T-1 Quadruple Bottom Line

Part 1 – The Big Six of Big Business: Economy

  • The Big Six of Big Business: Adam Smith, Max Weber, Charles Darwin, Thomas Malthus, Francis Galton, and Émile Durkheim
  • The Big Six and The Bible

Part 2 – Recent Roots of the Other Bottom Lines: Society, Ecology, and Spirituality

  • Second Bottom Line: People/Society
  • Third Bottom Line: Planet/Ecology
  • Fourth Bottom Line: Paradox/Spirituality
  • Transformative Spirituality and Connection
  • Transformative Spirituality: Comprehensive. Functional. Cohesive.
  • Transformative Spirituality and Reflection
  • Transformative Spirituality and Pro-Action

Tutorial #01 – Tracking the Quadruple Bottom Line

Series Summary: This series of Opal Systems Research and Development tutorials gives my perspective on expanding the now-conventional social entrepreneurship concept of “triple bottom line” – society/people, ecology/planet, economy/profit – to include a fourth bottom line of spirituality/personal. This is an important backdrop to identifying the “cultural GPS” of our organizational systems and setting, and deciding how we move from our core values to desired goals by setting up strategies and structures that befit our purposes.

Part 1 – The Big Six of Big Business:


The Big Six of Big Business: Smith, Weber, Darwin, Malthus, Galton, and Durkheim

Once upon a time, all was well with The West. Or so it seemed. We had Euro Gurus to guide us in our business, and if forced to select The Big Three of The Top Bottom Line, I’d choose the bottom three on the following gallery:

Adam Smith (1723-1790)

Adam Smith (1723-1790)

Scotsman Adam Smith, the father of modern economics with his 1776 book, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. (Smith’s work is frequently shortened to The Wealth of Nations, for the obvious economics reason that time is money; hence, less time spent on unnecessary words equates to more money money money!) Therein Smith advocated the idea of a free market economy where all would ultimately (?automatically?) benefit when individuals pursued their own material interests.

Max Weber (1864-1920)

Max Weber (1864-1920)

Max Weber – In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905), Mr. Max tracks Christianity (and especially Calvinism) as one route contributing to the development of capitalism in the West, as Christians were encouraged to take up work in the secular realm – a vastly different route from the usual religious devotion that rejected such “worldly involvements.”

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

Charles DarwinThe Origin of the Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871) threw a monkey wrench into our views of the values of people, or at least some of those who (mis)interpreted Darwin misused people even more after that. (For some fascinating reading, check out the Wikipedia sections on Political interpretations” of Darwin’s theories, which resulted in the rather nasty (mis)applications of Darwin in Eugenics, Nazism, and Social Darwinism.)

Note that the actual original title of British Charles Darwin’s 1859 magnum opus, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Whew! Certainly a mouthful and a mindful, and the “short” title was changed to The Origin of Species for the sixth edition in 1872. His second major evolutionary theory book was likewise lengthily titled in the original as: The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. (Sidenote: Ironic that The Descent of Man should propose his ascent.)

Honorable mentions go to a second-level triad of modernist theoretical giants that would include the following, all of whom created approaches that shaped views of human capital and, thus, shaping the relation between business and labor.

Thomas Malthus (1766-1834)

Thomas Malthus (1766-1834)

British economist, demographer, and clergyman Thomas Malthus devised a theory of dangers in population growth that would impair a country’s opportunities at social development towards utopian ideals. He published this in An Essay on the Principle of Population (six editions, 1798 through 1826), and it was seen as leading to the theory of natural selection (“survival of the fittest”).

Francis Galton (1822-1911)

Francis Galton (1822-1911)

British polymath (multidisciplinarian) Francis Galton (half-cousin to Charles Darwin), who, among other accomplishments, coined the term “nature versus nurture” and started the eugenics movement to improve the intelligence of our species through intentional cross-breeding of smart people.

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)

French sociologist Émile Durkheim – a founder of the disciplines of social science, and author of The Division of Labour in Society (1893) that describes the movement from a primitive collectivist society to an “advanced” society that is capitalist and industrial. He also promoted the notion that people should be rewarded according to merit of their work. (I wonder what Dr. D. would’ve thought of all the CEOs who made millions in the recent economic downturn. Did they really merit such reward?)

