Triple bottom line

what is it?

Rather than focus solely on a business' traditional bottom line (profit), the triple bottom line theory considers people, planet and profit. Meaning businesses need to think about the interactions between their social impact, environmental impact, and profit to be truly successful.

This is just one aspect of sustainable management, along with corporate social responsibility and creating shared value.


This pillar looks at all of the people involved in an organization, including laborers at all stages of the supply chain, employees, and the wider community. Triple bottom line companies ensure humane working conditions along their supply chain, pay their employees fair wages, and give back to their communities.

For example, 3M invests in STEM education around the world. >>Read More


The planet piece means that organizations try to minimize their ecological footprint as much as possible. This can include reducing waste, optimizing supply chains, or using renewable energy, to name a few examples.

For example, Hewlett-Packard has a number of environmental initiatives to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and reduce its plastic use, among others. >>Read More


Of course, all companies want to maximize their profit. The difference in triple bottom line companies is that profit is seen as complementary to the people and planet pillars, instead of as a separate goal. In other words, making positive social and environmental impacts increases financial returns.

For example, by reducing its waste, Subaru saved millions of dollars. >>Read More

more resources


25 Years Ago I Coined the Phrase “Triple Bottom Line.” Here’s Why It’s Time to Rethink It.

John Elkington, creator of the term, warns against the Triple Bottom Line theory being reduced to simply an accounting tool.


Patagonia, a US-based outdoor apparel company, commits to environmental and social responsibility in all aspects of its business.


Mayura Davda Shah talks about pursuing a triple bottom line and gives examples of companies that are models of social and environmental responsibility.

further reading

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