What is the triple bottom line approach?

challenge SEG stone low
challenge SEG stone low

When it comes to making decisions that consider the economic, social and environmental impacts of business, the concept of the triple bottom line is the cornerstone. Put simply, the triple bottom line is an accounting framework that looks at three different types of performance: financial, social, and environmental. Rather than just focusing on profits and losses, businesses are now encouraged to look at their success in terms of non-financial metrics.

Financial Performance

The most obvious – and arguably most important – element of the triple bottom line is financial performance. This refers to how a company or organization performs in terms of its net income or profit margins. It also includes all other factors related to finance such as cash flow, debt levels, working capital efficiency, financial liquidity, etc. Financial performance is essential for businesses to assess their overall health and determine whether they are on a path of growth or decline. Not making a profit is an unsustainable state for a company to be in.

Social Performance

Social performance involves measuring how companies treat their stakeholders. This includes employees, customers and the communities they serve. This can involve looking at things such as worker satisfaction levels, diversity policies, customer feedback data and community involvement programs. Businesses should be working towards creating a positive impact on their employees’ lives as well as those they serve in their local communities.

Environmental Performance

Finally, environmental performance measures how well a company is preserving our planet’s resources for future generations. Examples include reducing waste channels through recycling, reducing carbon emissions and protecting biodiversity. It can be demonstrated by using eco-friendly materials, minimizing water consumption and waste water management.

By taking into account all three aspects, businesses can get a better understanding of where they stand in terms of sustainable development goals. This helps them make informed decisions about how best to allocate resources for long-term success which accounts for both economic benefits as well as social & environmental considerations too!

What are the benefits of the triple bottom line approach?

Some of the top benefits of the triple bottom line approach include:

1. Increased profitability – Companies can improve their overall financial performance by becoming more sustainable. Making changes that reduce waste, use fewer resources and create a positive impact on their local communities often result in cost savings which can enhance profits over time.

2. Improved reputation – A company’s reputation is an incredibly important asset. Consumers and other stakeholders are increasingly looking for businesses that demonstrate social & environmental responsibility. Companies that follow a triple bottom line approach often receive positive publicity, which helps to strengthen their brand identity.

3. Increased innovation – The triple bottom line forces companies to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to address sustainability challenges. This encourages businesses to come up with new and innovative ways of operating that make a positive impact on the environment.

4. Positive long-term investments – Companies that follow a triple bottom line approach often receive more support from investors, as they are seen as making changes that will benefit society over the long run. This can lead to better access to capital which can be used to fund growth and expansion plans.

Overall, the triple bottom line is a powerful concept that is becoming increasingly important in the business world. By taking into account financial performance alongside social and environmental considerations – businesses can ensure they are making decisions that will benefit all stakeholders while also contributing to a more sustainable future!

Where did the saying come from?

John Elkington’s concept of the “triple bottom line” has been embraced by business leaders and sustainability experts since its introduction in 1994. This pioneering model goes beyond financial prosperity to consider social consciousness, environmental impact, and profit. A company only succeeds if all three components of the triple bottom line are implemented – similarly to a three-legged stool where removing one leg leads to instability.

Triple bottom line vs ESG

The triple bottom line and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices seem to have a lot in common at first glance. But there are many differences between the two. The triple bottom line is an accounting framework that evaluates the performance of a company from three different perspectives. It measures economic performance, social impact, and environmental impact. On the other hand, ESG focuses primarily on monitoring and measuring a company’s activities from a sustainability standpoint . It looks into specific factors like climate change risks or diversity among employees. Both ESG and TBL can be used as tools for creating corporate value. It is important to note that TBL accounts for a wider range of factors than ESG. This means that focusing on both measures could give you greater insight into your business’s sustainability success.


What is Triple-bottom-line analysis?

Triple-bottom-line analysis, also known as TBL or 3BL, is an innovative and comprehensive approach to measuring business performance. It takes into account not only economic impacts, but also social and environmental considerations. By evaluating a company’s activities from a financial, social and environmental perspective, the triple-bottom-line model helps organizations assess the long-term impact their operations may have. This tool can help businesses make smarter decisions that benefit not just themselves but also society at large. The result? A more sustainable and profitable future for everyone.

What is the difference between TBL and social return on investment (SROI)?

Social Return on Investment (SROI) uses a financial ratio to assess whether an investment has achieved its social objectives. It answers whether the benefits outweigh the costs of delivering those benefits. Organisations may calculate the ratio of benefits to costs. This is done by factoring in additional investment funds as well as the economic, environmental and social impacts resulting from those investments..

A good example would be a company that measures the number of jobs created by a new factory it built. The SROI would take into account the number of people employed, their salaries, and the economic benefits to the local community from having those jobs. It would also consider any negative impacts, such as air pollution or traffic congestion.

The TBL is a broader framework that goes beyond financial considerations to include social and environmental factors. It is a more holistic approach that looks at the impact of an organization’s activities on all stakeholders.

You can’t improve what you don’t measure.

Free Verified Carbon Calculators.

