By Bronagh Loughlin
Sustainability has often been a mentioned goal of businesses, governments and non-profit organisations in the past decade, however, measuring the degree to which an organisation is being sustainable can be challenging.
Generally speaking, while businesses do focus heavily on elements such as customer satisfaction and quality, profit is also an incredibly important part of business as it is what enables the business to continue going and not shut down.
While caring and focusing on profits is entirely understandable, businesses can play a massive role in achieving our pledge to become carbon neutral by 2050. One way they can do this is by adopting the triple bottom line theory.
This does not mean you should stop caring about profits, this would be a ridiculous ask since they are the livelihood of the business, rather the triple bottom line theory refers to the belief that companies need to focus on other important factors to the same degree that they direct their attention toward profits.
The triple bottom line believes that companies should commit to focusing as much on social and environmental concerns as they do on profits. This theory posits that rather than one bottom line, there should be three. Those being: profit, people and the planet.
The Triple Bottom Line is one of the main systems being used by businesses to assess the profits they are making through their corporate sustainability solutions. The method asks you to see beyond the traditional bottom line of business to the profits that your business makes socially, environmentally, and economically.
The ‘people’ component of the triple bottom line theory considers employees, the labour involved in the corporation’s work and the wider community where a corporation does business.
Another way to look at people is, how much the company really benefits a society. A triple bottom line company will take steps to ensure humane working conditions at supplier factories and pay their employee’s fair wage. Triple bottom line companies make efforts to give back to their communities.
The planet piece of the triple bottom line indicates that an organisation is trying to reduce their ecological footprint as much as they possibly can. These efforts can include investing in clean energy, managing natural resources more efficiently, reducing waste and improving logistics.
A great example of a company considering the planet is Apple. They have invested heavily in environmental sustainability and their US data centres are LEED certified. In 2016, they announced that 93 percent of their energy comes from renewables.
These actions have encouraged other tech giants toward using more renewable energy sources to power their facilities. Apple will also lead as an example for smaller companies. Whilst all businesses pursue for financial profitability, triple bottom line businesses see it as just one part of the business plan.
Sustainable businesses also realise that profit is not diametrically opposed to the planet or people. A good example is the Swedish furniture giant, IKEA who reported sales of $37.6 billion in 2016. The exact same year, they turned a profit by recycling waste into some of its best-selling products.
Previously, this waste had cost the company over $1 million each year. The company is
well on its way now to zero waste to landfill across the globe and according to theirhead of sustainability in the UK, they are not just doing this because they want to help the planet but because it is cost effective also.
There are a number of reasons to apply the triple bottom line method to your business that will enable you to flourish and help the world in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
It is essential that we act now and there is an excellent opportunity here for businesses to take the lead in driving the sustainable transition. You can easily become a leader in sustainability in your sector and help in the fight against climate change by simply considering three things; people, planet and profit.
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