The Big Six and The Bible

In my view, these Big Six – Smith, Weber, Darwin, Malthus, Galton, and Durkheim significantly affected our current state of affairs that puts business and economy over people, ecology, and spirituality. Their views helped industrialists get down to business in creating wealth through the application of capitals: land (ecological capital), labor (human capital), and capital goods (tools and technologies created by human capital).

After all … the Bible talks at the very beginning about being fruitful, multiplying, and subduing the earth. Dominion and all that, you know …

Meanwhile, people thought and were taught that the benefits of creating economic capital would trickle down to everyone … eventually … Obviously, work didn’t work the way it was supposed to work, and the hope-for “eventually” never arrived for most people. For them, all was not well with The West and never would be, as long as the almighty Mark or a Yen or a Buck or a Pound no longer made their world go ’round.

Euro banknotes and coins © c. Fotolia #6130642

Euro banknotes and coins © c. Fotolia #6130642

However, it is intriguing that many of these scholars’ works are used in theories and applications of evolution – developing beyond “primitive” states of humanity and society to “advanced” states. That makes sense, as progress is a hallmark of the modernist paradigm. However, what does “progress” really mean? Making the lives of ALL people better? Or making the lives of a few people better by marginalizing the many and using their resources to fuel the advancing lifestyle of the elite?

Many, if not most, such supposedly advanced societies are actually very damaging to people, at least by biblical standards of how we should treat all people as we are created as God’s image-bearers. And they are also very damaging to the earth, which we were put here to steward, not destroy.

So, what do we do about all these children and adults who were being used and abused by those who supplied the tools, technologies, and means of trade? About the ravaging of the earth for its resources? About the permission or mandates for “progress” being issued by emissaries of various church denominations, and the resulting colonization of “less advanced” societies?

And so, there started to be questions on the status quo of King Economy as The Bottom Line that advances humankind, and searches for other ways to define and defend human “progress.”

Part 2 – Recent Roots of the Other Bottom Lines:

Society, Ecology, and Spirituality

Summary: Part 2 shares my perspectives on cultural roots and trends leading toward each of the other three bottom lines that could create a biblically balanced quadruple bottom line, so not everything is integrated around business profit and the economy.

Second Bottom Line: People/Society

Introduction: Last time, I gave my spin on six paradigm shifters whose Big Ideas shaped the infatuation of modernist civilization in the West with a business bottom line that focuses on industrialization and profitability. The problem is, the mechanized worldview and mass production of a bottom line of business lead to a dehumanized workforce and messy planet. And none of those aligns with the biblical revelation of God’s character and commands, do they?

But – as you can imagine – advocating for the needs of society and eco-system didn’t go over so well with those who advocate a conventional, single bottom line of economy. At best, these other supposed needs would be a distraction. At worst, they would cut into bottom line profitability – a “sin” in an industrial economy!

And so, it is easier to demonize and label those who agitate for social justice and environmental stewardship …

abstract cartoon illustration of troubles © tanais // Fotolia #10097190

abstract cartoon illustration of troubles © tanais // Fotolia #10097190

… than it is to consider making changes that are rehumanizing and detoxifying.

If Big Business wanted to survive, it had to consider the needs of the people who made up its labor resources – the human and social capital that undergirded the economic capital – and the earth that offers limited natural resources.

However, we cannot ignore responsibilities and deplete our resources for production and expect no consequences. At a global level, the modernist economy system has subtracted the “capital” possessed by workers, not multiplied its impact. It has sucked the health and hope out of workers, who often ended lived in poverty and toxicity.

But what can be done to right this wrong? Did people who are poor deserve their state? (Now, that question’s karmic kind of reasoning goes back even to the time of Jesus. His disciples – not the Pharisees – asked Him: Who sinned that this man was born blind – himself or his parents?) Some people believe you should question the order of things; people in poverty are NOT there because they deserve it. So …

Feed a poor man a meal and you’re a saint.

But ask why he’s poor and you’re a heretic.

Teach that man to fish and you’re ruining the consumer economy.

And act to change the structures that make him poor and you’re a [fill in the blank: Commie, or Whacko, or Pinko– Oh My!]

