Vail Daily column: The triple bottom line |

Vail Daily column: The triple bottom line

Even wild animals, like this pika, have to think about the triple bottom line as they collect and prepare food to last through the long winter. The pika needs to stay warm, fed, and safe from predators - all amounting to a stable triple bottom line!
Rick Spitzer | Special to the Daily |

It’s a new year today, in so many ways, as we face this brave new world. And what the new year brings, in some ways, is up to us. Where will we focus our energy? How will we spend our time? The answers to these questions lie in our own determinations. What is important to us?

So as the sun rises on a new dawn, ask yourself these questions. Look out on the grandeur surrounding you.

Consider the mountains, the rivers, the rainclouds and the many different colors and creeds of people who share our mountain home and the planet beyond. And of course, consider the children and their children, and those not even yet imagined, generations down the line. Because maybe there is a different way. Maybe it doesn’t have to be business as usual this year.

We measure the value of our work in many ways. Profit in dollars is just one of the things our community businesses and partners gain from their efforts. We measure our work in satisfaction, too, or how we feel at the end of a day, as well as how our work contributes to the greater good. Did we make people happy? Did we provide a service for our neighbors and friends? And at the end of the day; did we make the world a better place?

The “triple bottom line” is a term coined by the founder of a British consulting business, John Elkington, in 1994, that attempts to measure the true cost of doing business. The triple bottom line involves measuring a company’s health by monitoring the company’s profit (fiscal responsibility), impacts on people (social responsibility), and impacts on the planet (environmental responsibility). Like many things in life, it’s about balance.

Thinking beyond profits

A growing number of companies are making the switch to think beyond profits in their decisions and choices. Consider Patagonia’s decision this past Black Friday to donate 100% of its profits to small, nonprofit organizations. Decisions like these help the world, but they also help to build brand loyalty in a market with a rapidly growing social conscience.

Locally, the town of Vail has been a pioneer in the effort to encourage businesses to consider their impacts beyond the realm of profit. Vail is currently working towards certification as a Global Sustainable Destination through Sustainable Travel International.

This certification has four main criteria, each broken down into several, more specific benchmarks. In order to earn this designation, the destination must: demonstrate sustainable destination management; maximize economic benefits to the host community and minimize negative impacts; maximize benefits to communities, visitors, and culture while minimizing negative impacts; and maximize benefits to the environment while minimizing negative impacts.

In tandem, these measures provide a means for businesses to monitor and improve their triple bottom line, empowering people and promoting healthy communities. Support for local businesses ready to play their part in helping to earn this designation is available from the Actively Green certification program through Walking Mountains Science Center.

We don’t measure the worth of our families by the amount of money in our bank accounts. If we were to measure their value, though, we would measure it in love, support, and time together. Doesn’t it make sense that we should measure the worth of our companies, which are made up of people too, in the same way? By the love and support that they contribute to our communities?

What we do matters. And when we have a statement to make, nothing speaks louder than the almighty dollar. Companies that take care of people and places will reap the rewards in loyal customers, longevity, and profit. People want to support companies that support them and help to keep our land and water clean and healthy.

The triple bottom line is just a metaphor, but it’s one with a lot of power and potential. It all starts by changing the way you think and considering what’s important to you.

So look around you. Look at the people you care about, and the places that provide them sustenance and stability. Think about all of these things as you make decisions this New Year. And remember the words of the great Chief Seattle when he said that, “Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” Happy New Year and many more.

Jaymee Squires is the Director of Graduate Programs at Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon. She is excited about the potential of the New Year and hoping for good things to come.

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