Incorporating Sustainability into Business

The term “Triple bottom line” (abbreviated as TBL or 3BL) incorporates the notion of sustainability into business decisions, coined by John Elkington in 1994.

TBL is an accounting framework with three dimensions: social, environmental (or ecological) and financial. The TBL dimensions are also commonly called the three Ps: People, Planet and Profit and are referred to as the "three pillars of sustainability."

Triple bottom line

Interest in TBL accounting has been growing in both for-profit, nonprofit and government sectors. Many organizations have adopted the TBL framework to evaluate their performance in a broader context.

Businesses play a critical role in the care of our planet’s resources and, as such, can take the lead to reduce their carbon footprint in day to day operations. But how?

  • Commit to conducting an internal environmental audit. This audit will look at energy and water consumption, materials used, solid waste flow, green purchasing program or policy, landscaping and more.
  • Record at least one year’s worth of utility consumption and behavioral data.
  • Next, commit to implementing one or more measures to reduce the carbon footprint and decrease utility consumption levels. For example:
    • Reduce energy consumption by improving lighting, installing motion detectors, turning computers off at the end of the day.
    • Create a recycling program or increase existing recycling program.
    • Install low-flow water features, such as faucets and toilets.
    • Reduce paper consumption through two-sided printing and sharing of catalogs and magazines.
    • Purchase “green” certified office products.
    • Install drought-tolerant plants throughout landscaping.
    • Encourage ride-sharing, carpooling and bicycling.
    • Collect rainwater for landscape irrigation.
    • Establish a “green” team at the office.
  • Get corporate buy-in with a “green” policy supported by upper management.
  • Announce your new program and work to promote it.