Triple Bottom Line: What it is and how to use it

What is the Triple Bottom Line?

Triple Bottom Line is an accounting framework that allows you to track the impact of the actions of your business, with a social bottom line, an environmental bottom line, and a financial bottom line. Coined by John Elkington in 1994, it has become synonymous with businesses being able to practice sustainably.

How can your business benefit from it?

Well, as a business, we all have a duty to conduct our business with ethics, so this can help us hold ourselves accountable to our operations.

However, this is not the only way businesses can utilise Triple Bottom Line to their advantage. Many businesses have taken the concepts behind Triple Bottom Line, such as corporate social responsibility, and turned them into effective marketing tools. Whenever any organisation undergoes a “sustainability endeavour” such as a recycling program or even charity donations, they talk about it. Doing something good gives your business an excellent opportunity to share what your business is about. Some brands even incorporate charitable initiatives into their products, like Product [RED] branded items for Apple.

How do you implement it?

The most common way to implement a sustainability endeavour is to raise money for charity. Raising money for a charity also gives you a unique opportunity to pierce the corporate veil, and show the faces of the people who work in your business.

For example, the St. Vincent De Paul Society CEO Sleepout is organised every year to raise money for disadvantaged people. It requires CEOs to spend a night being sleeping on the streets (although they all sleep on the same street), so that the business owners who may have never experienced homelessness may understand what it’s like to sleep on the streets.

There are lots of other ways to build out your Triple Bottom Line, most of which are specific to your business. A restaurant might consider implementing a program to reduce food waste, or even implement an equal employment policy. The world is your oyster!

What if I don’t implement it?

There are always cases where businesses cannot implement social and environmental responsibility programs, and that’s okay. If business is down, if you’ve got bills to pay, if it’s a quiet month, it may not be the best time to start raising money for charity.

It’s important to recognise where your business is at, and whether it is able to undertake extra charitable work at this point in time. There is a chance that implementing such a program may save you money though!

But that’s what the bottom line is. Being environmentally sustainable, and socially responsible, might benefit your business in ways you didn’t think!

Written by David Jackson, Founder and CEO of FundX