Planetary Boundary

A Planetary Boundary is a limit which defines the safe operating space for humanity with respect to the Earth system and its associated biophysical subsystems and  processes.

Program Related Investing

Investments made by foundations that meet the philanthropic goals of their programs. To be counted in the grant-making portion of a foundation’s assets, program related investments must also abide by tax laws regarding charitable intent and the relationship to a foundation’s program.

Patient Capital

Investment strategies that provide social and environmental returns in addition to financial returns with an emphasis on returns over the long-term. While a longer investment horizon and/or a smaller financial return may be inherent in individual patient capital investments, neither of these conditions are required of patient capital investments.

Payback Period

An accounting term indicating the time required to recoup an investment. It is expressed as a ratio of investment cost to savings or income (usually annually). For example, if a new high-efficiency boiler costs $10,000 to install and saves $2500 per year in fuel, the payback period is four years. Payback periods are critical to […]

Present Value (PV)

An assessment of the “real” value of a future investment or financial transaction in terms of present economic value (as opposed to the actual value of the investment or transaction when it occurs).


The positive residual value (if there is one) or the benefit or advantage that can be achieved by a particular action or activity. Profit is calculated by adding all revenues associated with that product, service, or activity, and subtracting all expenses associated with it. Often, traditional accounting, finance, and economic calculations of profits don’t include […]


Permaculture is an ecological design system that employs an integrated systems approach to developing ecological human habitats, food production systems, and other material and non-material needs.


An unincorporated business that is owned by two or more individuals. These individuals are responsible for all risks and liabilities for the business any share in any proceeds and rewards based on their percentage of ownership. About 7% of all businesses in the USA are sole proprietorships.


The output created (products and services) created by use of energy, work, capital, materials, or resources. Often, traditional productivity does not measure use of external resources (such as natural resources like air or water) or adverse effects of internal resources (such as corporate culture or employee stamina) and does not calculate costs required to correct […]

Privatization (of natural resources)

An approach to conservation that brings the environment into our economic sphere, therefore giving them economic value.

Private Placement

A type of corporate investment offered directly to institutional investments (such as pension funds, mutual funds, equity funds, trusts, etc.). These investments can be in debt, equity, or a combination of both and are exempt from public (SEC) registration.

Precautionary Principle

An approach to determining whether a given process or policy should be pursued or continued based on an analysis of the social, economic, or environmental risks associated with that activity. Not all risks are known when a new practice is introduced or a current one is re-examined, and the ethical approach in light of implied […]


A business activity that looks for opportunities (or “holes”) in a market in which to offer a viable product, service, or message. Positioning takes advantage of Environmental Modeling and Competitive Analysis (often using a SWOT Analysis) in order to compare the offerings of competing products, services, messages, and organizations in order to find opportunities not […]

Pollution Offset

The attempt to offset the results of pollution from some activity of process by improving the environment in an equal benefit. Carbon trading, for example, allows carbon polluters to offset the effect of excess carbon in the environment by trading credits with those whose activities reduce an equal amount of carbon. Pollution offsets can exist […]

Pollution Prevention

Any activity to reduce or eliminate any number of pollution types or quantities from personal, corporate, or governmental activities. Also called source reduction, these activities seek to create more efficient procedures or practices that reduce pollution or use it in the manufacturing process of some other activity. Often, practices such as changes in manufacturing or […]


The ability for customers to change a product or service to better suit their needs and desires. It differs from Customization in that Personalization offers a much wider set of pre-defined attributes as well as the ability to create new or original attributes. This can reduce wasted materials and energy, while offering a dynamic and […]

Perfect Markets

Most of neoclassical economics (and current economic theory) is based on the assumption that markets are perfect in the following ways: all parties know and share the same information, rational decision-making on the parts of buyers and sellers, low or no transaction costs, perfect competition, no monopolies, and equal access. In reality, none of the […]

Pension Fund

An investment fund created with funds from a portion of an employee’s and/or employer’s wages and profits for the purpose of providing a salary when an employee retires. They are, mainly, focused on long-term returns (in the 20-40 year time frame). Companies, governments, unions, and other organizations can all create or contribute to pension funds. […]

Participatory Organizations

Organizations whose culture and procedures require or allow members’ involvement in the creation of policy and change. A related term, participatory design, refers to an organization including customers in the design and development process in order to create more appropriate and successful products, services, and experiences.