The Triple Bottom Line, The Heart of Green Building: Sustainability is Good for Business

The triple bottom line is all about the benefits: people, planet profit. The question that the triple bottom line concept demands be asked is, “how can an enterprise balance what is best for their wallets with what is best for everyone else?” It’s surprising how often multiple concerns align.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has long been a big topic in the PR world, but it was seen as a way of building goodwill with the public in the hopes that, in the long term, that goodwill would serve as a kind of advertising, keeping the company’s name in the publics’ minds and keeping that name clean with positive associations. CSR includes community outreach, civic mindedness, charity and environmental responsibility, but, until fairly recently it was not viewed as a sound method of conducting everyday business in terms of profits.

The concept of the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) was conceived by John Elkington, the founder of British Consultancy, SustainAbility, in 1994. It’s an accounting philosophy that takes into account the benefits and costs for that business and their community, including employees, clients and the public, as well as the Earth itself. That’s the tagline, “People, Planet Profit: The Triple Bottom Line.”

The TBL is about the relationship that the project will have with its tenants, and clients, over its lifespan.

Regardless of the purpose of the building, the TBL considerations begin in the planning process. It entails choosing a location that is the least destructive to the ecosystem.

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The U.S. and China, Saving the World with Super Powers

Obama1Washington, D.C. – President Barack Obama and Chinese Prime Minister Xi Jinping announced, on Wednesday, an unprecedented agreement between the world’s leading carbon emitters, promising tighter regulations on waste and emissions, as well as investments in renewable energy.

According to the White House, Mr. Obama promised that the United States will cut carbon emissions down to 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, twice the pace of current plans aimed through 2020. The new goals fall in line with the long term plans to reduce carbon deduction by 80% for the year 2050.

Mr. Jinping pledged that China would reach its peak carbon emissions in the year 2030, with the intention of peaking early, and thereafter keeping its levels at or below that ceiling. The Chinese also agreed to increase the country’s capacity of renewable energy by 800 to 1,000 gigawatts, more than double current levels and increasing non-fossil fuel share of energy production up to 20% of the total.

The White House has stated that the agreement between the world foremost two polluters lays the groundwork for real progress to be made next year at the 2015 Conference of the Parties on Climate Change, the 21st such conference revisiting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (U.N. FCCC) Change, which was adopted in 1992.

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The EPA and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Finally in the Game

In the United States’ recent history, republican administrations have not been the best friends of the environment, but that was not always the case. Decades ago the quality of the ecosystem was much less of a partisan issue, recognized as a necessity for all citizens, and it was actually President Richard Nixon that proposed the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA was established shortly thereafter on December 2, 1970, yet. Since its inception the agency has done a lot to protect many aspects of our environment from waste and pollution, including the air we breathe, under the Clean Air Act, signed into law the same year. But it wasn’t until January 2, 2011, that the EPA first began regulating Greenhouse Gasses (GHG).

The road to our new protections was a long and hard fought one, at first fought against the EPA itself. On October 20, 1999 the International Center for Technology Assessment petitioned the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases emitted by new motor vehicles in order to reduce the effects of global warming. The agency, however initially declined to take action on the petition, claiming not to have the authority to act on climate change, as the issue did not fall under its traditional powers to regulate emissions directly harmful to humans.

Furthermore the agency went on to explain that even if it were within their power to act on the petition they would not do so, for two reasons: the first being that to do so would not be effective in combatting global warming. The second, and more troubling reason, was that such action would go against the Bush administration’s policies, which aimed at further investigation into the legitimacy of the climate change issue and its causes, as well as encouraging efforts by private parties such as voluntary reductions and technological advances. EPA Logo

On April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court found, in Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007), that GHGs, are air pollutants covered by the CAA. The Court found that the “EPA was required to determine whether or not emissions of GHGs from new motor vehicles cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” So under pressure from the courts the agency began the investigative process they had been putting off for nearly a decade.

Almost exactly two years later, in April 2009 under the new democratic presidential administration, the EPA proposed a finding that greenhouse gasses do in fact contribute to air pollution that may threaten public health. In early December of that year the Administrator signed two findings on GHG, under section 202 of the CAA: Continue reading