A central tenet of community economic development is the belief that in fostering a healthy economy, we are working towards building healthy, vibrant communities. But many would contend that a healthy economy is only one piece of the puzzle. Local governments are increasingly paying attention to other elements of community development work in order to build healthy communities, realizing that they cannot foster a strong economy in isolation from social and environmental factors. One approach to development that addresses these issues is the “triple bottom line”, a method that integrates three dimensions of performance: social, environmental, and financial. Under the triple bottom line approach, growth and development should consider not only economic factors, but also social and environmental impacts of any initiative.
The triple bottom line framework has been adopted and championed by a wide variety of actors, including large corporations, community based nonprofit organizations, environmental groups, and international development agencies. Experts say that triple bottom line sustainability is most achievable at the regional and local scale, so it seems natural that local governments would adopt this approach in their economic development efforts. But what strategies can local governments in North Carolina use to foster triple bottom line impacts?