Sustainability, Triple Bottom Line and the Solopreneur

English: Balance of Sustainability

English: Balance of Sustainability (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A business forum I attended a while back consisted of a panel of folks from various kinds of businesses, including a local bank, a cafe’/bakery, an architectural firm and local health care. The discussion revolved around how they each approached the overall idea of sustainability and the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) of People, Planet and Profit (or as they were presented: Social, Environmental and Economical). Each have very interesting and unique approaches, and the challenges they encountered (and still work through…) were instructive.

On the drive back to my office, I started to think through what this means to a solopreneur (Solo). On one hand, the Solo has the most holistic view of the business possible, being the only person thinking about and doing it all. So you’d think that setting up sustainability in the context of the TBL would be pretty straight forward. However, when confronted with the whirlpool that is the ‘schedule’ of a Solo it can be a challenge. Writing sustainability into your business plan is a great step, but, like most plans, it may not survive the initial contact with reality.

I feel that setting up some specific guidelines for each of the Bottom Lines, beyond building the goals of sustainability into your business plan, will be helpful. So, what does this mean for the Solo? Each Solo’s business is as unique as the person driving it. The needs, conditions, environment and products/services differ and require a framework, as well as some things you always do followed by a prioritization of executing on the guidelines you set up, and others that evolve as your business grows and pivots.

I will visit each section of the TBL in other posts, but I’d like to address what you might be able to classify as “things you always do“.
  • Fair business practices – This would seem to be a no-brainer, but in a hyper-capitalist mindset, an “only-minded” drive for profit or so-called shareholder value can result in rapacious practices. Things to consider:
    • Pricing – Considering the client while being fair. This includes the amount of pro-bono work you do.
    • Contracts – Written fairly without any legal ‘gotchas’.
    • The Golden Rule – this is self-explanatory, but missed many times.
  • Environmental impact – what is your footprint on the physical world around you?
    • Recycle – Simple stuff like paper and plastic, but also physical equipment when you upgrade (PC recycle or perhaps donation).
    • Conservation – Lights, heat, “vampire power” and the like in your physical plant.
    • Transportation – No one disputes the need for face-to-face in the business world, but carefully weigh the need to travel and how you travel (route and mode [auto, train, bicycle, taxi, etc.]).  Sometimes a video conferencing app like Google Hangouts or Skype will work just fine.
  • Economic impact – beyond your revenue stream, what is the economic value created by the organization after deducting the cost of all inputs, including the cost of the capital tied up. It therefore differs from traditional accounting definitions of profit.
    • Consider what the economic benefit of your business is to the society in which you live and work, and find ways to amplify it.
I’m sure there are other sustainable “things you always do” in your business.  What are they?

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