Let's transform our economy to a Triple Bottom Line to support humans, the environment and business

Thomas Friedman’s May 14th Op-Ed article referred to Lydia, a Greek child who had left a note outside a recently bombed bank in Athens, Greece. Killing three innocent bank employees, that bombing can be connected to the economic collapse in Greece as well as the Too Big to Fail banking mess that started on Wall Street.  In the note, she asked “In what kind of a world will I grow up? Lydia, age 10.”

Friedman writes that it is time for us to all wake up and realize that we are such an interconnected world economy that actions in one part of the world now have an impact in other parts of the world—often with dire consequences.  In some cases, like this one, it’s economic and financial systems that are impacted, in others—it’s environmental and social systems that feel the ripple effect from far away.  But if you step back far enough, you see that a crisis in any one of these four major systems creates chaos in all the others.

Friedman discusses two value systems—the one we currently have— Situational values—whatever feels right at the moment, while challenging us to shift to Sustainable values—“values that inspire in us behaviors that literally sustain our relationships with one another, with our communities, with our institutions, and with our forests, oceans and climate. ……..Sustainable values inspire you to do what you should do in every situation.”


Essentially, what Friedman is now advocating for is a Triple Bottom Line economy—where social, natural and business systems are equally valued and taken into account when choices are being.  This is in direct contrast to the economy we have now—which is a Single bottom line—anything that makes money for business is good (even if it does so at the expense of human and environmental systems).

In an interconnected world—Situational values result in the huge disparity between rich and poor, Sustainable values result in a world that works for humans and the planet.  That’s the world Lydia could grow up in…if we shift to a Triple Bottom Line economy.  In doing so, we can begin to measure and monetize our economy from a much wider set of options—along with the current Gross National Productivity (business), we could add Gross Household Productivity (social) and Gross Environmental Productivity. 

When we do that, we also expand employment into a full spectrum of markets, government, and the household enterprise, as well as factoring in volunteer activities and the natural environment/true cost accounting into the equation. (Present as well is the illegal employment sectors—drugs, sex etc.,—which will never go away, but in a Triple Bottom Line economy—the need for this sector is reduced since there are three new other employment options available—household, volunteer, natural environment)

This would be an amazing world for Lydia to grow up in and it is entirely doable. And do we must.  The current Single bottom line economy/situational value system works for just the few at the top while a Triple Bottom line economy/Sustainable value system work for us all while enabling us to achieve our highest creativity levels possible. And isn’t that what an economy is really for in the first place?

Let’s move beyond blowing up banks and the limitations hoisted on us by the current economic and financial crisis. Our energy is much better spent transforming our world economy into one that measures and monetizes activities to support a system that honors the interconnectedness of humans, the environment and business all at the same time.  We have the know-how to do this, now we need only the will.  And for Lydia—isn’t this the world we’d want her to grow up in?

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