Redefining Value by Considering All the Costs

Businesses and Consumers are shifting to a 'triple-value' view - People, Planet and Prosperity.


pic: Charles Deluvio

 At what point did we separate good value from good values?

At what point did we allow, “Hey, this is good value” to simply mean, “Hey, this is super-cheap”?

If you think about it, value is about so much more than a price tag. In fact, value can be thought of in three parts:

  • the value of the product or service in isolation (how much money leaves our pocket and the overall service offered and provided);
  • the environmental impact or value (carbon emissions generated to produce and provide the product or service);
  • and finally the social impact or value (the jobs created to provide the product or service and giving back to the community).

Together these three components comprise “deep value.”

Unsustainable Costs

Unfortunately, much of our consumer experience and choice rests solely on the price tag. We are confronted by this on a daily basis: Can we justify the organic, free-range eggs, when the other eggs are less than half the price?

We too often choose according to price, but the deep value of a product doesn’t disappear just because we only pay for part of it. The cost is transferred as a negative impact on the social context, the environment, or both. By definition, this is completely unsustainable.

It is unsurprising in this context, where it is the lowest price that matters, that many people have lost faith in business as a driver of positive change in the world. So how can we shift this conversation? How can we redefine value to include all three components of deep value?

Arguably, it starts with how we define success in business. Traditionally, business success has been defined solely as the capacity to maximise profits for shareholders. In this context, we inevitably ignore the social and environmental impact of our decisions in pursuit of money.

A Different Definition of Success

But what if we defined success in business differently? What if the holy grail of business success was deep value, as opposed to a purely financial outcome? What does deep value in the business setting look like?

There are many inspiring and insightful people and organisations responding to that question — movements like conscious capitalism, social enterprise, collaborative consumption, responsible business and social investment are demonstrating ways to create deep value in business. One such way is the B Corporation certification, a standard for businesses that are redefining success in business.

Whether this means encouraging employee ownership, having meaningful community engagement or introducing responsible environmental policies, B Corp certification goes right to the heart of deep value and provides a way for business to reflect the values they hold in the value they create.

These approaches to business all reflect a philosophy of deep value. Perhaps there is a way to align values with value after all.


Kaj Löfgren and Mele-Ane Havea work and play at Small Giants, the parent company of Dumbo Feather. Small Giants was founded in 2007 to create, nurture, empower and invest in businesses that are shifting us to a more socially equitable and environmentally sustainable world. It is Australia’s first B Corporation.


This article was originally published by Dumbo Feather.