Magazine Online  |  November 15, 2021

Multi-Capitalism and how do we adopt it?

By Martin Thomas
Co-author of the book: The Multi-Capital Scorecard

The problem

Capitalism has traditionally meant financial dominance.  Anything that could be converted into money could be measured.  Nothing else counted! Profit maximization was (and remains for many!) the simple objective.  Costs that others had to bear were their problems.  Those costs were “external” to the business. Externalities are ignored by financial capitalism. This describes ‘mono-capitalism’ in a nutshell. Its result was that the economic capital was maintained and grown.  But those externalities that were ignored have now become unmanageable.  Collectively we are all exceeding the Earth’s carrying capacity and still billions of people are close to starvation. “Business as usual” will solve neither of these problems. But businesses acting together have the power to broaden their scope to address their social and environmental impacts as well as creating economic value.

So what should a responsible company try to do about them?

Let’s firstly accept that we all, as individuals and as businesses (and other organisations), have a duty to act within our fair shares of the world’s available resources; social and environmental. Of course, businesses still need to create economic wealth sufficient to provide their own prosperity as well.  That philosophy is called multi-capitalism.  It extends the scope of financial mono-capitalism to embrace a moral duty to preserve multiple capitals. In many countries, this moral duty is being translated into legal obligations to consider social and environmental (and economic) impacts  

So, how do we set about doing it?

Thomas & McElroy published The MultiCapital Scorecard book in 2016.  It details the world’s first <Integrated Reporting> framework and operating methodology. It is free globally to end-users.
  • The Multi-Capital Scorecard methodology asks firms to identify 6 to 12 vital capitals (social, economic and environmental) on which they and stakeholders depend.
  • Engaging with stakeholder group/s, they should then identify the impacts that they ought to have in order to be sustainable. This is done on a fair sharing basis, taking into account their local and global constraints and assuming that all others would do the same.
  • Setting sustainability norms for “how much is enough to be sustainable” provides the long-term objective for sustainable performance in each of the areas of impact.
  • Trajectory targets from the status quo to meeting the sustainability norms gives a series of interim objectives.
  • Actual performance can then be measured periodically against these norms and targets to express how far along the road to sustainability the organisation has progressed.


It needs no rocket science to adopt the MultiCapital Scorecard, but it brings together the impacts on multiple capitals to answer 3 basic questions;
  • How much is enough to be sustainable?
  • How far are we along the road to get there?
  • What do we need to do better to get there as soon as possible?