Social Analytics and the Triple Bottom Line
I hope to embark on some Internet Serious Business work that links community with government with some industry. There’s a large social analytics piece in all of this that I’m looking forward to.
The triple bottom line can be summed up as “profit, people, planet”. Basically, accounting for social and environmental impacts as well as the profit motive.
There’s a story about a young graduate student and an old econ prof walking down the street together. The young graduate student, clearly cash starved, spots a dollar on the street and says, “look, a dollar” and goes to reach for it. The prof holds him back, and replies “nonsense, if there really was a dollar there, somebody would have already picked it up by now.”
The point being: sometimes we assume, wrongly, that if an action was profitable and optimal, we would have already figured it out and the market would have already cleared. Again, as a marketing scientist that understands the problems of optimization – that assumption is totally false.
It’s probably very likely that you can’t maximize profit, social and environmental benefits simultaneously with existing technology. What’s required is research and development geared to bring those incentives into alignment. It’s perfectly possible to calculate social and environmental harm and introduce market mechanisms (thereby forming the basis of a tax credit system to guide the invisible hand towards more good). There’s a careful policy way out of this. And, as we’ve seen time and again in Canada (in particular): policy is powerful.
I have much of the profit stuff figured out. It’s the two other components, planet and people, that deserves some mental attention.