The Triple Bottom Line: People. Planet. Profits.
Each is as important as the next, and together they represent a radically different way of doing business.
That’s the defining principle of the Triple Bottom Line, a framework created by John Elkington in 1994.
Traditionally businesses are measured only by the latter, especially in the age of results by the quarter. Today, entire companies are created to produce results for shareholders, not for their employees, their customers or the planet.
Here is what I consider to be the Triple Bottom Line.
The social equity of a company is the human presence, measured outside of job-based performance. For me, this starts with a transparent and reliable human resources service. HR should provide qualitative data to the board and management, as well as quantitative data from surveys and reviews at sites like Glassdoor.
And what’s the goal of that data? Basically, it needs to show that you’re not being a terrible person to other people. Think about diversity and equality at all times and treat people with respect.
Did you know that 50.8% of the human race is female and 3.3% are men named John? Not too shocking. Well, what is shocking is that there are as many Johns as women among Fortune 500 CEOs. We have to do better!
The environmental impact of a company is potentially the most complicated — and at this time in the human race’s short history, the most important. We need to ensure that we are doing more than just cutting our impact.
For an organisation there are simple things like carbon offsetting (that you can now do online) through to independent Environmental Management Systems such as the ISO 140001. For larger corporations they can tie in the UN Sustainable Development Goals or even the Global Reporting Initiative reports to their required non-financial reporting.
Step one is engaging people in your organisation to at least think about the environment first. That comes from the top and works its way down.
More than just what you see in the end of year accounts, a Triple Bottom Line company will try to evaluate the economic value it has brought into the local and global economy through its work. While a healthy financial profit is required to continue the business’s good work, it must also consider how it can integrate into its community.
It is simply an undeniable fact that we are using more of the earth’s resources than we are regenerating. We can see the facts here at The Footprint Network. Unless some dramatic changes are made, we are literally condemning the human race to extinction. At that point even our most worldly possessions will be worth nothing.
The United Nations have put together some targets for us to aim for in the form of the Sustainable Development Goals. These are 17 areas divided into smaller goals that we can all take something from. Yes, it’s complicated and no, it’s definitely not easy. But at some point we have to take a look at what we are doing as a race and realise that we don’t have a choice.
I’ve done a lot of soul searching over the last decade, exposing myself to people and ideas outside of those I grew up with. I’ve been blessed to be influenced by some incredibly selfless people that are trying to make things better.
Now is the time that I must also become not just a voice to my friends and family but go bigger and present our ideas on a wider scale. I know business and that’s my weapon of choice when it comes to making significant changes to saving this planet.
When I first came across the concept of the Triple Bottom Line it was through a friend of mine who was studying sustainability marketing for her dissertation. She recommended I check it out as it seemed to be something that Conscious Creatives aligned with.
It made perfect sense. Not just in that it ensures that the people who work with me are looked after properly and that we help the planet, but that this is the real challenge for the modern business. Anyone can make profits with a cheap website, webinar software and a bit of ‘thought leadership’.
The challenge is to do it in a way that leaves the planet and the people in a BETTER place than when you started. Let’s cut the ‘carbon neutral’ crap and go further. Let’s create businesses that give back to the mother earth and make people’s lives more enjoyable and safer.
I challenge any business in 2018 and beyond to really do it right. Grow their profits as they should — to continue their great work without relying on external funding — but do it in a way that challenges the current status quo.
That’s what I am trying to do with Conscious Creatives. It’s not about making money. It’s about doing it in a way that other business owners think it cannot be done. That way when we start to outperform them in their world (profit) by doing it the right way, there will be no excuse NOT to copy us. Hell, put me out of business! If it means saving the planet I’ll grab my surfboard and take an early retirement.
It is this principle of the Triple Bottom line that led me to create our ‘Philosophies’ that we continue to run the company by. These are looked at, evaluated and updated regularly. Not so that we are changing our core values but so that we can make decisions with the latest understanding. We are on a journey of learning.
This company has been around for coming up to two years but we are only just beginning our exploration into this. We’d love you to follow us on our journey and I encourage you to engage with it.
We’re excited about what lies ahead, and we hope you are too.
Mark is CEO of Conscious Creatives. A passionate believer in doing the right thing is the key to being successful. He is also a photographer, filmmaker, writer and speaker.