T is for The Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet And Profit

The term ‘Triple Bottom Line’ was popularised by John Elkington in the 1990s. The approach involves companies behaving responsibly in relation to the 3 Ps: People, Planet and Profit.

In the video above, which was filmed in 2007, John sets the historical context. He begins by explaining some of the quality standards that were implemented towards the end of the last century.

He then moves on to describing how some companies began focusing on social and environmental issues. You can discover more about John’s present work via the following links.



Here is a video that highlights how balancing the TBL often means involving many different stakeholders.

Here is an excellent explanation of the TBL from Mind Tools.



Companies that follow the triple bottom line way of doing business think about the impact their actions have on all the people involved with them.

This can include everybody from farmers supplying raw materials, on up to the CEO of the company. Everyone’s well being is taken into consideration.

The company offers health care, good working hours, a healthy, safe place to work, opportunities for advancement and education, and does not exploit their labor force (by using child labor or offering sweatshop wages).

In some cases, the “people” bottom line can also include the community where the company does business.

While the concept of the people bottom line is certainly attractive, the difficulty comes in deciding how far you go with this.

Do you apply it to employees? Their families? Suppliers? People near company buildings? How near? And what should you do if you need to restructure the business to remain competitive and shed some staff?

Should your concern for people mean that you refuse to make redundancies even though this risks the long-term viability of the organization for all staff?


Triple bottom line companies take pains to reduce or eliminate their ecological footprint. They strive for sustainability, recognizing the fact that “going green” may be more profitable in the long run.

But it’s not just about the money. Triple bottom line companies look at the entire life cycle of their actions and try to determine the true cost of what they’re doing in regards to the environment.

They take pains to reduce their energy usage, they dispose of any toxic waste in a safe way, they try to use renewable energy sources and they don’t produce products that are unsafe or unhealthy for people and the planet.


The financial bottom line is the one that all companies share, whether they’re using triple bottom line or not.

When looking at profit from a triple bottom line standpoint, the idea is that profits will help empower and sustain the community as a whole, and not just flow to the CEO and shareholders.

While you may or may not consider the Triple Bottom Line appropriate for your business, it makes sense to recognize the way in which the workplace is changing, and consider whether you need to adapt your approach to business to reflect this.

Triple Pundit

Triple Pundit is a website that focuses on business issues that affect people, planet and profit. You can read more about their work via the following link.


The video below from Parita Kapadia provides an animated introduction to the Triple Bottom Line. You can discover more about her work via the following link.


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