The idea behind the triple bottom line can form the foundation for a sustainable business. Sometimes it only takes three words to change things.
With so many concepts for business sustainability out there, it's hard to decide which ones are good for your business... and which ones you can happily manage without. The triple bottom line is a one size fits all. Its basic idea: to measure the success of your business not only by its profits, but also by what impact your business activities have on the planet and its people.
You have probably heard many big names lately for environmentally friendly, socially conscious concepts. They all cover slightly different aspects of business. They're called corporate social responsibility, sustainability, corporate citizenship, corporate governance, ethical business, green business... just to name a few!
What they all have in common: they seem hard to grasp, theoretical, and academic. Some of them even leave a bad taste in your mouth, right? Whatever the sound of their names, there is lots of value in all of these concepts. And the link to applying these principles to your business is
the triple bottom line: people - planet - profit.
The term "triple bottom line" got famous thanks to John Elkington and his 1994 book “Cannibals with Forks...”. In his book, he introduced two new dimensions to measure business success besides profits. He suggested measuring and reporting on social and environmental implications of a company's business activities, too. Elkington wanted to see these three dimensions applied across all organizations: governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as private companies of all shapes and sizes.
Just to make sure we are on the same page: Elkington did not mean “ignore your business's profitability, and start planting trees”! He wanted companies to put equal weight on people, the planet and their profit. And then report on all three of them.
The decisions you make every day for your business affect
It's impossible to weigh these three areas equally. What is important is to find a proper balance between them.
This basic idea is a one size fits all! No matter what you think about sustainability reporting, whether or not it's important to your business right now. Take the triple bottom line as a guide for all things business. How does that next step affect people, the planet and your profit? Find the balance between the three – one that your grandchildren will be fine with, too.
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