of specific projects as well as overall community performance. Here’s how the Initiative has been addressing this gap:
Triple Bottom Line Tool
We are currently working with the Federal Economic Development Administration to create a user-friendly on-line tool that helps public, private, and non-profit investors optimize investments for economic, environmental, and social impact -- what's referred to as the triple bottom line. The Triple Bottom Line Tool was created with significant practitioner input and is responsive to a wide range of communities and investments.
The Triple Bottom Line Tool (TBL Tool) can be used to design projects for better outcomes, decide between projects, or describe project impact. For example, organizations making decisions to fund or approve a project may request the project's TBL Tool report as part of their application review. Entities developing a project may use the TBL Tool to help design their project for optimum outcomes and explore various scenarios. Communities considering economic development options may use the Tool to consider relative strengths and weaknesses of various options.
The Beta version of the TBL Tool can be accessed at http://tbltool.org/. Begin with the overview video posted on the home page and the orientation provided in the User's Guide -- then, take the TBL Tool for a test drive and provide your feedback in the brief on-line survey. By doing so, you will help ensure that the TBL Tool responds to field conditions and is as easy to use as possible.
Applying a Triple Bottom Line Lens to Development Decisions
In research conducted for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy we examined how local and regional jurisdictions take a triple bottom line lens to development decisions. We explored fourteen cases in four countries (Australia, Canada, UK,and US). As a follow-up, we held focus groups with public officials in the Portland metro region to learn how, if at all, they take a TBL lens to development decisions, what is working well or not, and what might strengthen practice. These reports can be found on our publications page.
Social Bottom Line Development
The social dimension of sustainability, and its interconnection to economic and environmental dimensions, is oft neglected and poorly understood. We have been leading an effort to define the social bottom line (SBL) of triple bottom line (TBL) development, determine how the social bottom line can be accounted for, and identify how best to advance SBL and TBL practice regionally and nationally. In Phase One, we met with representatives of diverse community sectors to explore what is meant by the social bottom line and we reviewed existing models and literature to learn about approaches to measurement, lessons learned, and knowledge gaps. In Phase Two, we met with key leaders to identify priority strategies, and developed a compendium of project profiles illustrating elements of the social bottom line. Our briefing paper, draft social bottom line framework, project profiles, and other companion documents can be found on our publications page.
Used and Useful Integrated Sustainability Indicators
Sustainability indicators provide information about environmental, social, and economic performance to help assess whether a project or community is on target toward its goals. However, questions remain regarding how to address social dimensions as well as how to ensure that indicator systems are “used and useful.” To help advance thinking and practice on this issue, we co-led the Vital Communities Performance Standard Advisory Group for POSI’s EcoDistrict Initiative resulting in development of their vision, goals, and metrics regarding social dimensions of sustainability, served on a Technical Advisory Committee for a national community sustainability index being developed, and supported the Greater Portland-Vancouver Regional Indicators project. The report on used and useful community indicators can be found on our publications page.
Events and Outreach
We participate in panels, lectures, and other events that help build understanding and capacity regarding social and triple bottom line development.
We aim to produce timely, accessible analyses that support understanding and action on these issues. Find titles on framing, regional equity, the social bottom line, and triple bottom line development on our publications page.