Do you measure “the goods?”

  • Nations measure GDP.
  • Big Businesses measure Profit and Revenue.
  • Small Businesses measure
  • People measure…their weight.

Is the focus on these measures getting us to where we need to be? Probably not.

Think about it: if you buy into the (very true) notion of “if measure it you can manage it,” than you get what you measure. The measures in the GDP measures all the “bads,” and very few of the goods. GDP doesn’t register, as Robert Kennedy put it, “the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, or the intelligence of our public debate.” GDP measures everything, Kennedy concluded, “except that which makes life worthwhile.”

I get a pang when I read quotes like that because they are so true, and the energy it would take to try and change people’s perception of success is so daunting – many stop in their tracks before even starting. Those measure don’t necissarily put food on the table, kids in college…but they are equally important for a holistic quality of life.

Measures, reporting, and focusing on improvement sound too much like “discipline” that many people don’t like to do it. All sorts of excuses come up: no time, no people, not the right skills, etc. Others rely on software applications (like Quickbooks) to do the reporting.  

Measure the “Goods”

Either way, it’s important to return to your company’s vision, determine what sort of contribution you are making to the big picture (your business and your community), and come up with measures that support that vision.

Sample Social Measures

Here are some things to consider when thinking of sustainable measures for your business:

  1. Does the measure for units sold take into consideration the impact of the shipping costs, the carrying capacity of the natural resources — renewable and nonrenewable, local and nonlocal — that the community relies on?
  2. Does the measure address the carrying capacity of a community’s social capital — the connections between people in a community: the relationships of friends, families, neighborhoods, social groups, businesses, governments and their ability to cooperate, work together and interact in positive, meaningful ways?
  3. Does the measure provide a long-term view of the community?

Related Links

  • Complete sustainable indicator checklist
  • Learn more about the Economics of Happiness (video) Discussing the relationship between money and happiness, with Justin Wolfers, University of Pennsylvania; Betsey Stevenson, University of Pennsylvania; and CNBC’s Erin Burnett.
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