TBL: Promoting People, Planet and Profit

Triple bottom line management refers to ‘people, planet and profit’, also known as the ‘three pillars’, which is used to measure the economic, ecological and social success of an organization – all of which are steadily gaining recognition as issues of utmost importance and even becoming deciding factors for the growing trend of socially responsible investing.

The ‘people’ part of the triple bottom line (TBL) approach refers to carrying out business practices that are fair and beneficial for the community, and even the region, in which a company carries out its business. This would include, among other factors, sourcing raw materials from suppliers in the region, recruiting employees from the community and paying a fair wage, and possibly getting involved in community improvement projects. TBL companies will also ensure that their manufacturing processes do not impact negatively on the environment and welfare of the local community – a factor which dovetails with the ‘planet’ part of TBL.

The ‘planet’ part of TBL refers to a company’s efforts to avoid, or limit, environmental impact and promote sustainable environmental practices. A TBL company will not produce potentially destructive or harmful products such as weapons or toxic chemicals. It monitors its manufacturing process with a ‘cradle to grave’ outlook – from the raw materials used to manufacture the product to the eventual disposal of the product when it no longer serves its purpose, taking into account the safe disposal of any by-products of the manufacturing process. While some may argue that following environmentally sound practices is not cost-effective, it has been proven that in the long-run environmental sustainability is more profitable and beneficial to all concerned.

The ‘profit’ part of TBL does not solely refer to the financial bottom line of an endeavor, but rather looks at the economic benefits to the local community and is therefore closely linked with the ‘people’ aspect of TBL. The TBL management approach is supported by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), an internationally recognized organization that lays down guidelines and monitors the performance of corporate sustainable development. During 2009 more than 1,500 organizations from 60 countries submitted sustainability reports using GRI standards, providing a valuable assessment of the progress being made with regard to global corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability – key aspects of TBL management.