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Green Development Strategy: The Triple-bottom-line Sustainable Development Matrix

The Sustainable Development Matrix is a comprehensive green development strategy proposed by Sustainable Land Development International (SLDI) for sustainable business and land development best practices implementation. We have featured this system as an ethosolution idea because the Sustainable Development Matrix provides a structure for a triple-bottom-line (people, planet and profit) decision model that is:

  • Both sustainable and holistic in its approach
  • Simple and applicable to virtually any project, product, or development
  • Designed with a “Pass it Forward” philosophy that is cohesive with our own open source foundation

The Sustainable Development Matrix green development strategy is founded on a belief that for anything to sustain itself over time, it must optimize or balance each of the following human needs:

  1. Utility – the “satisfaction,” “incentive,” “desire,” or “pure state” that is to be attained.
  2. Effectiveness – doing the “right” things with accuracy and completeness.
  3. Efficiency – achieving the lowest possible input/output ratio.
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At its most basic level, sustainable development incorporates these instructions through the broad concepts of People, Planet and Profit. Profit represents the utility to be attained; Planet represents efficiency and the understanding of limited resources; People represents the opportunity for effectiveness. To embody these instructions visually, the Sustainable Development Matrix is represented as a three-sided fractal geometric figure called Sierpinski’s (equilateral) Triangle. Beginning with “The Whole” being “Sustainable Development,” the matrix visually represents green development strategy penetration deeper and deeper into all aspects of project decision-making.

As the matrix goes deeper, the basic instruction of optimizing/balancing utility, efficiency and effectiveness continues to replicate itself. Within the Profit triad for example, utility is manifested through the Create Value principle, efficiency through the Eliminate Waste principle, and effectiveness through the Recognize Interdependence principle. Similarly, the Planet triad is comprised of a Model Nature principle to represent utility, an Energy Flows principle for efficiency, and a Humans and Nature Co-Exist principle for the effectiveness requirement. The People triad includes a Quality of Life principle for utility, a Share Knowledge principle for efficiency, and an Accept Responsibility principle for effectiveness.


The Sustainable Development Matrix is also a green development strategy that is simple and diversely applicable. One of the reasons for this is that it was not developed to function as a prescriptive and restrictive checklist, but rather as best-practice guideline capable of application to literally any sustainable project with instructions for sustainably evolving indefinitely.

It is equally applicable regardless of project type, scale, terrain, climatic zone, etc. It allows for the consideration of all the unique characteristics and constraints of any project, all of which ultimately produce completely unique outcomes. In other words, rather than prescribing how to design a project, product or development, The Sustainable Development Matrix provides the user with the tools to enhance the quality of their work by combining and balancing virtually unlimited possibilities into a sustainable end result.

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“A new understanding of the world is revolutionizing how scientists and other professionals of all disciplines are solving important problems today, and this understanding also has the potential to significantly impact how we think about and work to achieve a sustainable world.” Terry Mock – Executive Director of SLDI


Here is how the Sustainable Development Matrix purposes itself to speak specifically to human needs and thus self-propagate itself through making people happier and more successful while building, designing, and developing sustainably:


  1. Quality of Life (Utility) – By focusing on the innovative ways to meet and exceed all those involved quality-of-life needs, we can provide unique value to people within and beyond the immediate scope of the project in question.
  2. Share Knowledge (Efficiency) – Without sharing the knowledge gained through the project development process to others, projects can lose financial and social value, and can ultimately become unsustainable over the life of the project. It is vital to sustain the original intent for all projects through the transfer of knowledge about the project, so current project team members can more effectively integrate their efforts and products. Further, future owners and stakeholders must understand the original project vision and intent in order to maintain the sustainability of a project indefinitely. Lastly, sharing knowledge gained on specific projects to stakeholders throughout the world will play an important role in ensuring our sustainable future for all time.
  3. Accept Responsibility (Effectiveness) – It is our ethical responsibility to assume leadership over the vision and values for our projects. Adhering to a decision model that maximizes economic results, minimizes environmental impact and restores degraded ecosystems, and maximizes the quality of life for the community within and beyond the scope of the project in question gives us the opportunity to deliver uniquely valuable solutions for the future of our civilization.


  1. Model Nature (Utility) – All the sustainable technology and intelligence necessary can be found by understanding and modeling our natural systems. Imitating nature‟s best ideas, designs and processes will help solve human problems. Further, human beings have an innate and evolutionarily based affinity for nature. Connecting projects with nature equals success from an environmental, social and economic context.
  2. Energy Flows (Efficiency) – Capturing and leveraging our natural energy systems through renewable energy sources and biological materials is the nature of this principle. Minimizing the amount of non- renewable energy and pollutants used in manufacturing, use, maintenance and reuse is vital to achieving sustainable results.
  3. Humans and Nature Co-exist (Effectiveness) – By incorporating natural principles and practices, projects can deliver a sustainable imprint that not only has lower impact, but no impact and even restorative impact. Humans have the capacity to restore natural systems to greater health through effective planning, implementation and management. For a sustainable future, humans must effectively integrate with nature, not separate from it.


  1. Create Value (Utility) – Maximizing economic value for all stakeholders is vital to the success, and overall sustainability, of every project. Efficient and effective means of production, distribution, and consumption have a direct economic impact on success – both to the direct financial beneficiaries and society at large.
  2. Eliminate Waste (Efficiency) – The budgeting and cost control practices throughout the project are vital to optimizing sustainability. By developing and following proven best practices in budgeting, scheduling, bid/contract management, and asset management, returns can be substantively improved.
  3. Recognize Interdependence (Effectiveness) – By including all of the stakeholders throughout the project planning and design process, and by expanding the scope of interest beyond the confines of a specific project to include neighboring communities, government, the local watershed, and beyond, project teams can achieve optimal economic and environmental returns on investments. Over the longer-term, there can be no economic capital without preserving and maximizing environmental and social capital.

In alignment with their commitment to sustainable practices at every level, Sustainable Land Development International also believes in the Pass It Forward philosophy of information sharing with the desire that individual thought leaders will reflect on their information, adopt it, and share the work with others, so that it may adapt as specific circumstances dictate and our knowledge of the world evolves. Here is the link to the complete Fractal Frontier – Sustainable Development Trilogy along with their request to share your reflections and experiences with the original authors, so they may in turn also share them with others to help achieve a sustainable future for us all even faster.


The Sustainable Development Matrix was created by Sustainable Land Development International: “A member-owned organization dedicated to promoting land development around the world that balances the needs of people, planet and profit – for today and future generations.” Members include land developers, builders, civil engineers, landscape architects, land planners, architects, arborists, construction contractors, real estate brokers, attorneys, financial consultants, investors, government representatives, educators, students, product/service providers, and other stakeholders in land development. SLDI is dedicated to helping land development stakeholders leverage the knowledge, skills, relationships and technologies to differentiate their professional efforts from others in the industry, while connecting them with like-minded leaders and organizations that help them effectively enhance the quality of their work, and that of the industry, to deliver greater and more lasting value for civilization. Visit their website at: