Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Triple Bottom Line

By Ranada Robinson, Senior Research Associate.

Last week, Market Street staff participated in a webinar about the Triple Bottom Line tool rolled out by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The webinar facilitators explained how the tool can help economic development practitioners and those who are applying for EDA grants by giving a demo and answered questions. It was presented by Jack Cobb of EDA, Janet Hammer of Portland State University’s Initiative on Triple Bottom Line Development, and Brian Kelsey of National Association of Development Organizations.

The Triple Bottom Line tool is a framework for identifying and evaluating the economic, environmental, and social impacts of investments. The tool is intended to:

• Talk about, measure, and evaluate projects beyond primary metrics such as added jobs and total investment;
• Support partnerships between federal and state agencies, such as the Partnership for Sustainable Communities; and
• Help those interested in sustainability beyond LEED certification and clean tech initiatives

Ultimately, this tool is for any project manager pursuing short-term economic gains and long-term prosperity while bringing sustainability into the picture. There are three types of data analyzed within this tool: location, industry, and user-defined. The tool calculates scores for projects based on three areas: natural resource stewardship, economic vitality, and community well-being. The justifications for the scores can be viewed at the aggregate level by category, which can be drilled down to finer detail. A cool feature of the tool is the Due Diligence list that is provided based on user inputs after analysis, which alerts the user about items the he or she should pay close attention to such as pertinent employee information (e.g. necessary licenses) and geographic warnings.

Another interesting feature of the website is its inclusion of case studies. There are 18 case studies about communities who have embarked on economic development projects with sustainability as a major component. These studies include rural, suburban, and urban projects. These are definitely worth browsing through.

To date, the tool has been used by over 6,000 unique users, of which close to 250 have completed a project and received a score. We are always on the lookout for new data tools. This one is most beneficial to practitioners who would like a robust evaluation of potential projects.