Erase Your Carbon Footprint in 3 Minutes

Personal Carbon Footprint Calculator

Business Carbon Footprint Calculator

What are some drawbacks of the triple bottom line?

There are also some potential drawbacks to using the TBL framework, including:

1. It can be difficult to measure social and environmental impacts accurately

2. It can be time-consuming and expensive to gather all the data needed for a comprehensive analysis

3. It may be difficult to find data on some social and environmental indicators

4. It can be challenging to balance the needs of all three bottom lines

5. Some stakeholders may not be included in the analysis, such as those who are indirectly affected by an organization’s activities.

For midsize companies, SMEs and SMBs, there are new easy, cost-effective solutions which will help you measure, manage and report non-financial KPIs for your strategic objectives. Scroll up and Get the Checklist! ⬆️

What is a triple bottom line example?

A good example of TBL in action would be a company that designs and manufactures sustainable products. This company would not only consider the financial bottom line of their business, but also the social and environmental impact of their products. They would take into account the entire life cycle of their products, from the sourcing of materials to the disposal or recycling of the finished product. This company would strive to create value for all stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers and the community. Finding value in every link of the chain from conception to completion.

How does TBL affect the supply chain of a company?

The triple bottom line can have a significant impact on the supply chain of a company. For example, a company that is focused on the TBL may choose to source materials from suppliers that have sustainable practices in place. They may also work with their suppliers to help them improve their environmental and social performance. In addition, the company may seek to minimise the waste and pollution generated by their supply chain. By considering the triple bottom line, companies can create a more sustainable and responsible supply chain.

Who uses the triple bottom line (3BL)?

The 3BL is used by businesses, organizations and governments that are interested in measuring and managing their impact on the economy, society and environment. It is a framework that can be used to assess an organization’s performance in all three areas. Typically, the 3BL is used by organizations that have a commitment to sustainable development.

The UN SDG’s are an excellent example of how the 3BL is being used to guide and assess progress towards sustainable development. The SDGs are a set of 17 goals that were adopted by all UN member states in 2015. The goals cover a range of topics including poverty, hunger, health, education, gender equality, water, sanitation, energy, climate change and economic growth. Each goal has specific targets that need to be met by 2030. The SDGs provide a framework for countries to track their progress and identify areas where they need to improve.

What is the difference between the triple bottom line and the double bottom line?

The difference between the triple bottom line and the double bottom line is that the triple bottom line includes environmental and social impact alongside financial performance. The double bottom line only looks at financial performance and profitability.

How does the triple bottom line process work?

The TBL process involves setting targets for financial, social and environmental performance. Once the targets have been set, organizations need to develop strategies to achieve them. This may involve changes to business operations, supply chain management or product design. Progress towards the targets is monitored and reported on a regular basis.

Since organizations have long used financial indicators to measure their success, it is just a matter of expanding this to include social and environmental indicators. For example, an organization may track its carbon emissions, water usage or waste generation as well as its financial performance.

What is a double BL in the nonprofit sector?

A double BL in the non-profit sector is an organization that has a commitment to both financial and social impact. This type of organization would seek to create value for all stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers and the community.

It is a way for organizations to demonstrate how their actions support environmental protection and social considerations

What is meant by environmental performance?

Environmental performance refers to an organization’s practices that measure their impact on nature. It is a way for organizations to demonstrate how their actions support the triple bottom line and environmental protection by having good environmental management. Environmental performance can be defined as an organization using their resources to achieve environmental protection and meet societal needs. This would include things like conserving energy and water, preventing pollution and reducing their collective carbon footprint.

What is meant by social performance?

Social performance refers to an organization’s practices that measure their impact on society. It is a way for organizations to demonstrate how their actions support the triple bottom line and social responsibility by having good social management. Social performance can be defined as an organization using their resources to achieve social responsibility and meet societal needs. This would include things like providing fair wages and benefits, supporting diversity and inclusion, and giving back to the community.

What is meant by financial performance?

Financial performance refers to an organization’s practices that measure their impact on the economy. It is a way for organizations to demonstrate how their actions support the triple bottom line and economic growth by having good financial management. Financial performance can be defined as an organization using their resources to achieve economic growth and meet societal needs. This would include things like generating revenue, creating jobs, and paying taxes.

How does TBL contribute to sustainability?

The 3BL contributes to sustainability in a number of ways and can be used to demonstrate to stakeholders that an organization is sustainable.

  • First, It proves that they do not just meet their financial targets but have a positive impact on society and/or the environment in addition to being financially sustainable.
  • Second, organizations can use TBL reporting to quantify their performance against other organizations across many industries and use this as a benchmarking tool.
  • Third, it provides transparency and enables stakeholders to make informed decisions about organizations’ activities and how they can best support them.

What is meant by sustainable development?

The term ‘sustainable development’ was first coined in the Brundtland Report in 1987 and has become widely used ever since. It is, by definition, development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Therefore, sustainable development must take into account social, economic and environmental factors. It is not just about environmental protection, but also about meeting the needs of people in a way that does not damage the planet.

Why does an organization need to be sustainable?

