Triple Bottom Line
The term was coined some twenty-five years ago by John Elkington, author of 19 books, co-founder of Environmental Data Services and SustainAbility, and a pioneer of the global sustainability movement. Traditionally, investors were only concerned with profit, but the concept that investment can also be socially and environmentally beneficial is one that began with this term and has been gaining traction and even driving decision-making ever since.
In the same way, triple bottom line real estate development can create a win-win-win for the developer, the community and also the planet.
Real estate development is a hugely risky business. Developers must make a reasonable profit not only to cover overheads, and a salary for themselves, but also to make it possible to secure loans, without which real estate projects cannot happen.
The social component of community might be the most important. A development can bring many benefits to a community including the removal of blight, providing affordable housing, adding amenities, adding civic space, encouraging local business, bringing jobs, increasing the tax base to pay for more services and generally improving the quality of life through place-making. It’s important that developers work closely with the community to make sure their project is both beneficial and embraced.
Real estate projects can incorporate sustainable practices into their work in many ways — by saving energy during construction, using renewable building materials or energy, by adding insulation and rainwater collection facilities, by locating in a walkable or bikeable location and by being close to transit. These are just a few of the options which developers might consider.
Ken Weinstein is a developer who strives for the triple bottom line in each of his projects. His company, Philly Office Retail, tackles underutilized and blighted properties and re-develops them to serve their local communities.
Not satisfied with what he can add to his community in terms of real estate, he’s also become a teacher by launching Jumpstart Germantown, a bootcamp for wannabe developers, open to everyone in his community. Still not satisfied, he’s gone even further to launch a loan program to support their projects as well.