The Triple Bottom Line

The phrase “the triple bottom line” was first coined in 1994 by John Elkington, who was the founder of a British consultancy called SustainAbility and is the Founding Partner and Executive Chairman of Volans, a business focusing on sustainability, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Elkington argued that companies should be preparing three different (and quite separate) bottom lines.

  • One is the traditional measure of corporate profit—the “bottom line” of the profit and loss account.
  • The second is the bottom line of a company’s “people account”—a measure in some shape or form of how socially responsible an organization has been throughout its operations.
  • The third is the bottom line of the company’s “planet” account—a measure of how environmentally responsible it has been.

The Triple Bottom Line (TBL) thus consists of three Ps: profit, people and planet. It aims to measure the financial, social and environmental performance of the corporation over a period of time.

Only a company that produces a triple bottom line is taking account of the full cost involved in doing business.

When we are fully aware of our thoughts and emotions, we are using higher consciousness. John McKay, CEO of the growing high-end supermarket chain Whole Foods, practices a whole higher level of consciousness and used “conscious capitalism” to bring his idea to a whole new level. In fact, he wrote a book on it called “Conscious Capitalism,” where he argues that business can be “good” for society by emerging integration between awareness and capitalism. Whole Foods continues to become more conscious as it’s grown and one very powerful way was through its “Future Search” process, where it brings representatives together every five years to collaborate on how they can continue to grow.

Bill Gates stepped away from Microsoft in 2006 and, despite the company’s growing troubles in the face of the mobile disruption, he has since devoted his genius to solving the world’s biggest problems. Gates committed his talents to eliminating diseases, increasing development standards, and generally fighting inequality.

Since 1994, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has amassed an endowment of over $31 billion in funds to fight the world’s most difficult issues. While the developed world takes things like clean water, basic healthcare, and the availability of food for granted — many millions of human beings don’t have such fundamental resources. But this foundation hasn’t merely accumulated funds; the foundation has already given away over $25 billion. Those aren’t trivial numbers.

How conscious are you of how you make – and give – money? Thanks for sharing.

For questions about this post or for information on becoming a fearless leader, contact Dr. Cathy Greenberg and The Fearless Leader Group at (888) 320-1299 or by email at

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