The Evolution of an Idea: From Four Dimensions to Net Good
Back in February 2009 I wrote a blog post on the Four Dimensions of Sustainability in which I proposed a four part framework for planning and reviewing the sustainability impacts and actions of a company.
- Direct Impact – emissions due to the energy consumed by the company (directly or indirectly) to carry out its activities.
- Products In Use – emissions due to the energy consumption of a company’s products and/or services once in the hands of the user.
- Enabled Impact – impact that a company’s products and/or services have on the energy consumption and emissions of the entity that utilizes the product other than the consumption of the product itself.
- Inform and Influence – the opportunity to inform or influence stakeholders on environmental issues and impact of these issues on the stakeholder and on the company.
These components are represented in the infographic of the framework as concentric circles and I also included a fifth, overlapping component, shown as a wedge in the infographic, to represent the importance of the supply chain.
Looking at the Net Good programme we have just launched at BT I hope you see the comparability with the Four Dimensions model that demonstrates that a conceptual model can be translated into a practical and quantifiable methodology.
The ‘supply chain’ wedge in Four Dimensions is directly quantified through the ‘upstream/supply chain’ component of the carbon burden in Net Good. The centre circle ‘direct impact’ in Four Dimensions is directly quantified through the ‘own operations’ component of the carbon burden in Net Good. And the first concentric ring ‘products in-use’ is directly quantified through the downstream/CPE component of the carbon burden in Net Good.
The second concentric circle in Four Dimensions, ‘enabled impact’ is represented by the abatement, or ’3’, side of the 3:1 equation in Net Good.
The only component of Four Dimensions not covered in a quantifiable sense in Net Good is the fourth dimension ‘inform and influence’. However ‘inform and influence’ is a key component of Net Good. We have made a commitment to open source the methodology to encourage others to use it. It is explained in detail on the Net Good web site here. We recently held a stakeholder forum event to spread the message and elicit feedback and following that event, we shared the findings here. I made a commitment in this video for BT to be part of advocating for the growing Net Positive movement.
Net Good was not developed with Four Dimensions as the starting point. Indeed, when I wrote the Four Dimensions white paper, I thought of the model as a qualitative framework and I didn’t conceive of comparing the abatement benefit to the burden. It might only matter to me, but I am thrilled that all of the components of Four Dimensions are recognisable in Net Good. The next challenge is to take the model and apply it to aspects of sustainability beyond carbon emissions and energy consumption.