John Elkington coined the phrase “the triple bottom line” in 1994. He was the founder of “SustainAbility,” – a British business consultancy firm.
He argued that true cost of doing business over a time period could only be assessed on the basis of three separate bottom lines. One – the traditional bottomline from Profit and Loss accounts of businesses, the second bottomline related to people- a measure that denotes if the company or organisation was socially responsible and the third related to a company or organisation’s responsibility towards our planet to measure how responsible the company was environmentally, while conducting its operations.
Thus responsibility towards Profits, People and Planet – the 3Ps form the new framework to measure performance of businesses on the basis of Triple Bottom Lines. These bottomlines aim at promoting sustainability. They make the businesses think about the long-term environmental and social impact they have on the people and planet.
Our resources are finite. We need triple bottom line to ensure that our businesses are run in a sustainable way. We need to care enough to make our growth socially inclusive and our environment safe for our future generations.
Businesses that apply triple bottom line principles consider themselves a part of the community. They examine their policies towards labours, wages, living conditions, working conditions, healthcare etc. to ensure there is no exploitation. They try to limit their carbon footprints and see to it that they limit their negative impact on environment.
Financial bottom lines are no more the true indicator of a business’s growth and potential. Both large and small organisations need to go for triple bottom line reporting. It is one way of being accountable and being aware of the long term consequences of our actions across the three P’s -profits, people and planet.