And so, the second bottom line – “social capital” – was born, despite all attempts by King Economy to stop it from crowning. This movement has been building since the backlashes of the industrial revolution have become manifest. From these social bottom-line concerns came such developments as: unions and fair trade, anti-slavery and human rights, reduced exposure by workers to biohazards and other toxic agents, and provision for health care.

vector work hazard signs - set 1 © awx // Fotolia #12754311

vector work hazard signs – set 1 © awx // Fotolia #12754311

Do not take this as a sweeping endorsement of anything that says it stands on the side of the people – we know that it just ain’t so. Look at the devastating results of the former Soviet Union, which is just as modernist in its approach as capitalism, only on the other industrial collectivist side of the political paradigm split instead of the industrial individualist. They said they were for the people, but it turned out to be just another kind of exploitation. Trading a Social bottom line for an Economy bottom line doesn’t necessarily turn out any better … just with different kinds of imperfections. (As a do-it-yourself exercise, list what you think what kinds of problems would emerge with a people-only bottom line.)

Third Bottom Line: Planet/Ecology

Meanwhile, we became aware of the ecological crisis. Sustainable stewardship of the environment would become the third bottom line. Here are some key publications, ideas, and events from the last 50 years or so that have contributed to the development of this value. (With thanks to wikipedia for covering so many of these items!)

1962 – Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, brings wider awareness to the consequences of pollution, such as pesticide use for industrialized agriculture.

1970 – The first international Earth Day is held.

1973 – Origins of “deep ecology” as a paradigm/worldview.

1974 – Expo ’74 is the first world’s fair focusing on issues of our environment, with an understandably positive outlook and the title of: “Celebrating Tomorrow’s Fresh New Environment.”

1978 – Love Canal toxic waste dumpsite disaster.

1979 – Three Mile Island nuclear disaster.

1986 – Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

1990 – The second international Earth Day, and the creation of animated cartoon eco-heroes, Captain Planet and the Planeteers.

1992 – Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit by Al Gore makes the New York Times bestseller booklist.

1996 – Our Stolen Future: Are we threatening our fertility, intelligence, and survival? A scientific detective story by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers highlights the “endocrine disruptor” hypothesis of how certain byproducts of economic production harm the systems of animal and human populations.

1997-1999 – Julia Butterfly Hill spends 738 days perched in “Luna,” an old-growth redwood.

2000s – Increased participation in organic food movement that includes local food production and farmers’ markets, organic farming and dairying, raising heirloom plant crops, community gardens, and fair trade food products.

Set of new ecological elements © Lota // Fotolia #18831664

Set of new ecological elements © Lota // Fotolia #18831664

This is not all theoretical history for me. I grew up in Montana where outdoor explorations were a regular part of my activities through all four seasons. I read Silent Spring as a freshman in high school and participated in the first Earth Day. As a high school senior, I won an environmental essay scholarship on the topic, “Is environmental pollution a problem in our communities, and why?” (That was in 1973. Give it another decade or two, and such a question would not even be asked. But, back then, pollution was still a topic of controversy.)

Meanwhile, I’ve had “reduce, reuse, recycle” as a consistent practice for many decades, and happen to live in a place that just may have the best environmental record of any county in the United States. (Marin County, California, which holds the record as the first county in the U.S. with countywide curbside pickup of recyclables. It is also the home of Whole Earth Catalog, the first municipal water district in the state of California, the annual Bioneers conference, and many other eco-sensitive policies and organizations.)

I’ve watched the development of ecological perspectives and the way I see it now, there is a range of good and bad involving “green.” For instance:

“Deep ecology” was a term coined by Arne Næss in 1973 for a paradigm reintegrated around the earth, where humans are an integral part but not the only concern. His approach is very holistic and systems oriented. Similar systems approaches appear in related movements like ecoliteracy and Bioneers.

Conventional green – ecologically minded, challenging the quest for “progress” of the industrial era, and often refusing to use certain kinds of technologies as “solutions” because technological progress is a large part of what created the problem. This includes a spectrum of approaches, ranging from the populist hippy lifestyle and back-to-the-land Whole Earth Catalog to more confrontive actions of Greenpeace.

“Bright green” – ecologically minded, but willing to use advanced technological products and processes as components in solving sustainability. This seems to be showing up more in younger generation scientists and social entrepreneurs. Sorry … don’t have specific examples in mind at the moment …

Greenwashing – pseudo-ecology where a business claims to be green, but in fact has done the equivalent of whitewashing their products (either by intent or by ignorance) in their attempts to appeal to the green market. Green Canary, a division of EnviroMedia Social Marketing, has taken the lead on publicizing this issue with their Greenwashing Index.

