The Triple Bottom Line & Community Development Finance


Historically, poverty reduction has trumped environmental issues community development. Coastal Enterprises Inc. of Maine, too, pursued a double bottom-line after its founding in 1977, although a rural location and focus have kept environmental values close at hand. CEI has channelled hundreds of millions in capital to sustainable development projects in the primary sector. CEI co-designed the federal New Market Tax Credits program with these investments in mind.

In 2002, CEI formally decided to become a leader in triple bottom line (TBL) investing, and build communities that are environmentally and economically healthy, in which all people can reach their full potential. CEI's experience upstate in Grand Lake Stream exemplifies the dramatic outcomes that a TBL approach can achieve.

Since 2004, through the Triple Bottom Line Collaborative, CEI has taken to a national level the effort to make TBL a standard feature of community development finance. The Collaborative has developed a "Scorecard" to document, demonstrate, and assess the impact of TBL loans and investments.

Collaboration is essential to the success of the transition to TBL - collaboration across the boundaries of ideology, sector, and region. While they may not call it a "TBL strategy," the residents of Grand Lake Stream bet their future on a development approach that creates and drives economic benefits to the entire community while ensuring a healthy environment for future generations. This is the kind of commitment we all must make.

Bisson, Keith
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