Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Quadruple Bottom Line: People, Planet, Profit AND Program

Believe it or not, the world is beginning to get used to a Triple Bottom Line, not just the usual single one of cold hard cash.

The Triple Bottom Line is the 'valuation' of the good an activity does for three important criteria: the people (staff, customers, community, the world). the planet (from the immediate surroundings, to your bio region, to the world), and for profits.

Well now it's time for a Quadruple Bottom Line - add a fourth "P" - Program.

For museums this is critical. We always consider our mission - our program - in decision-making. Well when you're considering a green practice, it matters how green affects, supports, or interferes with programming. So add it to your equation as you try to balance it all.

Here's an example: Someone has suggested that when you replace the roof membrane on your building, that you consider a green roof. After you get through sorting out whether or not your structure is appropriate for a green roof, consider the good it does for each of the four "Ps".

People: With a sturdy fence around it, and the right construction, the green roof can be good for People because it provides a green outdoor space far more pleasant than a classroom, more flexible than an exhibit, and way more relaxing than a picnic table by the loading dock.

Planet: It's good for the Planet insofar as it reduces energy use: by reducing heat-island effects it reduces the cooling needs inside your building and in the area around your building, and it provides more insulation in winter. It also creates a teeny bit of natural habitat, and helps manage stormwater runoff by slowing down the runoff and cleaning it up. If you capture and reuse the runoff you help the Planet even more.

Profit: Up front the green roof may not help profit, but if you have to replace parts of the roof anyway, the first-costs are well under control; and since a green roof by nature protects the membrane from sun degradation, you'll get a longer life out of your entire roof. So by saving energy, reducing water use, making the roof last longer, and timing the build with a necessary renovation, it's sounding like a great investment.

Program: And if you can use this space for educational programs like growing a Victory Garden or teaching about bugs and butterflies; or you can use it for financial sustainability: to compliment your cafe (like the one at the MCA Denver in the photo) or to host fundraising events, or as a setting for yoga for mom's while kids play, you're on the plus side again.

So, when you make that next decision about a green practice or project, consider the whole bottom line, QBL, so your choice makes sense for the whole museum, not just one quarter of it.


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  6. I'm still trying to figure out why any of those 4th component projects listed under Programs, couldn't have been categorized under People, Planet or Profits. I'm having a hard time seeing the necessity for a 4th component. I realize this is 2 years old but, still...

  7. Alejandro - I believe an important part of environmental sustainability is intentionality, and of course mission-based programming is important to museums, so including "Program" as museums' version of the fourth P (other groups have other fourth P's) helps us keep program work in sustainability equally important. QBL is a decision-making tool: one decision factor in all museum work is the effect on museum program. That's why I consider it important to specify.