While it may be easy for Christian critics of this third bottom line to label all things ecological as “pagan” and “earth-worship” and its advocates as “tree huggers” …

Tree Lover. empowers people to grow & care for trees © Leah-Anne Thompson // Fotolia #3670455

Tree Lover. empowers people to grow & care for trees © Leah-Anne Thompson // Fotolia #3670455

… and, thus, address neither the revelations in Scripture about God’s care for nature nor the realities of a world being ravaged by our recklessness. We are not without resources in understanding a biblical perspective – some aspects of which certainly overlap with the concern for nature expressed by followers of other religions. Since the 1970s, there has been a growing library of Christian books on our stewardship of nature. More recently, the production of The Green Bible by Harper Bibles (2008) has brought interdenominational attention to issues of ecology and stewardship. With worldwide environmental concerns continuing to emerge, the third bottom line of planet/ecology needs to take more of our attention.

Fourth Bottom Line: Paradox/Spirituality

Once upon a time in the early post-postmodern era – in philosophy, not furniture or architecture styles – oh, say about 1999, I concluded that the essence of “spirituality” is connection – connection with God, with people, with stewarding nature … basically, connecting beyond ourselves. In other words, spirituality was not meant to be narcissistic navel-gazing. If our supposed spirituality doesn’t drive us beyond the borders of our own skin, sin, and consciousness, is it really the real thing?

While I still think that the theory of connection-as-spirituality is valid, I’ve come to see it’s only part of the picture. To be even more holistic, we need to associate spirituality with several other parts or processes. So, as of late 2009, here is what I now see as the essence of “transformative spirituality,” and how that becomes an important fourth bottom line in our missional enterprises. Spirituality that transforms us and all our relationships involves:

  • connection,
  • reflection, and
  • pro-action.

As best I remember geometric theory, a triangle is the most stable shape. And that is one thing I like in particular about this three-fold combination of connection, reflection, and pro-action. As I was searching for ways to make the concepts more clear, I journeyed over to the F0T0LIA.COM website to see what images might be available. There I found the “gold guyz” artwork of Scott Maxwell. I really resonate with it, and decided to splurge and use some. They capture all three of these features in different proportions, so I’m glad I could add them here to illustrate visually the concepts I’m identifying verbally.

Transformative Spirituality and Connection

Connection implies a system – that there are distinct parts or aspects of a greater whole, but that the parts are connected rather than separated.

All For One One For All © Scott Maxwell // Fotolia #6928650

All For One One For All © Scott Maxwell // Fotolia #6928650

If spirituality is an organic system, then, just like any other system, it requires that:

  • … all the right parts are in place. In other words, it is comprehensive.
  • … all the right parts in place are working. In other words, it is functional.
  • … and all the right parts in place are working together for the health of the whole. In other words, it is cohesive.

Transformative Spirituality: Comprehensive. Functional. Cohesive.

teamwork connection © Scott Maxwell // Fotolia #778041

teamwork connection © Scott Maxwell // Fotolia #778041

teamwork connection © Scott Maxwell // Fotolia #778045

teamwork connection © Scott Maxwell // Fotolia #778045


In organic systems, something always goes wrong if any parts are missing or extra parts are present, or parts are out of place, or are in place but aren’t working right.

For instance, think of what we now know about physiological afflictions of the human body. Here are some examples of problems when the parts lack being comprehensive, functional, and/or cohesive.

  • A missing enzyme can mean that certain foods are not digested right.
  • A body that produces too much growth hormone causes giantism.
  • A missing gene can mean sterility, as in the case of Turner’s Syndrome, where gender genes should be XX (female) but instead are XO where the “O” means a broken or missing gene.
  • Likewise, an extra gene can mean sterility, as in Klinefelter’s Syndrome (XXY), where the body is male but also develops secondary female body characteristics, such as excessive fat deposits in the breasts, hips, and thighs.

What other illustrations from our physical or psychological system can you think of that illustrate any of the concepts in transformative spirituality and connection?

Transformative Spirituality and Reflection

Reflection involves intentional thinking about our circumstances, our relationships, specific events and experiences, et cetera. In the context of transformative spirituality, reflection takes on a bit more specific meaning. I’d suggest it involves using a wide range of skills to observe, analyze, and interpret how the Triune God providentially involves Himself in human affairs.

This is the essence of an approach like that of Henry Blackaby in Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, where he basically teaches how to watch for what God is doing and get on board with it. However, I think I’ve seen the concentrated “espresso version” of this skill in my friends who are prayer warriors, cultural interpreters, and futurists. They all tend to have a finely tuned sense of paradox – and in this case, I do literally mean always considering what is happening between a pairing of people and how they are relating. In my discussions and interviews with them, I hear that they constantly ask themselves tough questions like these:

What is God doing in this specific situation? What are Lucifer and his forces of evil doing in this situation? How do these apply to this person or that group? If God continues working in this way, what could that mean for the people involved? If forces of evil keep on with their strategies, how could that be blocking How should they respond? What kinds of prayer are specifically needed to block what’s bad or amplify what’s good and what God is doing? How much should I tell a person I’m thinking about, on what I am discerning, whether they are at risk or doing well?

Heavy Questions © Scott Maxwell // Fotolia #5603183

Heavy Questions © Scott Maxwell // Fotolia #5603183

Take another look at these questions. How many of them can you find have two agents involved, or two actions? “Two-ness” is core to paradox, where two different elements remain in a dynamic tension with each other: interrelating, interacting, and co-affecting with one another. My friends who are reflective practitioners of this kind of paradoxical discernment always appear to show a fascination with the edge of the future, of imagination about transformation, of hope. Analysis leads to imagining a world different from what is currently experienced; that’s what makes this “prophetic” and forward-looking.

This reminds me of a famous quote from Plato’s Apology for Socrates, a book which we read in its entirety in our advanced classical Greek course:

Ò δ’ άνεξέταστος βίος ού βιωτός άνθρώπῳ. (“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Apology, 38a). [Apologies on the Greek script, which I don’t think has all the typeface accents correct.]

Here I would tweak that to say, “The non-reflective life can never be particularly transformative spiritually.” Further, I doubt that this kind of discernment process works the best when done as individuals. At some point, we must discuss amongst ourselves in order to bring the discernment process into the light with a group of people with whom we are growing together in trust.

Forum Questions © Scott Maxwell // Fotolia #8694391

Forum Questions © Scott Maxwell // Fotolia #8694391

Paradoxical thinking is indeed “mystical” – exploring mysteries that cannot be resolved only through our mental faculties. But it need not be some ooky-spooky, super-speculative, and very-scary spiritualism either. It can be solidly biblical discernment about spiritual transformation, a prophetic imagination, a big-picture interpretation of how God is at work in His world. Combine their prophetic and paradoxical perspective with those gifted in pastoral care for individuals and groups, and in research the Scriptures and teaching – and we have a far more balanced and three-dimensional system for figuring out what God is up to in our ministries and churches.

Perhaps the reason this sort of reflection might seem weird to the average disciple is that we often don’t ask ourselves the kinds of questions that require us just to sit in God’s presence and wait for insights. We are typically too impatient – we want right-now answers so we can act and get it over with and move on. But, in taking what may be unilluminated and premature action, we likely will spark unintended and negative consequences. Insight takes more time to glean, and it is often “fuzzy” – meaning it isn’t clear-cut black-and-white about what actions are consistent with it. This sort of reflection requires patience in the short run, and perseverance in the long run. But, if we aren’t interested in change, we won’t invest in examining ourselves and our situations. However, if we are practitioners of missional enterprises/social transformation, doesn’t it make sense that we need to engage in it and hone our skills? Or … perhaps … the fact that we are seeking social transformation means that we are already doing this kind of process, but not ever have identified it as “spiritual.”

Transformative Spirituality and Pro-Action

Connective and reflective spirituality designed to transform the lives of ourselves and others may require us to stay on our knees, but not sit on our hands. It is active. And, I would suggest, as we mature in our spirituality, our activity morphs over time from merely reactive to more pro-active.

“Pro-action” implies living out the insights we obtain through reflection. It is about vitality, movement, sustainability. Otherwise, we’re just catatonic or a corpse, not a player and a practitioner in the unfolding storyline of spiritual transformation.

Spirituality is not a “static value” – that’s an oxymoron anyway. However we want to put it, spirituality that transforms motivates-demands-requires action. But action with reflection is sheer pragmatism. In my experience this kind of activity may get us what we want but is not sustainable in the long run. So, it isn’t ultimately transformative. And action with connection is mere patriarchalism: “WE know what’s best for you … so do this (or else).”

As we practice some discernment, I think the realities of a non-systems approach should lead us into moving from the “what” and “so what” of spirituality that is connective, reflection, and pro-active into the “now what.” What can we do to have a spiritually transformative system?

And this leads right into this kind of spiritual core value as our fourth bottom line, adding paradox/spirituality to people/society, planet/ecology, and profit/economy.

© 2010 Brad Sargent. All rights reserved.