Commodity – origin- late Middle English – beneficial, useful. From Latin, commodus ‘convenient.’

We live in a world were humans are regularly labeled as consumers. Where economists and governments seek to ‘increase consumption’ in order to ‘sustain‘ growth. I am not entirely sure how these words can live in the same sentence because they certainly don’t live in any viable ecosystem.

Increase consumption to sustain growth? There is something really wrong with that picture.

In this same world almost everything becomes commodified…you, me, child care, food, water, clean air…Commodification in this model is about reducing all things to the metric of monetary value. How can I turn what was once available freely into something for which I can make money?

In Integral Accounting we look at Commodity in a different way.

A commodity is anything that exists being recognised for its all-in value.

A rock is a rock. Intrinsic to the rock is minerals, trapped energy, and everything that makes a rock a rock. It’s optional value is all the other possible uses for the rock. It may build a house, or a cathedral. It may be used as a weapon that changes the course of history. (David and Goliath) It may be crushed to make a path. It may be a seat. A dam. Carved into a piece of art….

When we consider a rock through the eyes of Integral Accounting, we honour the rock for all of these possibilities, and the many more not listed. We may even honour the rock the most by leaving it in the ground. Even if it were precious to our current world. (Gold, or silver)

Imagine seeing the world through a child’s eyes again? Marveling at the intrinsic and extrinsic value of all things. Where a cardboard box is the most delightful play toy for endless hours of creative activity. How do you reduce that to a dollar value?

The rock cannot be viewed in isolation of its ecosystem/context. Given that Integral Accounting is a Whole System view, leaving nothing out, we must always start with the whole.

A commodity therefore always exists in the larger whole of all the other value metrics.

When we list commodities on an Integral Accounting audit, we list then as the thing…the rock, the tree, the soil…not as the dollar value. For to list as the dollar value dishonours all the potential of the thing.

Or…in human terms…price yourself. Put a total price on you. Have we ever been able to do that? I suspect not. They why do we think we can do that for a tree? Or a rock? Maybe because underlying the action of doing this is some core belief that man has a right to dominate nature?

We can only put a dollar price on something in context, and in so doing remove all other options. There is nothing wrong with doing this as long as the other options are noted and recognised as having value. This is the essence of Integral Accounting.

When we live this way we value the whole. I know of no human who has not suffered the pain of not being valued for the whole of who he or she is.

The practice of Integral Accounting will shift this…in all domains.


To return to Part 1. Bottom line and triple bottom line don’t cut it – an introduction to Integral Accounting.

To read Part 3. Why value Custom and Culture? – inviting our humanity back to the table. Integral Accounting

See the Source definition as applied to Integral Accounting here.


For a truly fabulous overview of Integral Accounting and the uselessness of balance sheets, see this article.


Photo credit: Photography by Tiwago via Compfight

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