Now with invasion of Ukraine and the hastening divestment from Soviet oil, Europe is looking for alternatives to everything that Russia supplies. This includes food (wheat), minerals and of course, gas. Smart companies who want to do business will move fast to detail that their supply chain is clean of conflict, slave labor and other unsavory origins of product.

The days of “we only sell to the bottom line” are over. A sustainable company is one that meets the needs of all their stakeholders: customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, the community and the environment. Sustainability is about being profitable AND doing good.

Why is it important for leadership to lead the behaviors of change?

Leadership plays a crucial role in implementing new strategies, practices and processes within an organization. It is often referred to as Tone-at-the-Top. By setting the tone from the top, leaders send signals about what kinds of behaviors are acceptable or desired. By demonstrating the types of behavior that they expect their employees, leaders are modeling desired TBL behaviors.

Where to start with TBL initiatives

At first glance, this all might seem to be a bit overwhelming. But like everything, it is a process. Typically a company will start with some small TBL initiatives and then gradually increase their scope and ambition over time. Here are a few examples of things that companies can do to get started:

1. Conduct a baseline assessment of their current TBL performance

2. Set goals and KPIs for improvement in each area (financial, social, environmental)

3. Identify opportunities for improvement and implementation

4. Communicate their TBL performance to stakeholders

5. Monitor and report on progress over time

If you attack one “P” at a time, you might start with:


  • Conduct a survey to gauge employee satisfaction
  • Implement a new training program
  • Start a mentorship program
  • Encourage employees to volunteer in the community


  • Conduct an energy audit
  • Track water usage
  • Implement a recycling program
  • Join a carbon offsets program


  • Set goals for financial performance
  • Implement cost-saving measures
  • Identify new revenue streams

How do you comply with the triple bottom line?

Compliance with 3BL regulations can be a challenge for some organizations. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Understand the requirements of the regulations

2. Conduct a risk assessment to identify areas of non-compliance

3. Implement controls to mitigate risks and ensure compliance

4. Monitor compliance on an ongoing basis

5. Communicate compliance status to stakeholders

Remember, it is about transparency and accountability. You do not need to get it all right the first time, but to improve it over time. While compliance with 3BL regulations can be challenging, it is possible to overcome these challenges by taking a proactive approach. With the right planning and execution, your organization can not only meet compliance requirements but also improve its overall performance.

Every organization can benefit from increased efficiency and profitability. Think of it as an opportunity.

How does triple bottom line improve performance?

By incorporating a triple bottom line into their business practices, an organization can benefit from increased efficiency and profitability. Organizations who have sustainable practices have been shown to have lower turnover, lower absenteeism and higher productivity compared to organizations which do not focus on sustainability. In addition, when employees are engaged with the work that they are doing, there is a positive impact on the bottom line. Studies have shown that there is a strong link between organizational performance and employee engagement. By implementing TBL practices, organizations are more likely to see an increase in individual, team and organizational performance.

Challenges of leading organizational change with TBL

Organizations who are looking to implement TBL practices need to ensure that they have the support of their senior-level leadership. It can be challenging for senior executives to develop a new perspective on business priorities when they may have spent years working toward different goals. In addition, as people from all walks of life become more interested in implementing sustainable practices, there is a growing need for skilled professionals who can navigate these new processes.

What is the global reporting initiative to TBL?

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is an organization that produces sustainability reporting guidelines for businesses, governments and other organizations. The GRI focuses on the triple bottom line by encouraging organizations to work toward sustainable practices in their business decisions.

In conclusion on the TBL…

It used to be that net income, revenue and expense accounts were the most important pieces of information to understand when analyzing a company’s financial health. Net income is the key number to watch as it tells us how much money the company has made after subtracting all of its expenses. But today, that is just one indicator of a companies health. The income statement shows us this information in more detail, breaking down net income into different categories like sales, operating expenses and taxes. Of course, these are all extremely important, but consumers, investors and stakeholders are looking at a companies transparency when it comes to being sustainable.

Not long ago, investors go directly to net earnings, which is simply net income divided by the number of shares outstanding, and gives a sense of how much money each share of the company is earning. But as we move to a circular economy, environmental, social and governance metrics will be even more important. By keeping an eye on these key metrics, investors can get a better understanding of a company’s position on transparency and whether or not it will survive. And one way to ensure you future in the new economy is through your ESG report.

One of the most important aspects of writing an ESG or triple bottom line report, is ensuring that the bottom line results meaning is clear and concise. Transparency is the cornerstone of proving sustainability. In other words, it is important to make sure that the reader of your report understands what impact the organization’s social and environmental initiatives have had on its overall financial performance. Increasing the bottom line meaning can be a powerful way to demonstrate the value of social enterprise triple bottom line reporting.

Author Bio

Research & Curation

Dean Emerick is a curator on sustainability issues with ESG The Report, an online resource for SME’s and Investment professionals focusing on ESG principles. Their primary goal is to help middle market companies automate Impact Reporting with ESG Software. Leveraging the power of AI, machine learning and AWS to transition to a sustainable business model. Serving clients in the United States, Canada, Uk, Europe and the global community. If you want to get started, don’t forget to Get the Checklist! ✅