I like to say my aim is to live a life that adds value and is uncommon. Any other way is simply flowing aimlessly with the masses! The same could be said for businesses. There are many paths that a business could take that seek only profits, competing like everyone else. But what if they aimed higher? What if they aimed for IMPACT with the triple bottom line of business?
This viewpoint of the triple bottom line lies at the core of the concept that businesses should consider not merely financial profits but also their impact on people and the planet. John Elkington coined these phrases “people, planet and profit” back in the 90’s, and they resonate with business leaders for a good reason.
When a business seeks to positively impact people, planet and profit, they can actually gain a competitive edge. Why? Because conscious consumers are demanding it. Customers today and those in the emerging consumer generation want to buy from companies that share their values, and it can be the difference maker in their choices. And employees, especially millennials, want to work for companies that have purpose beyond just making money.
So what does this triple bottom line look like in practice? Let’s break it down:
The “people” element refers not just to shareholders and executives, but all stakeholders – employees, customers, communities impacted by the business. It involves things like:
- Treating employees with dignity through fair pay, safe working conditions and equitable policies
- Making a positive impact on the communities where you operate, like by combating homelessness or illiteracy
- Having customers who trust you because of your ethical hiring and ethical operating practices
“Profit” is interpreted broadly to include the company’s overall economic impact – like how you:
- Pay taxes responsibly and contribute to social programs through those tax dollars
- Avoid unethical practices that ultimately hurt a society’s health like using child labor
- Create good jobs with fair compensation that strengthen the local economy
The “planet” part means going beyond just limiting waste and emissions to actually being a regenerative force. Companies can:
- Commit to net zero emissions goals by removing as much carbon as they add
- Use post-consumer recycled materials and partner with ecologically conscious suppliers
- Invest in renewable energy and educate customers on sustainability
When a business adopts the triple bottom line, typically it requires a review of their current operating practices, recommendations and implementations within a timeframe of new and improved policies, and ongoing monitoring of these for compliance to their stated aims and goals. This can take anywhere from 3 months to two years for full implementation. Often this is helped through the hiring of a 3P consultant.
As well, a business has the option to go through a process to get certified as a “B Corporation” through the nonprofit B Lab. This is not required to be a 3P company that makes an impact and it can be done at a later time as well. In some cases, the B Corp label can help consumers identify companies that have been independently evaluated as meeting high standards for social and environmental performance and give them an edge over other traditional businesses.
The truth is that pursuing people, planet and profit leads to not only a better society but a healthier and stronger business. Consumers will reward you with loyalty and employees will work harder knowing your purpose extends beyond the bottom line. Your key stakeholders become your champions.
Executing on all three parts of the triple bottom line requires servant leadership and ethical decision-making woven into the DNA of the business. But the benefits – enhanced brand reputation, customer trust, and employee commitment – will in the majority of cases far outweigh the costs. Add to this that consumers and becoming more conscious and selecting businesses more specifically because of their practices, and it becomes even more impact to take this action to implement the triple bottom line in your organization.
If your aim is to not just survive but thrive and make an impact with your organization, then make the move to lead your business with the triple bottom line in action. Seek to add value beyond profits alone and leave a legacy. Be uncommon by making a difference in people’s lives and the world we share. Progress will follow.
If your business is interested in discussing this further and considering an audit or consulting services needed to review and create a plan for your business, iGive Global offers this service and you can contact us today to setup a free initial discovery conversation online.