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Global​ ​Thresholds​ ​& Allocations​ ​Commons (GTAC)

Allen White Co-Founder, Global Reporting Initiative

“Sustainability requires contextualization within thresholds; that’s what sustainability is all about.”

Introduction

Thresholds mark the danger zones where healthy, sustainable ecological and social systems

risk crossing tipping points and collapsing into unhealthy systems that may no longer sustain life in wellbeing. Research finds that, at the global-systems level, humanity is currently transgressing 6 of 9 ecological ceiling thresholds (known as Planetary Boundaries in the scientific literature), and all 12 social foundation thresholds in the Doughnut framework.

Allocations traditionally apply to divvying up resources, ideally in fair, just, and proportionate ways; in the sustainability context, allocations extend to divvying up responsibility for managing impacts on these vital capital resources from the Commons, maintaining the carrying capacities of capitals at levels required to ensure well-being.

On the practical level, applying thresholds and allocations calls for assessing quantitative and qualitative information to make threshold determinations – and assessing if thresholds are being respected, or breached; and then, allocating responsibility for respecting thresholds amongst those who impact ecological, social, and economic systems, commensurate with their impacts.

 r3.0 pursues it work on thresholds & allocations by co-creating a knowledge and practice commons, specifically through 2 avenues: a Global Thresholds & Allocations Network (GTAN), and a Global Thresholds & Allocations Council (GTAC). You can find out more about each of these initiatives below. 

Global Thresholds & Allocations Network (GTAN)

The Global Thresholds & Allocations Network (GTAN) launched in early 2022 as a network of 22 organizations that intersect with sustainability thresholds & allocations, with r3.0 serving as Interim Secretariat. 

The first year (2022) focused on network formation and development, with r3.0 hosting 3 rounds of Engagements:

  • In the First Engagements (convened April through June 2022), r3.0 met with each organization individually, facilitating an embodied implementation of the ProSocial Matrix to identify internal and external energizing and restraining forces (see here for an essay by r3.0 Engagement Architect & Facilitator Jennifer Dhyana Nucci on this approach.) r3.0 published a Synthesis Report [link report pdf to “Synthesis Report”] on this set of Engagements in August 2022. 
  • The Second Engagements (convened in August 2022) pulled the full network together to focus on our Purpose of “Thresholds & Allocations for Justice & Solidarity” – the themes that clearly emerged from the First Engagement. These Engagements resulted in a set of Draft Principles and Draft Workstreams
  • The Third Engagements (convened in November 2022) honed in on the most relevant Workstreams to pursue in 2023, and resulted in an internal Summary Report.  

The second year (2023) focused on 3 Workstreams:

  • Workstream I – Holistic Unlearning & Context-Setting for Thresholds & Allocations: Narrative, Language & Framing:
    • Understanding thresholds & allocations through the lens of colonization to develop appropriate narrative frames to inspire necessary transformation. Given the historical and current impacts of colonization, which intimately interlinks with threshold transgression and misallocation of both resources and responsibility for respecting thresholds, it is imperative for GTAN to ground its work in awareness of colonization contexts. 
      • This Workstream focused on producing a paper entitled Towards Decoloniality in Thresholds & Allocations [link to paper].
  • Workstream IISystemic Transformation: Accountability for Systemic Change
    • The current neoliberal capitalist economic systems transgress thresholds and unfairly distribute resources by design. So, what kinds of systemic transformations and alternative economic system designs are necessary to enforce systemic respect for thresholds & allocations? In particular, addressing thresholds & allocations at sub-system scales (company / sector; municipality / bioregion; etc) often create loopholes (eg outsourcing / offshoring) that leave gaps when upscaling to the systemic level, requiring holistic approaches.
      • This Workstream focused on co-creating a sign-on statement committing to thresholds & allocations, seeking to trigger a positive tipping point in social norms (forthcoming).
  • Workstream III – Social Thresholds: Regenerating Human & Social Capitals
    • Understanding and implementation of social foundation thresholds are less mature than ecological ceiling thresholds, warranting further development of the former. This is particularly important due to the differing threshold dynamics between ecological ceilings and social floors. In particular, while adverse ecological tipping points are relatively well understood, adverse social tipping points are less well understood – and, beneficial social tipping points hold significant promise for averting transgression of adverse tipping points in ecological and social systems.
      • This Workstream focused on creating guidance for engaging all rightsholder constituencies affected by entity impacts on vital capital resources in threshold and allocation determinations (forthcoming).

GTAN received funding from One Project.

Global Thresholds & Allocations Council

The r3.0 Platform proposes the formation of a multi-stakeholder Global​ ​Thresholds​ ​& Allocations​ ​Council (GTAC), to establish an authoritative approach to reporting economic, environmental and social performance in relation to generally accepted boundaries and limits. GTAC will operate as a partnership between leading organizations and individuals from science, business, investment, government, and civil society focused on assessing and validating methodologies for allocating fair shares of responsibility to organizations for their impacts on the stocks and flows of capitals – natural, human, social and other resources – within their carrying capacities. Building on extant efforts to establish science-based targets, GTAC will accelerate progress toward contextualizing company disclosures commensurate with the ecological, social and economic urgencies facing societies and companies alike in the coming decades.

The GTAC will:

  1. Identify thresholds & norms for sustaining the carrying capacities of systems-level capital resources in the commons that are vital to stakeholder wellbeing, based on a comprehensive review of research in physical and social sciences and practice in the field.
  2. Design and validate allocation methodologies that apportion fair share responsibility for jointly preserving and enriching capital resources vital to stakeholder wellbeing.
  3. Disseminate consensus-based
    thresholds/norms/allocations with “off-the-shelf” ease-of-use in mind to facilitate global mainstreaming of such practices.

For more Information about the Global Thresholds & Allocations Commons please see the following documents

Contacts

Bill Baue

Senior Director

r3.0

+1 413 387 58 24

Ralph Thurm

Managing Director

OnCommons / r3.0

+31 64 600 14 52