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3BL - Triple Bottom Line

Updated on April 9, 2015

Business loves buzz words. One of the newest buzz words is “triple bottom line”. This is not just a new term but a radical change for corporate America. It is a paradigm shift that takes corporate profitability into the realm of the community. It is the recognition beyond sustainability which has been closely aligned simply to savings, it is about a corporate commitment to a workplace, to a community, to the protection of the environment, to good water stewardship. It is a brand new global vision that profits to a company are about:

  1. Economic (aka profit)
  2. Ecological (aka planet) and
  3. Social Impact. (aka people)

It is a full reporting of the corporate activities. Strategic planning has never had a wider and clearer vision. These are terms and knowledge every one across the world must learn. This is a change of focus to a unified vision – a new brand definition for profitability - profitability with a purpose - profitability with a long term vision.

Triple Bottom Line

blue diagram of triple bottom line - people, planet, profit
blue diagram of triple bottom line - people, planet, profit


diagram of circles showcasing the intersection for innovation
diagram of circles showcasing the intersection for innovation

ROI Min and Max

visual of ROI knob with min and max
visual of ROI knob with min and max
visual of silver colored ROI knob with min and max
visual of silver colored ROI knob with min and max | Source

"Triple Bottom Line”, our corporate leaders know the long term profitability is what really count.

Sustainability Strategy from Saatchi and Saatchi Harvard Business Publishing

"Every action you take in business has two components: an impact on profits and an impact on the world,"

Quote from Triple Bottom Line by Andrew W. Savitz and Karl Weber

Reciprocal Return for Dollars Invested in Green Technology - Eco Friendly for the Bottom Line

eco-friendly dollar sign showcasing the return is reciprocal
eco-friendly dollar sign showcasing the return is reciprocal

Technology Connects All of Us

Star Trek - The Borg - We are all connected in new technology
Star Trek - The Borg - We are all connected in new technology

Technology and Our Global Connections

visual of computer plug connecting to the world
visual of computer plug connecting to the world

Corporate Responsibility UC Berkeley

We All Live in a Yellow Submarine

What is Triple Bottom Line?

Triple bottom line (3BL or TBL) is a new focus for business, it is three pillars - "people, planet, profit". This paradigm shift is the recognition of the intangibles. Intangible assets have long been accounted for on corporate balance sheets. Never before, has the creation of goodwill been part of the stated corporate objective. A commitment to corporate social responsibility, our carbon footprint is a new criteria for measuring success – a success that is more than economic, it is also ecological and social.

Triple Bottom Line Reporting

Fortune 50 and now Fortune 100 companies are leading the way with new reporting metrics. Annual report now included not just financials but also metrics that include what their organization is doing for sustainability. Coca-Cola’s Triple Bottom Line reporting is a great example where they included not just cost saving measures such as packaging but also measures about responsibility to the community, water stewardship, energy management and climate protection, and an active lifestyle (The Coca Cola and nutrition.

Similar to the Wall Street Movie Money Never Sleeps?

In the newest Wall Street movie with Michael Douglas, called Wall Street Money Never Sleeps, a valuable painting by a world-renowned artist called Goya is destroyed. The painting is entitled Saturn Devouring His Children. In our wisdom and day of Internet technology, we are learning about ourselves in a brand new way. We are learning, we all are interconnected. The impact of one wrong will eventually affect all of us. The choice is ours. Corporate America is mandating a new accounting – accountability for all activities – not just profits, but ecological impacts and social impacts as well.

Interconnectivity – New Idea?

The idea of interconnectivity has been around us for some time now. From the Beattles, We All Live on a Yellow Submarine, to the "Borg" on Star Trek where humans were wired together with absolute dependence upon each other. The Internet may have taught us this interconnectivity and maybe finally corporate America has a complete understanding and management commitment. If the profitability is now “Triple Bottom Line”, our corporate leaders know the long term profitability is what really count.

In Star Trek, the Borg was a group of humanoid people cybernetically connected into a new species - completely organized as an interconnected collective - a complete unity of a race, civilization, colony. While the Borg was a serious threat to the Enterprise in Star Trek: First Contact, the Borg also play major roles in The Next Generation and Voyager television series, it is an interesting concept of our Internet connectivity. A similar parallel could be made for the new world of technology that connects us via cell phones and the web across the various continents of the world.

Long Term Profits

One of the maladies of corporate America has been the short term profit focus combined with excessive bonuses. Enron, WorldCom and Tyco were among the most highly-publicized frauds that there denoted by conflicts of interest and incentive compensation practices. This prompted the Sarbanes–Oxley, Sarbox or SOX which is a United States federal law enacted on July 30, 2002, which set new standards for all U.S. public company boards, management and public accounting firms.

