Economic development succeeds at the interface of people, place and prosperity. As Janet Hammer explains in her recent article in IEDC’s Economic Development Journal, the triple bottom line (TBL) concept recognizes the interconnections between economic, environmental and social factors and provides an important framework for engaging in economic development.

We’ve written previously on sustainability in economic development (here and here) and the Triple Bottom Line tool.

The article addresses lessons learned from TBL projects around the country, including several good economic development practices such as:

  • Incorporating natural resource stewardship into development initiatives
  • Conducting sincere community engagement efforts that identify and respond to community priorities
  • Designing programs so that they benefit multiple populations
  • Creating built-in (but flexible) accountability mechanisms to ensure project goals are met
  • Considering the life cycle of a project through a whole system approach that addresses long-term costs and benefits and community impacts
  • Making strategic investments and collaborating via partnerships to create the conditions necessary for investments to flourish

The author’s larger point is that there is not one right way to achieve triple bottom line performance. Just as each community is different, each community’s TBL projects and initiatives can uniquely address local economic development needs in a systemic and interconnected way.

The triple bottom line concept is central to economic development. Most communities have visions and goals that include economic prosperity, environmental quality, healthy people and livability. Not only should economic development be conducted in ways that take us toward rather than away from those goals, it turns out that those very factors are important for fostering economic development.

IEDC members can access the article “When Three Equals One: Triple Bottom Line Economic Development” here. Janet Hammer leads The Collaboratory, a consultancy focused on sustainable economic and community development plus program insight and action.