How can the ethics measurement and management systems called Balanced Scoreboard and Triple Bottom Line be used to enhance ethics and business performance?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With corporations needing more serious measures of ethical behavior and with the environment, ecology and sustainability needing more serious ethical action, Elkington, then Kaplan and Norton developed systems of corporate measurement, accounting and management that go beyond "bottom line" financial accounting by including people/customer and planet/internality (plus growth and learning) accounting.

Measuring these additional accounting categories is the difficult part of both systems (Triple Bottom Line, Elkington; Balanced Scoreboard, Kaplan and Norton) since people and ecology cannot easity be reduced to monetary terms, though some have tried to assign monetary value to "ecological capital" and "human resources."

Triple Bottom Line adds bottom-line accounting for the impact of business decisions on the environment, ecology and sustainability (separate though related concerns) by taking into account such things as toxic chemical concentrations, land use or land use changes, human generated resources consumption and management, and waste management. TBL also adds bottom-line accounting for social dimensions by taking into account such things as unemployment rates, gender work participation, median income, violence per capita, and commute times. TBL accounting and management makes people and planet of equal importance with profit (3Ps), which itself is measured by financial bottom-line accounting: financial accounting systems record the profit made on the bottom line.

Balanced Scoreboard measuring and managing system seeks a way to balance the importance of financial accounting with the equal, though different, importance of customers, learning and growth, and internal process (which translates to how the business deals with environmental, ecological and sustainability concerns as part of it internal operations). BSB incorporates metrics systems derived from behavior-based data to arrive at an assessment of "corporate ethical culture." Questions related to the behavior metrics are such as: quantity of taxes paid (too little?); government lobbying expenses (too high?); employee diversity; corporate and managerial extravagance (at the expense of employees?); openness and transparency; environmental awareness. BSB measurement and management uncovers balance and imbalance in corporate ethical cultures while identifying specific areas of imbalance, thus identifying unethical behavior.

After this brief overview, it is clear that, yes, these two systems can be used to discover as well as enhance business ethics and performance in corporations and in small businesses. They do this by measuring, through different criteria, the costs and gains (TBL) or the behaviors (BSB) of elements of corporate or business functions and thereby identifying weakness, strengths and problems across a broad range of business practices and policies.