As we talked about before when we did the interview with TreeHugger writer Jaymi Heimbuch a few weeks back, there are a good number of interesting voices covering the green technology space like us here at EarthTechling. Another site which we find of interest is Triple Pundit, a blog focused upon green business news.
Triple Pundit defines themselves as reporting on the “triple bottom line,” defined as an expanded spectrum of values and criteria for measuring organizational (and societal) success: economic, ecological and social. To learn more about them and their take on the cleantech market, we interviewed managing editor Jen Boynton recently:
EarthTechling (ET): So Triple Pundit talks a lot about the triple bottom line in regards to sustainable business. What exactly is that?
Jen Boynton: The triple bottom line is the 3P’s: people, planet and profit. Most companies consider profit first and formost; a triple bottom line company considers environmental and social performance in addition to financial.
ET: How does the triple bottom line apply to cleantech companies?
Boynton: The triple bottom line applies to clean tech companies the same way it applies to any company. Many clean tech companies have a head start, because they are producing a product that can have an environmental benefit for society, but to be a full triple bottom line company, a clean tech company would also need to consider the social impact of their work, and the environmental impact of production.
Take for example, a solar panel producer. Solar panels have great potential to reduce emissions from the production of electricity. But a solar panel company that is focused on the triple bottom line would look beyond that to the supply chain: are workers being well treated in the manufacturing plant? Are the waste chemicals and metals from the manufacturing process being handled properly? What’s the environmental impact of shipping the products around the world? What happens to the panels at the end of their lives? Are they going to landfills or are they being re-used or recycled?
ET: How can a cleantech company, in your opinion, not only promote its green tech solution but also remain sustainable itself?
Boynton: Very few companies have perfect information or solutions to manufacturing challenges- to call a company a triple bottom line company, we’d want to see that they were looking and asking the right questions, and working to make positive changes in a realistic manner that doesn’t break the bottom line.
ET: Do you feel the green tech industry on the whole could be considered sustainable? Why or why not?
Boynton: The “green tech” industry is a term so broad it’s essentially meaningless. Many companies call themselves green but don’t actually do the work to make themselves sustainable beyond changing a few lightbulbs or setting the printers to double sided. A sustainable company looks for innovative solutions to environmental and social challenges in the world as well as in their business productions.
ET: Where do you think cleantech needs to evolve to in order to be successful in this country?
Boynton: Clean tech solutions to energy, transportation, and housing are better for the planet, and they can actually be more affordable than their traditional counterparts, if externalities like pollution and global warming are properly accounted for. I believe US clean tech companies are already on the right track, using innovation to solve problems in an environmentally sound way.
To be successful, these companies need a sound financial performance and need to keep driving down costs so that the solutions are cost competitive with the status quo. Then, even climate change deniers will have no reason to complain.