At the conference last week in Burlington, VT, for the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, there was much talk about companies with a Triple Bottom Line. Profits, yes, but also people and planet.
I wonder: what would it mean for our planet if businesses truly had a legally enforceable Triple Bottom Line? What if businesses were legally required, or agreed, to internalize all the costs that many now externalize? What if manufacturers incorporated the true life-cycle costs of their products (production and waste) as part of their business expenses? What if businesses valued their employees as much as they now do their shareholders?
Is it possible?
While it's unlikely -- at the moment, at least ;-) -- that government would legally require businesses to adopt a Triple Bottom Line, there is no legal reason why a business could not voluntarily create such a legally binding commitment in its articles of incorporation and bylaws.
And what should society do for a corporation that puts people and planet on a par with profits? Given the tremendous saving that accrues to society from a business that internalizes its environmental and societal costs, I'd say the business should be given a whopping tax benefit including, at least, tax exempt (or extremely reduced) status for profits, distributions and employee incomes.
To quote Gary Snyder: "We are defending our own space, and we are trying to protect the commons. More than the logic of self-interest inspires this: a true and selfless love of the land is the source of the undaunted spirit of my neighbours."