Counting beans (and human beans…)

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Cultivate has been trading for nearly 12 months, so the directors have started pulling together the figures for the first year – members will get a full set of accounts, as well as recommendations for strategic direction at our first AGM next year. But the process of doing the financials raises a big question for me: How does a community enterprise like Cultivate, with clearly-stated social and environmental goals present holistic accounts?

This isn’t about sweeping the cash-flow and profit and loss reports under the carpet, but about placing the importance of financial viability alongside the other priorities that made us (directors and members) get involved in the first case (see our aims).

Much of my research around social and environmental reporting has revealed some great tools and case studies for ‘Triple Bottom Line’ accountancy (e.g. Accounting for Sustainability) but these seem aimed at much larger organisations with much larger operations and resources – finding a relevance, and a way in for me to use these frameworks for Cultivate has eluded me.

Local organisations such as Oxford Wood Recycling have provided some more relevant inspiration, using a combination of a few statistics (e.g. number of volunteer hours worked, tonnes of organic vegetables produced) and case studies from the last year to communicate a qualitative sense of where the organisation is. And this is most likely the approach we will take at Cultivate.

The new economics foundations do offer some specific research and tools on local economy spending, so I may well have a go at an ‘LM3’ calculation for us.

Any ideas, experience, expertise etc. welcome.

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