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The new triple bottom line – 3 Rs for sustainability

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By Niladri Choudhuri

· 6 min read

We have heard about the triple bottom line for sustainability consisting of 3 Ps – People, Planet and Profit. We have also heard about the 3 Rs of sustainability – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

While these are important, however, they are not adequate. We need to look at a new set of Rs – Reserve, Restore, Rewild.

We have been following Lansink’s ladder of waste management. Lansink's ladder is said to have formed the basis of the waste hierarchy or waste management hierarchy. Conceived as a ladder of decision steps it distinguishes five forms of waste management: prevention, reuse, sorting/recycling, incineration, and landfilling.

  • Reduce
  • Re-use
  • Re-cycle
  • Energy
  • Incineration
  • Landfill

Reduce to reserve

In this ladder, we see “reduce” to be the first step. The objective is to reduce waste and prevent the creation of more waste. We already see that Earth Overshoot Day is coming earlier in the year than the previous year, which means that we are using up more resources than nature can generate.

Hence, the need is to maintain the natural reserves that we have. This can be in the form of less extraction of minerals, reserving forest cover, etc.

Reuse to restore

Reuse is about extending the life of a product. Here we are talking about circularity. However, the process of degeneration is faster than regeneration. Hence, the overall positive impact is very low.
Restore is about actively returning to the planet what we are taking. For example, increasing the forest cover by planting trees.

Recycle to rewild

Recycling may not be possible for everything. There are around 50+ elements of the periodic table in a laptop or smartphone. Out of this only 2 or 3 elements can be extracted. Globally, only 17% of the materials are recycled. The carbon footprint in extraction and processing for recycling is much higher than the carbon footprint saving. Thus, recycling does not have a significant impact in most of the cases.

Rewilding is a bigger goal than recycling and is more permanent in outcome. It is a process by which lost ecosystems and species can be reborn to maintain planetary balance. Pleistocene Park is an example of a rewilding project. 

An extensive study published in the journal Nature points out that by restoring only 15% of degraded lands in critical areas, 30% of carbon from the post-industrial revolution can be locked away. In addition, biodiversity has the chance to recover, with this restoration there is the potential to save 60% of species expected to disappear.

“Rewilding projects are inspiring people with visual evidence that humans can convert landscapes devoid of life into ones flourishing with it.” 

The same study addresses how important it is for businesses to seek ways to avoid, reduce, and rehabilitate natural resources, before even considering carbon offsetting. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) stresses the importance of implementing change in this order so companies do not "sidestep on-site environmental protection and management".” - 

As per the European Investment Bank – “Conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems are cost-effective, scalable ways to increase the planet’s resilience to temperature rises, natural disasters and other climate extremes, and humanity’s ability to adapt.”

Research conducted by Yale University highlighted that over 40% of Americans feel helpless about climate change.

  • Organizations gain a lot by Rewilding, with some of the main benefits including:
  • High environmental returns of investment
  • Repairs and enhances biodiversity damage.
  • It represents a form of transformative and tangible change.
  • Decrease the heavy reliance of organizations on carbon offsetting to meet their net-zero target.
  • Helps in improved employee engagement and productivity.

The role of IT?

Information technology can play a significant role in advancing the triple bottom line of "reserve, restore, and rewild," which is an expanded approach to sustainability that encompasses environmental, social, and economic aspects. Here are some points on how IT contributes to these three pillars:

  • Data collection and analysis: IT enables the collection, analysis, and interpretation of environmental data, helping organizations understand ecosystems and make informed decisions about conservation, restoration, and rewilding efforts.
  • Monitoring and tracking: IT tools like remote sensors, GIS, and drones can monitor wildlife populations, habitat conditions, and ecological changes, facilitating effective reserve management and restoration strategies. Blockchain can help in proper tracking.
  • Predictive analytics: IT can be used to develop predictive models for ecosystem dynamics, helping organizations anticipate and respond to environmental changes and ecosystem disturbances.
  • Resource Allocation: IT can optimize resource allocation by managing budgets, schedules, and personnel for restoration projects, ensuring efficient use of financial resources. Organization level tracking can be enhanced, where organizations are funding such projects and give authentic information for carbon offsetting.
  • Stakeholder engagement: IT supports communication and collaboration among stakeholders, including local communities, governments, and conservation organizations, fostering support and cooperation for rewilding and restoration initiatives. IT can help in building the ecosystem of stakeholders and create a data platform for sharing data ethically and securely.
  • Conservation planning: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing technologies assist in planning and designing reserves and restoration projects, ensuring that they are strategically located and connected.
  • Biodiversity databases: IT helps in creating and maintaining databases of plant and animal species, aiding in the identification and protection of endangered species.
  • Sustainable supply chains: IT systems and software can track and certify the sustainability of products and supply chains, promoting economic sustainability and ethical sourcing. The use of blockchain technology can help in this area.
  • Education and awareness: IT supports the dissemination of information about conservation efforts, raising public awareness about the importance of reserve, restore, and rewild initiatives.
  • Impact measurement: IT tools can be used to measure and report the outcomes and impact of restoration and rewilding projects, ensuring accountability and transparency in achieving triple-bottom-line goals.

By harnessing the power of IT, organizations can make more informed decisions, improve their resource management, and engage stakeholders effectively, thereby contributing to the triple bottom line of reserve, restore, and rewild in a more sustainable and holistic manner.

Practicing DevSusOps

DevSusOps is a term coined by Adrian Cockcroft. It is a practice of including sustainability considerations while practicing DevSecOps. Here I look at a combination of DevSecOps, SRE, value stream management, and agility, all together as the objective for all is the same.

The implementation of DevSusOps is a useful tool in reducing rework, bringing down failures in production, and in general, helping companies become more resilient in in terms of security vulnerabilities. All this helps in reducing the overall carbon footprint and reaching net zero targets. 

DevSusOps will also help in improving efficiency, ensuring a smooth workflow, and allowing for a better utilization of resources, thus reducing the carbon footprint. New technologies and processes also help in the reduction of water usage like oil immersive cooling of servers. Proper IT asset disposition also will lead to lesser GHG emissions, practicing circularity and reuse.


IT also can understand business and help businesses perform better in terms of practicing sustainability and keep improving like it improves every other business process. 

Security is an important aspect of sustainability. Without being secure, we cannot be resilient. Without being resilient, we cannot be sustainable. 

Thus, we can see that we need to start looking at the triple bottom line of 3 Rs – reserve, restore, rewild. IT needs to practice it in its own way of working in a responsible, ethical, and sustainable way while enabling businesses to achieve this triple bottom line.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Dr. Niladri Choudhuri is Founder & CEO of Xellentro Consulting Services, with expertise in sustainable IT.

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