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Published on October 8th, 2008 | by John Ivanko

11

Triple Bottom Line: Profits with a Purpose to Make the World a Better Place

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As explored in my previous posts related to the triple bottom line for green enterprises, these business ecopreneurs seek to consider all stakeholders of their enterprise (not just the shareholders or owners’ financial interests), how the business transforms or is transformed by the environment, and finally, profits, the heralded benchmark for allowing one to define their business as a business, not a hobby.

Millions of American workers — steady-eddy 9-to-5-ers (or sunrise to sunset go-getters) — are observing how the fine print of their so-called pensions could wipe out their sense retirement security while healthcare costs continue to get larger and their portion of the bills explode. Many are kissing off corporate America before their company goes bust or gets gobbled up by Uncle Sam. They’re managing the crisis rather than the financial crisis managing them by launching the dream green business they’ve always wanted with a triple bottom line of people, planet and (some) profits.

Ecopreneurs, harness our profits to create the changes they desire in their communities, shifting the economy away from the present one based on cheap oil, wasted resources, the exploitation of people, and, as of late, drinking form the bottomless cup of debt (mostly “bad” debt). We operate our enterprise in a way that restores or heals the planet — in the restoration ECOnomy — and fosters more equitable and fair relationships among anything touched by our business. By running our own enterprise, many have discovered just how much we can regain control over our life (even if we can’t seem to influence our representatives in Washington DC much).

Profit validates the existence of a business, except now it stands as one element of a supporting trio within the triple-bottom-line approach. Profit can’t be overlooked or minimized; failing to generate enough revenue to cover expenses means you won’t be around for long. All the “doing good” notions won’t cut it if a business fails financially. You can’t take advantage of governmental structures designed to enhance small business without showing some profit. The key for some ecopreneurs is how much.

That notion of “some profit” remains a refrain throughout ECOpreneuring: How much is enough? By keeping lean and green, by incorporating profit as one element versus the inclusive end goal, by maximizing deductions and other business incentives keeping green values at heart, profit takes on new meaning. Profit now serves as a tool, not the sole end goal. These green businesses have embedded tithe initiatives, whereby 10 to 20 percent of the profits from the enterprise are donated to various charities. For example, 10 percent of our profits, as authors of ECOpreneuring, are donated to the non-profit organization Renewing the Countryside to support educational outreach initiatives.

In the end, the triple bottom line enterprises foster both a return on the environment and a return on investment while thriving with a sense of fair trade (not free trade that often places a company above the rights of people or the laws of a nation).

Ecopreneurial businesses will thrive in the years to come, often during challenging economic times; most, if not all, of the rest of the companies will go extinct if they stay the course and refuse to adapt and change to changing realities on Earth. We’ve seen a few do so in just the past few months.

Graphic Source: Angry Trout Cafe, Minnesota



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About the Author

John Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, is the co-author of ECOpreneuring, Rural Renaissance and Edible Earth, innkeeper of the award-winning Inn Serendipity Bed & Breakfast, national speaker, freelance writer, and copartner in a marketing consulting company. Ivanko is also an award-winning photographer and author or co-author of numerous books, including the award-winning children's photobooks, To Be a Kid, To Be an Artist, Be My Neighbor and Animal Friends, which help support the Global Fund for Children Books. He's contributed to Natural Home, E/The Environmental Magazine, Mother Earth News, Hobby Farms and Wisconsin Trails, among many others. Former advertising agency fast-trackers, the husband and wife duo are nationally recognized for their contemporary approach to ecopreneurship, homesteading, conservation and more sustainable living. Based in Browntown, Wisconsin, they share their farm and Inn Serendipity Bed & Breakfast with their son, a 10kW Bergey wind turbine, and millions of ladybugs.



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