The Fungible and the Sacred: Reimagining the Triple Bottom Line for Sustainability

By Kevin Gibson.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Sustainability is an ethical stance that maintains we should respect the environment in order to not create a net deficit of resources in the future. Much of the sustainability discourse has adopted the terminology of the triple bottom line (3BL) that advocates accounting not only for profit and loss - the first bottom line - but also for the impact of decisions on people and the environment as well. 3BL relies on quantitative analysis, and fails to deal well with intangible assets or deeply held values, i.e., the sacred. Contrary to claims by supporters of 3BL these issues cannot be handled by increasingly sophisticated accounting techniques. This critical flaw reflects the way 3BL is based on Western notions of property, ownership and the primacy of the market. I contend that as a result we should invert our approach to 3BL so sustainability discussions begin by establishing shared values among stakeholders. I conclude by presenting a practical model for reimagining 3BL.

Keywords: Sustainability, Triple Bottom Line, Environment, Intangibles, Value, Heritage, Stakeholder

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp.133-144. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 823.996KB).

Dr. Kevin Gibson

Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Department of Management, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, USA

I work primarily in applied ethics, business ethics, and conflict resolution. I am developing work in sustainability, particularly in terms of the environment and social values.


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