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How eco-champions solve the triple-bottom-line challenge

  • Published on November 2, 2023

Eco-champions in eco-communities offer valuable lessons for mainstream societies to solve the triple-bottom-line (TBL) challenge for a sustainable ecosystem, society and economy. Eco-communities are self-sufficient on most TBL-processes, which makes them a microcosm to study eco-champions in. Eco-champions were studied as key informants and lead-users for their eco-innovative TBL-solutions. This study collected data through ethnographies, interviews, surveys, and secondary data from 28 eco-communities as a multiple case study. The eco-communities are assessed on the regional circular economy RCE framework to find if and how all TBL-processes operate within regional and planetary boundaries. Findings are that some eco-communities solved the TBL-challenge, and that this pivots around the lifestyle of eco-champions. Thirteen TBL-solutions were identified that relate to lifestyle aspects of living space, food, leisure and work. These solutions are common in eco-communities, but are largely absent in mainstream-society. This is arguably because sustainable transitions require an eco-innovation network. The network is understood as a helix-model, specifically the eco-quintuple helix model eco-5HM, which describes the collaboration between the natural ecosystem, civil society, economy, education and governance. Initiating such networks in mainstream societies could set a sustainable transition towards TBL-solutions. This study therefore recommends five propositions that may initiate eco-innovation networks in mainstream societies. The propositions are about (1) understanding, awareness and care; (2) greenwashing issues; (3) trust and sharing; (4) nature-based solutions, and; (5) reduced transport needs. The TBL-solutions and propositions are radically different from current initiatives and policymaking that target sustainability, and deserve more consideration as a viable solution to the TBL-challenge.

Professor Usha Iyer-Raniga is at the School of Property and Construction Management at RMIT University. Usha is co-leading the One Planet Network’s Sustainable Buildings and Construction Programme (SBC), United Nations 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (UN 10FYP SCP) aligned with Sustainable Development Goal 12, as well as the newly formed Integrated Platform for Circular Economy, Climate Resilience, and Energy. This research is directly related to the work of the UN OPN SBC programme.

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