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Triple Bottom Line Accounting Method Receives Award

Submitted by: Center for Sustainable Organizations

Categories: Sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility

Posted: Apr 21, 2009 – 11:59 PM EST


Apr. 21 /CSRwire/ - April 21, 2009 - Thetford Center, VT - The non-profit Center for Sustainable Innovation (CSI) announced today that it has received an award for its Triple Bottom Line Accounting Method, as part of this year's Vermont Governor's Awards for Environmental Excellence & Pollution Prevention. CSI's award was one of several handed out by Vermont Governor Jim Douglas in a new category entitled, Contribution to a More Sustainable Future.

Ever since the triple bottom line (TBL) concept was first introduced by John Elkington in the late 'nineties, it has amounted to little more than a metaphor – albeit a powerful one – for corporate sustainability management. Tools and methods for operationalizing the TBL have been elusive, and the promise of an actual accounting system for measuring and reporting the true TBL performance of an organization has gone unfulfilled – until now, that is.

Working in conjunction with researchers at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands and with businesses here in the U.S., CSI has for the past four years been developing, testing, and refining a quantitative approach for measuring, managing and reporting the TBL performance of organizations. The result is what CSI refers to as context-based sustainability management. Just last month, CSI announced an implementation of its method, the world's first True Sustainability Index(TM).

The breakthrough in CSI's research came in the form of a solution for what the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) refers to as sustainability context, a vital yet challenging component of TBL measurement and reporting. GRI, in its 'G3' Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, explains the importance of sustainability context as follows:

  • Performance information should be placed in context.
  • The underlying question of sustainability reporting is how an organization contributes to the improvement or deterioration of economic, environmental, and social conditions at the local, regional, or global level.
  • Simply reporting on trends in individual performance (or the efficiency of the organization) will fail to respond to this underlying question.
  • Reporting organizations should therefore seek ways to express their individual performance in relation to broader environmental and social sustainability.
Despite GRI's guidelines, few if any GRI-type reports have ever actually included context – indeed, most are context-free. To include context, a sustainability report would have to express organizational performance relative to real social and environmental conditions in the world. Water consumption, for example, would be measured against renewable supplies; solid wastes would be measured against landfill capacities; and impacts on social and economic conditions would be measured against societal needs. Still, most sustainability reports fail to include context and thereby fail to deliver. CSI's methodology now closes that gap.

CSI's Executive Director, Mark W. McElroy, Ph.D., had this to say about today’s announcement: "Whereas most of what passes for mainstream sustainability measurement and reporting is arguably context-free and therefore uninformative, we have finally found a way to operationalize real triple bottom line measurement, management and reporting by making it possible to include exactly the kind of context GRI says we must have for reporting to be meaningful!"

Parties interested in learning more about CSI's approach to triple bottom line measurement and reporting will find a fuller description of it in a free online report entitled, Re-casting the Triple Bottom Line.

About the Center for Sustainable Innovation

The Center for Sustainable Innovation is a non-profit NGO located in Thetford Center, VT. It was founded in 2004 with a vision of working for sustainability, both within and by means of innovation. Most of CSI's efforts have been applied to the development of an advanced approach for measuring and reporting the social, economic and environmental sustainability performance of organizations, and to devising tools and methods for operationalizing triple bottom line management. CSI's founder and Executive Director, Mark W. McElroy, Ph.D., can be reached at More information about CSI can be found on its website.

For more information, please contact:

Mark McElroy Center for Sustainable Innovation
Phone: 8027852293

For more from this organization:

Center for Sustainable Organizations


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