Embracing The Triple Bottom Line [TBL] – economic, ecological and social

In the many previous “real” jobs” life  I’ve had  — where I not only had to learn all the names and ultimately the quirks of fellow workers — but often be obligated to know the terms and conditions of detailed policy manuals outlining all the “do’s” and “don’ts” of the organization — I’ve had various levels of dissatisfaction. Admittedly  I’ve often balked at some of the rules and chafed under some of the administrative policies– many which seemed to compromise my own moral code of ethics. These conflicts actually helped me take the leap into the abyss of opening my own business — with neither a net or a parachute.

Thus when I started my own dog training company, A Better Pet LLC, in 1999, I grokked that one of the best things for someone like me – entrepreneurial in spirit –  was the freedom to make yes and no decisions; define my own policies. Such freedom allows for many decisions to often be based solely on a whim. A poignant email plea, an answered phone call, some random serendipitous chain of events out in the planet, a knock at the door, a news report from Brian Williams or Diane Sawyer.

I am frequently contacted by people for any number of things that don’t do much, if anything for my bottom line. That is if my bottom line was the web definition:

  • the last line in an audit; the line that shows profit or loss. (this is the one years ago my accountant, when I could afford one and before I learned to struggle well enough to do my own taxes, told me to focus on)

But another web definition defines the bottom line as

  • the decisive point

which I like better ’cause it’s subjective.

What I like even better is the Triple Bottom Line (TBL):

The TBL captures an expanded spectrum of values and criteria for measuring organizational (and societal) success: economic, ecological and social.

Last week was spring break from school so I schlepped kids and dogs —  two of my daughters and a friend — along with Bean and Bubbles to visit to a group of home schooled children in a community about 1/2 hour away. I was asked to talk about service dog stuff with these kids ages 6-10. For no pay. My main agreement to doing so at the time was thinking it would be a great socialization opportunity for growing Bubbles. And Bean is my go to spokesdog and great role model for Bubbles so he always comes along for these things too.

First thing I do is try to feel out the energy of the group — whether the audience is made of children and/or adults, special needs or general population, dog lovers, social service professionals or business school students.  I talk for a bit and then put the dog(s) to work. My main goal is to have them evaluate the group but it also spreads good cheer and engages the audience.  I ask people to please sit still and ignore the dog then do a “send out” — ask the dog to “go” (one of The Six  Things All Dogs Should Know) visit . It’s usually very hard for young kids to avoid squirming and sneaking closer and closer. It’s even harder to get them to resist the temptation to reach out and pet or otherwise distract the dogs but this group of kids did great. First, out went  Bean for a meet and greet. He made an immediate beeline for a little boy named Nick sitting on a sofa by himself (most of the kids were sitting on the carpeted floor of the large room in the church where we had assembled). Bean did his trademark gentle “slam” of his body against this boy’s legs with half closed spaniel eyes. Bean’s signal to me that he has found a true and gentle spirit. He does that pretty well. You don’t have to like him (or dogs in general) for Bean to find the gentleness in the spirit.  Some dogs seek out truffles in the woods. Bean finds gentle spirits.

Bean's gaze

Bean worked the room some more and made a few new friends but no lingering with any one person before he returned. Next it was Bubbles’ turn. She too went straight for Nick and wormed her golden wriggly self at him, compelling him to pet her. Then she gave him a quick wink of her eye and moved on to other kids. I hadn’t sent her out to find gentle spirits before, but I have seen her work her way with her future autistic boy in much the same way.  I was very pleased to see she too has the capacity not only to find the gentle ones in the area (even if their behavior isn’t gentle, it is the spirit I am talking about here — behavior can always be modified), but she endears herself in the same way as if to say she is only there to be a good thing, not a scary or overbearing thing.

I talked a bit more, answered some questions and then it was time to pack up and go. I hadn’t releashed Bean and as we started to gather things, he went to the back of the room where he found Nick, who had moved from the couch. I guess Bean just wanted to say bye as Nick clearly has a most gentle spirit and who wouldn’t find that uplifting?

Teenage stare.

And so as we left and meandered back home — dogs exhausted and sleeping tucked in with the girls in the backseat — I knew we had all gotten quite a boost to our triple bottom line.

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