As organizations begin to think about their impacts on the soil environment, I think it is very important to conceptualize the idea according to the triple bottom line (TBL). For example, when I was looking through the Museum of Modern Art’s winter catalog this morning, I kept thinking about how the producers of the artistic plastic bowls, nifty kitchen gadgets and abstract reprints ever consider the impacts in the production of those items on the pedosphere. Even if you made the factual case that the plastic bowl is derived from the extraction of oil reserves, I feel few businesses would really care. The triple bottom line concept, on the other hand, allows for a framework and language to be utilized so we as MBA candidates can convince these entities of the importance of understanding soils and their place in business.
The Intervale Center is a great example of an organization that has utilized a TBL approach to build a series of thriving community businesses that all began around the idea of healthy soil and the connection to this resource. Will Raap, the founder of the Intervale Center, smartly realized the economic, social and environmental impacts of creating a healthy soil landscape related to community farming and composting. His emphasis on providing an economic leg to the organization is something that other organizations can latch onto, realizing that often times what is looked upon as waste can actually be a source of profit. From a social and environmental perspective, he was also wise to nest his organization into the community through the quantifiable goals of recycling 10% of Burlington’s waste while providing 10% of their food. By quantifying his place in the community in this regard, Raap creates a financial framework that all businesses can understand.
Will Raap and the Intervale Center are most likely an anomaly in the larger business context, however, as he has fully embraced his reliance on the pedosphere. For the producers of the plastic bowls and kitchen gadgets that were discussed earlier, it may be harder to make the case for the reliance on soil as they rarely come into contact with the brown stuff. A more appropriate place to begin the discussion with these organizations is to talk about corporate social responsibility and the marketing appeal that “green” products have on the average consumer. This could provide a starting point for these organizations to examine their reliance on soil related to their most commonly analyzed factor, the financial bottom line. As the organizations begin tracking their commodity sources, for example, they may find a financial motive for possibly closing wasted energy streams related to the pedosphere or a mass marketing appeal related to their material acquisitions.