Roadmap to the triple bottom line

December 12, 2010
| By Pete Daly |
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More companies are beginning to pay closer attention to the triple bottom line: sustainable business practices that have a positive impact on society, the environment and the business’s financial performance.

But getting there can be a challenge in the face of confusing and conflicting data — especially with larger companies and organizations that have multiple facilities and extensive supply chains.

In response, dmStrategists, a Grand Rapids-based professional services firm that specializes in technology solutions, has developed Sustainability 360°, a combination of web tools and strategic support services that enables companies of all sizes to plan, measure and monitor their internal and external sustainable business practices across all operations and in real time.

"For a multitude of reasons — from energy and cost efficiencies to stakeholder accountability and corporate reputation — more organizations today are stepping up their sustainable practices," said dmStrategists President Tom Melcher. "The problem they immediately run into is the major task of data collection and the interpretation required. Sustainability 360° leverages web technology to help these companies get a handle on their triple bottom line efforts companywide and across their supply chain."

Melcher and dmStrategists developed Sustainability 360° in partnership with Aquinas College’s Center for Sustainability, Cascade Engineering’s Quest Sustainable Solutions division, and with Florida-based NextLife, which Melcher said helps organizations minimize their environmental footprint by development of methods to reuse materials that would otherwise be thrown away.

The Sustainability 360° product platform is now being rolled out nationally. Its applications, according to Melcher, work for virtually any industry and organization, from health care and retail to government and education.

The Quest Sustainable Solutions website states that it has partnered with DMS because the firm has “a unique and effective tool” for organizations to not only gain quick insight into their current state, but also to understand how to implement Triple Bottom Line strategies. It also notes that the easiest and quickest way to move forward on an organization’s sustainable journey is to understand where you are today and what needs to be done to move forward.

Located at 6322 E. Fulton St. in Ada, DMS was originally formed in 1998 by Melcher. It started its web development activity two years ago and now employs a total of six.

Melcher said he got his start working with the Grand Rapids Area Chamber “to help them through some social imperative content.” The original name of his firm was Diversity Management Strategists, but “now we’re into a full-blown sustainable business model.”

“Our cornerstone was in the social practices arena,” but DMS has added the environmental and economic practices that are part of the sustainability concept.

The Sustainability 360° software was completed in October, and DMS is working with a number of industrial organizations to interest them in the product. One is the International Housewares Association, which represents about 1,700 companies, according to Melcher. IHA, with member companies such as Bissell, is a full-service trade association dedicated to promoting the sales and marketing of housewares since 1938. One of its major functions is the International Home & Housewares Show at the McCormick Place in Chicago each year. Another group with which DMS is trying to build contacts is a major food processor association.

“We are surrounding ourselves with specialists that either have knowledge or process capabilities like NextLife” to provide a platform that companies and organizations can use to reach sustainability improvement, said Melcher.

“We also have the professional services side,” said Melcher, which offers training, consulting and project management. Working with its various alliance partners such as Aquinas, DMS will develop specialized certification programs for use by its clients, predicted Melcher.

The Sustainability 360° platform will allow an organization to include all of its suppliers and even customers in “seamless communication” as it works toward its sustainability goal, he said.

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