Triple Sustainability Gets Defined

To suggest how Sustainability’s design might be emerging, CCC’s “Citizens Guide” reviewed a few key regional organizations and their contributions to a policy foundation. CCC’s most comprehensive explanation can be found by clicking on Step 2: Nonprofits Who Take Innovations And Synthesize Multiple Benefits.

We think you will see how multiple constituencies see how they can get their benefits if others get theirs… all of which is the basis for a deal.

Outside of CCC’s sphere, some impressive conceptual and practical progress has been made. For example, the region’s “2040 Plan” -- released in October 2010 as a consensus document between Chicago and its suburbs -- chiefly sells its proposals as the avenue to “Sustainable Prosperity.” This language derives from some policy circles interchangeably using economic and sustainable growth. But what is important is this long-term discusses integrating environmental with economic goals.

Adding the third system of Sustainability, “Effective Governance” is a major section of this “Plan” and probes into fiscal balance by improving the effectiveness of public dollars and rationalizing taxes across Chicagoland. Pioneering ahead this consensus document, a survey of blogs for policy wonks turns up more advanced concepts that help define the “Triple Sustainability” rubric. Since some are specialists, these bloggers may not have fully integrated all three systems yet. But the more they blog, the easier it is to shape a deal that solves problems.

Multiple Benefits Create Value. A chief reason why CCC proposed a policy framework is that integrating these systems generates multiple benefits and makes it easier to convince taxpayers to invest in their future.

Sustainability’s synergy promises to solve multiple problems economically.  As an example, different parts of CCC explore the comprehensive benefits of Transit Oriented Development. TOD is know to provide:            

            1) environmental benefits that reduce air pollution and flooding;

            2) household savings on energy and transportation – often adding 15% to
            gross income (which in turn can lead to new investments); and…

            3) fiscal savings by reducing capital and maintenance costs for road, sewers
            and other public services.

We need these strategic selling points particularly since the public now has this dual personality in which citizens want problems solved; but taxpayers don’t trust government and will not invest in solutions.

In the year since the “Guide” started describing how various nonprofits are developing their specialized piece of sustainable policy, we are gratified this unified concept has emerged sketchily into the real world; albeit somewhat unheralded.

A high profile example is Rahm Emanuel. Elected Mayor promising to bring fiscal sustainability by reinventing government to Chicago, these changes also are enhancing the thrust of Mayor Daley’s “green” agenda. This is starting to look like a pretty good merger of environmental and fiscal sustainability in one city.

Where This Also Derives. Finally, Triple Sustainability reminds us of the micro-economic strategy that emerged in the 1990s for corporations; popularized as the “Triple Bottom-line” or the “3 Pillars” or “3Ps of People, Profit, Planet.“

These social responsibility advocates have packaged the Triple Bottom-Line as environmental balance, economic growth, and social progress. This Sustainability strategy has taken hold in business schools and consultancies. It even has been proposed that these 3 criteria be integrated by 2020 into one report along with a corporation’s financial consulting.

Cross-fertilizing, governments made an informal global standard in 2007 when the United Nations ratified a Triple Bottom-line by making a public sector full cost accounting method. It has taken hold best in infrastructure management. This is a good sign, since taxpayers are also looking for a social return on their investment.

These are a few of the many threads weaving The Triple Sustainability security blanket. There will be many more threads... and experiments. But, consider this table as a quick summary of the progress we have made.



Admittedly, the proposed Triple Sustainability has yet to integrate fully public and private sector standards so they complement one another, a key to synergy. But if Chicagoland can work on those wrinkles, we will be way ahead of the nation.