People, Planet, Profit: Alternative Tools for Measuring Business Performance

If you're late to the game, TIS has recently earned our certification as a B Corp! We're all very excited about this new milestone in our business, but becoming a certified B Corp isn't a title to take lightly; TIS and the other 1,700+ B Corps globally are held at incredibly high standards for social, economic and environmental performance and transparency. This means that it's also our responsibility to seek tools for measuring business performance focused on the triple bottom line—people, planet and profit—rather than just the profit side of business.

What do these tools look like?

Traditional measurement tools for business performance that are solely focused on economic impact, such as GDP, are not sufficient for B Corps because the environmental and humanitarian pieces of the equation are not accounted for. As we're seeing a shift in priorities in businesses across the world, we're also seeing a shift in utilizing different tools to measure business impact, including the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), life cycle analysis, and the B Corporation assessment. Let us walk you through what each of these tools measures and why they support the triple bottom line way of doing business.

What is GPI?

About 20 years ago, the idea of GPI was introduced as a replacement for Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GPI goes beyond GDP as a measurement by also incorporating income distribution, education, crime, distribution of resources, environmental issues, and the life cycle of consumer goods. All these are aspects of business considered “unmeasurable” by GDP. It might help to look at it like this:

  • GDP considers crime a benefit because it requires property repairs, legal and medical fees, etc., putting more money into the economy.
  • GPI considers crime a cost because it can damage people's lives and add to mental and emotional distress.
  • GDP does not consider volunteer work nor education in its measurement because there is no exchange of money.
  • GPI considers volunteer work and education as a benefit for our economy.
  • GDP counts resources and pollution as income, pollution twice over—once for creation, once for clean-up.
  • GPI counts resources and pollution as costs because of the detriment to our planet.

As you can see, GPI is clearly a more triple-bottom-line-focused, comprehensive measurement—perfect for a B Corporation. That's not to say that GPI is necessarily better than GDP for every company; one is simply more appropriate than the other, depending on a company's values.

A Look Into Product Lifecycle Analysis

Product Lifecycle Analysis (PLA) is another way to measure the short- and long-term effects of products—historically what was considered unmeasurable when a product was consumed. If you think of a product as a human or an animal, PLA takes into account its creation, where it lives, how it's treated, and how it's handled at the end of its life. To better explain, let's look at the lifecycle of a laptop.

  1. The necessary resources and raw materials are collected to make the laptop. 
  2. The laptop is designed.
  3. The laptop is manufactured and packaged to go to stores.
  4. The laptop is sold to a consumer.
  5. The consumer uses the laptop for as long as possible.
  6. Once the laptop is no longer usable, it is appropriately recycled.
  7. Parts and pieces of the laptop are taken apart for reuse, recycling, and energy recovery.
  8. Unusable materials are disposed of.

By using lifecycle analysis, businesses and individuals can take a more mindful approach on how to appropriately dispose of their possessions once they are no longer usable.

B The Change

Even if you are not currently a B Corp, or don't ever plan on pursuing B Corp certification, their online assessment is still a great resource that businesses can use to assess their social and environmental impact. Completing a B Corp assessment is an in-depth, time-consuming process, but absolutely worth it for businesses striving for all-around sustainability.

The assessment is made up of a series of questions evaluating social and environmental performance, transparency, and legal accountability. The results of the assessment will give you a general overview of the impact your business has on its local community, our planet, and the economy—as well as the power to make adjustments to your business practices where you see fit, even if you don't wish to become a B Corp.

What's our end goal?

Our goal shouldn't be about converting our system from GDP to GPI, requiring lifecycle analysis on all products, or encouraging all organizations to become B Corps, but rather to educate consumers and business owners on the long-term effects of our actions on the economy and planet, both good and bad. While it's absolutely necessary to acknowledge the economic impact of a business, it is equally important to acknowledge the community and environmental impact, as well.

With over 1,700 certified B Corps worldwide (12 of which are in Grand Rapids!) and thousands of other businesses seeking certification or making a conscious effort to implement better business practices, our end goal should be to unite in our efforts and keep spreading the movement to “be the change” like wildfire!