Article Written by: Rebecca Paul and Yvette Santiago
Last Friday the Material ConneXion hosted a round table discussion in their New York office entitled, Conversations With Consequence: Designing for the Triple Bottom Line. Friday’s event also featured special guest Dr. Mary McBride, the chair of Pratt Institute’s Design Management (DM) department, and the mastermind behind the Triple Bottom Line by Design (TBLD) concept. Dr. McBride kicked off the conversation explaining how TBLD is a strategic framework that identifies the opportunity for design and designers to create value for their company’s profit margin with sustainable, environmentally sound, and socially beneficial services and products. Dr. McBride was joined by participants from Pratt’s DM graduate program and other thought leaders including: Susan Szenasy, Editor-n-Chief at Metropolis Magazine; Karen Hoffman, the Department Chair of Product Design at the Art Center College of Design; and John-Michael Ekeblad from the Daytime Projects, just to name a few.
Friday’s conversation examined several aspects of TBLD. Starting with the framework’s guiding principal, “leading as if life matters,” Dr. McBride explained how a TBLD approach results in a more holistic and profitable understanding of the relationship between consumers and corporations. She went on to explain how we need to evolve commerce from transactional to relational, and replace the idea of “consumers” with “fans, followers and friends.” The conversation that followed was lively, but also somewhat serious in tone.
We need to evolve commerce from transactional to relational, and replace the idea of ‘consumers’ with ‘fans, followers and friends.’
Participants questioned the intent driving the recent shift in values from companies like Walmart, who normally focus on big data to benefit their bottom line, but are now investing resources in small service stores and domestic manufacturing. The group also discussed how companies like Patagonia have already been successful in incorporating the TBLD approach. Examples of this success include Patagonia’s Common Threads Partnership, a program that calls for global collaboration around the environmental crisis; and their Footprint Chronicles, a program that demonstrates Patagonia’s commitment to the transparency of their carbon footprint.
Susan Szenasy from Metropolis Magazine, expressed that although USGBC & LEED have led sustainability developments within the architectural industry, there needs to be a unification of a value system to push this movement beyond just buying or building with materials that comply with these guidelines. Dr. McBride stated that design intent – materials, methods and efficiency, need to be built into strategic design thinking. Most participants agreed that leaders at the top need to engage consumers on an individual and community level to truly leverage the power they have as a “fan, follower or friend.” Ultimately it’s this “relationship” that will create the bi-lateral shift needed to change values on a much larger scale.