The Triple Bottom Line

Traditionally, the bottom line goal of any business was to simply maximize profits. While profit is still important – it’s what keeps businesses open, after all – business author John Elkington proposed that businesses should also equally focus on the people they are affecting and the planet on which they are living. These 3 P’s – profit, planet, and people – combine to become the Triple Bottom Line of social responsibility. The Triple Bottom Line was a cautionary philosophy, introduced as purely profit-seeking corporations were contributing to rainforest loss and opting for cheap, overseas labour. Today, this philosophy can be adopted by any business looking to make a positive difference in its community.

Adopting the Triple Bottom Line

So how exactly does one follow this triple bottom line philosophy? After all, there’s no agreed upon way to physically measure people and planet like there is with profit. As it turns out, this may actually make the sustainable philosophy both more accessible and more effective. This is because businesses are different from one another; they have varying day-to-day responsibilities and routines that can’t really be compared. While the concept of profit remains pretty black and white, this means that businesses are free to focus on their own definitions of corporate citizenship and environmental sustainability.

For example, a restaurant could make an effort to deliver unused food to local soup kitchens, reducing food waste and helping their community. Meanwhile, an electronics repair shop could give special “forgiveness” rates to young students who dropped and damaged their phones for the first time. These initiatives differ greatly, but they both go towards building a better community.

B Corp Certification

Physical recognition of a business’s Triple Bottom Line mentality comes in the form of a B Corp certification. The Beneficial Corporation certification process involves an independent assessment of your business’s accountability, transparency, and social, workplace, and environmental responsibility. Based in Pennsylvania, B Lab has been carefully granting these certifications since 2006.

A 2015 Nielsen report showed that about three quarters of young adults in the United States were willing to pay more for sustainable goods, or goods from companies with strong social values. A meaningful certification is a great way to prove that your business is committed to the Triple Bottom Line, and may help in attracting these young customers to your business.