If you mention the term “bottom line” to anyone who has some business experience, the first thing that will pop in his or her mind is going to be “profits”. That’s probably reasonable because the whole reason anyone starts a business is because they want to make some money. However, in recent decades, a new kind of bottom line has emerged, and it has redefined the way we look at businesses. The new bottom line is called the Triple Bottom Line (TBL). Instead of only considering the net profit that a company makes, the TBL approach also considers the effects that the company has on the environment and the contributions that it makes to the community.

Triple Bottom Line has 3 components or pillars, which are commonly referred to as “The 3 Ps of TBL”. These pillars are; Planet (meaning the ecology or the environment), People (meaning the community around the business, or society in general) and Profit (meaning of course, the revenue generated by the business). To understand how the TBL approach works, lets take a look at each of its 3 pillars.

The “Planet” component of TBL deals with everything that’s related to how business affects the environment. For example, if you run a factory, you need to consider the amount of carbon emissions that come from your factory, the impact that you make on the environment when you source your raw materials, the water and electricity that you need to run your factory, how you treat and dispose of the waste from your factory, the emissions from the vehicle you use to transport your products, and whether your packaging material is recyclable. You need to analyse all your activities in order to get a full picture of your companys environmental impact.

You can limit your companys environmental impact by taking steps to be more sustainable. But, what does the term sustainable really mean? Sustainability doesnt mean meeting the bare minimum environmental regulatory guidelines, placing recycling bins around the office, or replacing your old bulbs with energy saving bulbs sure these things are important, but they are just a tiny part of sustainability. Real sustainability is about reviewing everything starting with the processes, equipment, and materials that you use in your business, and asking yourself, Is there anything we can do differently so as to lessen or to reverse our negative environmental impact? If theres something that can be done, dont hesitate to take action.

The People component of TBL deals with how the activities of a company affect the lives of all the people that interact with it in one way or another. The people affected by your company include your staff, your stakeholders, the community that neighbours your business, and the customers who use your products or services. You have to consider how your company treats its employees. Are they paid fair wages? Do you provide equal opportunity employment? Do you guarantee safe and decent working conditions? Do you give your staff a reasonable medical and retirement plan? You can’t be a triple bottom line company if you underpay your employees, use child labour, or allow your workers to do their jobs under dangerous conditions.

You should also think about your contribution to the community. Do you support any community programs? TBL companies need to give back to the community in one way or another. Part of the mission of any business should be to have a positive impact on society, and one way of accomplishing that mission is by supporting the community. There is evidence that shows that companies that live up to the promises in their mission statements tend to be more successful.

The Profit component of TBL may seem straightforward, but its the most difficult of the 3 to comprehend because it requires a shift in the way that most business leaders are trained to think. Profitability shouldnt be at the expense of the environment or the community. Instead of excessively exploiting people and the planet in order to maximize profits, companies should work towards sustainability. If your business is more sustainable, you will be rewarded by customers who value the environment and those who are grateful for your contributions to their communities. Thanks to your companys new-found good reputation, your employees will find their jobs more meaningful, and this will increase their productivity.