Demonstrate the value of your triple bottom line

01 Apr 2020 by Tom Swinbourne

As we arrive at the final piece in this series of blog posts, it’s time to reflect on what’s been discussed throughout the engaging and well received TwinFM roundtables. Firstly, the changing demands and expectations of consumers were explored, advising organisations how to adapt and tailor their appeal to the more environmentally-savvy customers. Next, the panel discussed how organisations can improve efficiency of wasted resource management to assist their zero waste efforts. This then prompted the panel to discuss the third most recent topic, applying different measures.

The fourth roundtable looked to summarise all topics in the best way possible, using the triple bottom line framework. This looks at three different needs of a business that includes: social, environmental, and financial (or people, planet, profit). The framework encourages businesses to focus on their social and environmental value just as much as the financial side to achieve a balanced approach. The theory is, if a business only focuses on profit and ignores its people and the planet, it does not represent a sustainably focused business, and therefore its investors or customers may take their patronage elsewhere in the future.

The fourth roundtable brought us three key takeaways; these were:

• Managing a sustainable supply chain

• Building a robust portfolio, and

• Engaging stakeholders

Managing Supply Chain

For businesses to be able to demonstrate the value of their triple bottom line, the development and ongoing management of a sustainable supply chain is fundamental to bringing all stakeholders up to the same level. With the framework encouraging businesses to not just consider cost, but to focus on their social and environment value across all activities, the same view stretches to their immediate supply chain. With the belief that all partners should consider environmental and social value, not just cost, it brings a very different aspect to the selection of supply chain partners. Naturally, a business will be enticed to choose the most cost-effective supply chain partners, yet there will undoubtably be opportunities to manage resources in a more holistic way to reduce or eliminate waste, minimise costs and demonstrate more ethical practices that promote value to your brand.

A great example of this is a social venture via the Foston Hall Project, which utilised all three values of the triple bottom line. The project began with discussions between Balfour Beatty and Reconomy to replace 14,293 streetlamps across the city of Derby. The project achieved the replacement of 14,293 streetlamps, and involved Reconomy, Balfour Beatty, Ward Recycling and Foston Hall Prison. The project involved Foston Hall Prison inmates to help deconstruct streetlamps and separate the challenging waste streams for recycling. The results of the project showed the true value of the triple bottom line approach, with the project achieving a 100% recycling rate with local supply partners, and an estimated saving of £50,000 in procurement and waste disposal costs, as well as delivering social value and employment opportunities for hard to reach members of society.

The belief is that when all values are considered in the triple bottom line, a business can save on costs, protect natural resources, whilst doing the right thing. To enable projects like Foston Hall that has very niche requirements, there needs to be a wide net of suppliers to choose from. Therefore, building a robust portfolio of diverse supply partners, either directly or through an outsourced provider, should be a business focus for a sustainable future.

Building a Robust Portfolio

The session ‘Applying a different measure’ discussed how important reporting is to improving a business’s sustainability. Nathan Gray, Head of Sustainability, told participants that a business needs to firstly understand what their current waste profile is through benchmarking, and secondly to report on them in the right way. Businesses should not just report against volumes and costs, or indeed only award contracts to the lowest bidder, as this approach could be limiting your opportunities to explore a more holistic solution for your wasted resources beyond taking your bins away.

Reporting the performance of waste is essential, yet it isn’t that sophisticated or consistent in its approach. So utilising technological innovations that are already in the industry is a great first step to getting some clarity on actual weights of waste removed and categorising it correctly. By doing this you can gain some perspective on the wider value that is being wasted and not just generated from sales profits. Reporting on all three elements is essential, however all relevant stakeholders need to be engaged and involved to make this happen.

Engaging Stakeholders

Building a robust portfolio and managing a supply chain are two important factors to help support the delivery of your strategic vision. However, this will only come to fruition if all relevant stakeholders are engaged, involved and on-board. In order to maintain an effective process and deliver the vision, engagement across the business and its stakeholders is crucial.

In the fourth roundtable, Reconomy’s Head of Sustainability, Nathan Gray, used the Preston Model as an example. The Preston Model highlights just how effective the usage and measuring of all three values can be when implemented, especially to a macro-economy. When referring to the ‘Preston Model’, it’s the term coined to describe how organisations and their stakeholders can achieve significant community wealth with the approach to reinvest and support local businesses. The model focuses on Preston investing in the local area, encouraging all local authority services and activities to use locally sourced products and businesses in their supply chain. As a result, local resources and services were utilised, which reduced transportation miles and supported local businesses in a period of recession. Preston saw the reward of this approach, with a high performing economy and an increased national minimum wage.

If we focus more towards the stakeholders in a business, there needs to be a far greater and more coordinated approach to communication that places the responsibility with individuals and their peers to deliver the change. Communicating the businesses vison will help drive action and make people aware of the impact their actions might have for the business, people and our planet. Understanding that placing a crisp packet or glass bottle in the wrong bin can result in the contents of bins being contaminated or rejected, and therefore redirected to a less environmentally positive (and probably less financially positive) outcome, will help to educate stakeholders on the cause and effects of their actions.

To Summarise

With the world waking up to the dangers of climate change and the importance of sustainability, it’s more important than ever that businesses focus on their waste and resources management. In order to demonstrate the value of your triple bottom line, there are many factors to consider which have been discussed throughout this series of blog posts. To revisit this series of blog posts, or to watch the roundtable discussions, visit the links below:

Blog Post Series

Waste, Are You Wasting Yours?

Enhancing Waste Management Efficiency: Educating & Improving

Applying a different measure

Roundtables

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4