Our society is brought up on measuring and keeping score. We don’t even realise how much we do this. We will immediately look at someone’s clothes, shoes, car, hair, skin colour….and make massive assumptions about their status in society.

Over the course of the last 50 plus years business has been reduced to keeping score in one domain only. Return on investment to shareholders.

This single lens focus is causing untold destruction to every part of society, not the least of which is the death of our soul in the work place. When you were a kid were you busting at the seams to get a job as a grown up ensuring a return on investment to shareholders as your one central focus? I doubt it. Yet that is what most of us are tasked to do, even if we do get to design or build cool things. The focus on ROI underlies almost everything.

What about creating art in your work? Or building really rich relationships, or designing a brilliant tool for the betterment of humanity? Or growing a culture where people in the work place feel loved and valued? How do we measure these as part of our accounting practice?

Imagine if we kept score of a businesses success, not just through triple bottom line, which is still too reductionistic, but by looking at everything through an integral accounting lens? Where commodities, custom and culture, knowledge, money, technology and well being were all considered of equal and necessary value? That to favour one over the other is like saying your liver is more important than your kidney, or your heart. We need the health and viability of them all for life to work well.

Even better, imagine a world were we considered the value of all of these domains with as equal fervor as we do money. We would no long see the world in the same way. Instead of a Universe designed around scarcity (which is the underpinning principle of our money system) we would see abundance.

We would no longer see resources for exploitation and profit, but would consider their contribution through multiple domains. We might even work out that the real value lies in keeping the stuff in the ground. Indeed, science has already figured out that we must keep most of the coal we known exists in the ground. If not, the cost to humanity will be too high. But that short term focus, that immediate profit…it has such a pull that we ignore the real price. We are like the drug addicted that wants the high now, and screw the consequences. Show me the money.

When we consider an ‘all in cost’ and take into account the cost of nature to make oil, for example, and then the extraction, transportation, refining, distribution, and environmental costs, a gallon of gas becomes way too expensive for anyone. (Estimated over a million dollars a barrel back in the 1980’s when Francois de Charenedes worked this out…!)

Our measuring systems are not giving us the whole story. And the price is going to be very high. Fortunately there are other ways to keep score. Check out the work of M-Cam. Or B-corporations. A movement has started.

For my 8 part series on Integral Accounting.

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