Corporate Vision

The corporate vision for short-term profitability and unearned salaries were centered in a corrupt few. What isn't self evident is the many family owned business from plumbing companies to various food manufacturers who take a long term view and have taken a long term of their profitability and the impact their corporation has upon society. One such manufacturer has even a statement that succinctly reflects their management's vision.

“We Are In Business Forever”

What a great statement - what a great viewpoint - it says it all. This this long term philosophy of "We Are In Business Forever" in their corporate governance is company headquartered in Illinois, called Elkay – their corporate vision statement – We Are In Business Forever says it all. This statement is exactly what the Triple Bottom Line is about – we are not here for short term ink on the bottom line, we are here to make a difference, a positive impact for the dollars for our shareholders and a positive impact upon the world. The stakeholders are our children - "We Are In Business Forever".

New Corporate Reporting – New Corporate Accountability – New Corporate Actions

Similar to the Elkay goverance statement, a fresh new perspective is being ushered into Corporate America and hopefully into the world. A new approach to investing, a new approach to accountability and measurement. New metrics that recognize not just quarterly or annual profits, a new reporting methodology that fully recognizes the intangible assets that a company can generate. When consumers speak, corporate America listens. When Corporate America changes, we as consumers recognize the changes and must continue to push to sustain these positive changes. The voice of the people must recognize these positive efforts, reward the efforts and demand the continuation of these efforts. source:

In the Coca Cola Triple Bottom Line report they detail: “LIVE POSITIVELY focuses on seven core areas key to our business sustainability: Beverage Benefits; Active Healthy Living; Energy Management and Climate Protection; Community; Sustainable Packaging; Water Stewardship; and Workplace.”

"Every action you take in business has two components: an impact on profits and an impact on the world,"

Quote from the book entitled Triple Bottom Line by Andrew W. Savitz and Karl Weber

The Triple Bottom Line is written in a way that makes the logic of sustainable development seem easy and evident. One simply forgets what a hard sell it once was. "The aim of this book is to translate complex sustainability jargon into something that everyone in the company can understand, from the boardroom to the factory floor. An important target group is the middle management section of large companies, who have a hard time looking up from their numerical goals to see that by integrating social and environmental factors into their core calculations they will reach still further," says Savitz. "I believe sustainable development is only a transition phase similar to quality thinking or systems thinking. One hundred years from now, company bottom lines will include the three pillars of sustainable development (economic, environmental and social) in a totally seamless manner."

Read more: Today's Best Run Companies

Saatchi and Saatchi - Four Core Business Challenges - Corporate Strategy Adam Werbach

Adam Werbach of Saatchi and Saatchi, the advertising firm that is world-renowned takes the theory of triple bottom line into a more global realm. Mr. Webach includes the three: Social, Culture, Environmental and Economic but he also includes a fourth pillar - Culture to drive corporate business strategy.

This evolution from the sustainability definition that meets not just the needs of our current generation without a sacrifice future generation, for Mr. Werbach includes the survival of the culture. He goes on to state that the core business challenge is denoted by:

1.) Transparency

2.) Engagement

3.) Networking

The results of this new corporate strategy should be: 1.) Better products 2.) More efficient employees and 3.) Selling more products.

Global Observatory

"Mass Awareness Campaign = peer to peer communications."

Adam Werbach

Obstacles to change

In 2009, Adam Werbach was speaking about the meeting of world leaders meeting in Copenhagen to conclude a Climate Change Agreement that began in Kyoto back in 1997.  Change Mr. Werbach felt is possible - if we talk to each other and work with other.

The Triple Relationship - Ecology Equity and Economy

hand drawn diagram showcasing ecology economy and equity in a triangle relationship
hand drawn diagram showcasing ecology economy and equity in a triangle relationship

The World is Just Awesome Boom-De-Yada

Triple Bottom Line Quotes from the Past

Henry Ford
Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy
The unity of freedom has never relied on uniformity of opinion.

Thomas Carlyle
Men's hearts ought not to be set against one another, but set with one another, and all against evil only.

James Baldwin
The moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.

© 2010 Ken Kline


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    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      9 years ago

      You are so thorough! beautiful and well thought out hub- again!

    • lmmartin profile image


      9 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      When I consider how rarely man comes anywhere close to living up to his rhetoric, I hold little belief in this new paradigm. I'd like to, but I can not -- particularly when the Coca-Cola company pretends to embrace healthy living -- Coke? Nice case of wishful thinking, I'm afraid. Another marketing strategy. Right up there with no trans fats and 'green.' Oh how I wish it were true...


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