Venn diagram of quadruple bottom line - people, profit, planet, purpose.

Quadruple Bottom Line

As a writer for Just Means/3BL Media—as in ‘Triple Bottom Line Media’—I’m upping the ante: I have recently been convinced of the 4BL or ‘quadruple bottom line.’ I learned of the concept from Social Enterprise Associates (SEA), a confederation of consultants in New Mexico united by a common desire to bring about social betterment. They are also the first B Lab-certified company in New Mexico and have been awarded as one of the Best for the World B Corps for their overall impact.  SEA guides their clients to express their clear purpose for financial, environmental, social, and community well-being or people, planet, profit, and purpose. Their added layer of building community and purpose intrigued me to learn more about their work as a B Lab-certified company in the West.

people, planet, profit, and purpose

“The triple bottom line has become something easy to say you are doing, a prescription,” David Kistin, an SEA Associate told me. “But the B Corp model exists on a spectrum. These are values. They are variables. Just because you say you are passionate about it [the triple bottom line] it doesn’t mean you do it well. The score and values provide metrics.”

“How have your clients defined the quadruple bottom line? How have they integrated purpose and community building into their work?” I asked Kistin.

"It’s not that we are introducing new elements. It’s just about context. In a state like New Mexico where you have a special opportunity to have economic impact, it’s not entirely altruistic. For example, we are supporting a birthing clinic. They are a group of midwives in rural New Mexico outside of Santa Fe. They are connected to Native American tribes. This area is also one of largest oil and gas producing regions. They have to provide cultural context with each stakeholder. They have volatile interactions with these communities. To provide quality women’s health, they need to consider the traditional values of the regions: Spanish and tribal or oil and gas. It’s such a mix. It is absolutely crucial for them to have a careful approach and to cater to the traditional value. [The quadruple bottom line] is about contextualizing their efforts.”

All in the context

SEA advises their clients to contextualize their efforts and to use B Lab’s metrics to measure these efforts.  

“We use the B Corp metrics as a tool. It’s tangible and easy to understand. It’s very helpful to for folks to see that it’s not taking any food off of their table. It’s a tool that provides a productive framework. For start-ups it may not be initially apparent, but having a structured approach is great,” Kistin explained. “Entrepreneurs typically want to focus on getting off ground. [They think] once you do well, you can give back, but we frame it as essential. We tell them, ‘If you lay the foundation, you will see returns.’”

Though New Mexico recently lost the chance to pass legislation, the B Lab Certified model is growing in the state.

“It’s very attractive in New Mexico for ventures to combine for profit with mission-based services. There are already many interactions between foundations, government, and private enterprises. The advantages come from the networking. It helps to put us in touch with others [social entrepreneurs] in the state. We share resources, provide references, and help promote others’ work,” Kistin said.

SEA helps their clients get ‘game ready.’

We work with social entrepreneurs to help them get everything together to attract investment.

"Sometimes, it’s as simple as hammering out a mission statement,” Kistin told me.

SEA’s current work includes supporting a new initiative in fair trade mining. Specifically, they are working within the distribution and supply chain process of fair trade gold, from mine to market. Previous clients include Grameen America, Northern Pueblos Housing Authority, Aga Khan Network in Zambia, and The SEEP Network.

Read more about what makes them Best for the World and why they believe in the quadruple bottom line.

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About The Author

Julie Fahnestock's picture

Julie is committed to telling the story of where business meets good. She is the Founder of B Storytelling, a content development company specifically designed to help popularize the good happening through business. They do this by helping B Corps and other social enterprises identify, build and leverage their brands. She is also a writer for 3BL Media and Just Means and has been published in M&V Magazine and the Centre of Social Innovation at the University of Cambridge among others. Julie has an MBA in Managing for Sustainability from Marlboro Graduate School. She lives in West Palm Beach, Florida and is laser focused on becoming a better surfer than her husband, Thomas. 

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