Decision-making in service of the “triple-bottom-line” refers to choices made by individuals and groups that balance social, economic, and environmental objectives.
Yet, if you stop and look carefully, much of the discussion about the triple-bottom-line (TBL) is both rhetorical and retrospective. On the one hand, many people will tell you that “people, planet, and prosperity” are equally important to them, and that they actively seek win-win-win alternatives in whatever activities they undertake. On the other, they’ll point to decisions they have made, and will show you benefits that they say are in line with social, economic, and environmental goals.
But, here’s the thing: First, there’s rarely (actually, never, in my humble opinion) such thing as a win-win option. Second, the triple-bottom-line isn’t about shoehorning existing decisions, however good they may seem, into a narrative mold so that you can make yourself look—or feel—good.
So, what are we to do if we want to proactively make decisions that serve the triple-bottom-line?
We must start by recognizing that a defensible, TBL process is one that accounts both for how rational decision-makers should behave and for how people actually behave. In other words, TBL decision-making aims for the idealized rationality benchmarks set forth by the economic sciences, while recognizing that people—working individually and in groups—face significant psychological hurdles trying to get there; thus, the pre-requisite for this course is EAS 530 (Decision-Making for Sustainability).
Next, we need to recognize that multi-attribute decisions that are attentive to complex tradeoffs—across social, economic, and environmental dimensions—require a proactive structure. At its core, a structure for TBL decision-making is composed of six basic elements, each one supporting the others in ways that are dictated by the specific decision context. These elements serve to:
1. Define the problem (or opportunity) that is to be the focus of analysis while taking into
account the bounds and constraints under which decisions must be made;
2. Identify and clarify social, economic, and environmental objectives—which define the need
for TBL decision-making—including the performance measures that will be used to gauge
success or failure in terms of meeting them;
3. Create logical and creative alternatives that directly address these objectives;
4. Establish the predicted impacts and consequences that are associated with alternative
courses of action, including key sources of uncertainty;
5. Confront the inevitable tradeoffs that are sure to arise across social, economic, and
environmental objectives when selecting among alternatives; and
6. Implement decisions, monitor outcomes (as measured by the achievement of objectives),
and adapt to changing conditions.
**Offered in Winter A**
EAS 530 Decision Making for Sustainability