Three Ps: People, Planet, Profit
The concept of the three Ps or triple bottom line recognizes that businesses need to operate in a way that is not only financially sustainable (profit), but also socially responsible (people) and environmentally friendly (planet).
If you’ve ever found yourself in a position wondering how or where to start working towards enmeshing sustainability into your business philosophy, then this blog on the three Ps is exactly where you should be.
In this blog, we delve into topics such as corporate social responsibility, sustainable business practices, and the role of businesses in addressing societal and environmental challenges. We aim to provide insights, analysis, and thought-provoking discussions on how businesses can integrate these values into their operations to create a better future for all.
Table of contents:
- What are the Three Ps of sustainability?
- The Three Ps Explained
- Why Is the Triple Bottom Line Important?
- How to reach the three Ps?
- Triple Bottom Line examples: Companies that use the 3 Ps model?
What are the Three Ps of sustainability?
The term “People, Planet, Profit” refers to the idea that businesses should focus on financial profits and consider their social and environmental impact. This approach, also known as the “triple bottom line” recognizes that companies have a responsibility to the world around them and that their financial bottom line does not just measure their success.
The three Ps: people, planet, profit or the triple bottom line is a framework for measuring an organization’s success that takes into account three interconnected aspects: social, environmental, and economic.
- “People” refers to the organization’s impact on society and its stakeholders, including employees, customers, and local communities.
- “Planet” refers to the organization’s impact on the environment and its sustainability.
- “Profit” refers to the organization’s financial performance and its ability to generate revenue and profits.
The triple bottom line recognizes that a successful organization must balance the needs of people, the planet, and profit in a sustainable and responsible way. The framework is commonly used in sustainability reporting and corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Triple Bottom Line
John Elkington introduced the triple bottom line (TBL) concept in 1994 to shift the business system from a financial accounting focus to a more comprehensive approach that evaluates impact and success. As a result of the triple bottom line theory and application, some businesses began to recognize the connection between social well-being, environmental health, and an organization’s financial success and resilience, rather than just generating profit. To understand the impact of their operations, organizations must account for all business costs beyond compliance.
The general goal of a sustainable business strategy is to positively impact the environment, society, or both while benefiting shareholders. Business leaders are increasingly realizing the power of sustainable business strategies in not only addressing the world’s most pressing challenges but driving their firms’ success. However, defining what sustainability means, solidifying clear and attainable goals, and formulating a strategy to achieve those goals can be daunting.
The triple bottom line is a business concept that posits firms should commit to measuring their social and environmental impact—in addition to their financial performance—rather than solely focusing on generating profit, or the standard “bottom line.” It can be broken down into “three Ps”: profit, people, and the planet.
The Three Ps Explained
The profit component of the TBL recognizes that businesses must generate profits to remain viable and competitive. However, companies must not prioritize profit at the expense of social and environmental considerations. Instead, businesses must strive to achieve long-term profitability. This can be done by balancing the needs of their stakeholders and minimizing negative impacts on society and the environment.
Today, purpose-driven leaders are discovering they have the power to use their businesses to effect positive change in the world without hampering financial performance. In many cases, adopting sustainability initiatives has proven to drive business success.
The second component of the triple bottom line highlights a business’s societal impact or its commitment to people.
The people component of the TBL recognizes that businesses have a responsibility to their employees, customers, and communities. Companies must strive to create a positive impact on society, promote social equity, and contribute to the well-being of the communities they serve. This includes creating fair and safe working conditions, providing adequate wages and benefits, supporting local economic development, and engaging in philanthropic activities that benefit the community.
Some simple ways companies can serve society include ensuring fair hiring practices and encouraging volunteerism in the workplace. They can also look externally to effect change on a larger scale. For instance, many organizations have formed successful strategic partnerships with nonprofit organizations that share a common purpose-driven goal. The health and safety of employees are critical to ensure that they can work in a safe and healthy environment. Businesses must ensure that they pay their employees fairly and provide them with opportunities for training and career development.
Consumers are increasingly choosing products and services based on the social and ethical impact of the companies behind them. By adopting sustainable and socially responsible practices, companies can attract and retain customers, build brand loyalty, and gain a competitive advantage.
The final component of the triple bottom line is concerned with making a positive impact on the planet.
Since the birth of the Industrial Revolution, large corporations have contributed a staggering amount of pollution to the environment, which has been a key driver of climate change.
A recent report by the Carbon Majors Database found that 100 companies in the energy sector are responsible for roughly 71 per cent of all industrial emissions.
The planet component of the TBL acknowledges that businesses must operate in a way that protects the environment and promotes sustainability. Companies must take steps to minimize their impact on the environment, conserve natural resources, and reduce waste and pollution. This includes adopting eco-friendly practices, such as reducing carbon emissions, conserving water and energy, and implementing sustainable sourcing and production methods.
While businesses have historically been the greatest contributors to climate change, they also hold the keys to driving positive change. Many business leaders are now recognizing their responsibility to do so. This effort isn’t solely on the shoulders of the world’s largest corporations—virtually all businesses have opportunities to make changes that reduce their carbon footprint. Adjustments like using ethically sourced materials, cutting down on energy consumption, and streamlining shipping practices are steps in the right direction. Reducing the amount of waste generated can also help reduce the environmental impact. A circular economy is an economic system that focuses on minimizing waste and reusing resources. Companies can adopt circular practices such as product redesign, recycling, and remanufacturing to reduce waste and minimize their impact on the environment.
Why Is the Triple Bottom Line Important?
One of the key advantages of the TBL framework is that it provides a more comprehensive approach to measuring organizational performance. Traditional financial accounting methods tend to focus exclusively on short-term financial performance, which can lead to a narrow focus on profit maximization at the expense of social and environmental considerations. By contrast, the TBL approach recognizes that companies must create value for all stakeholders, including employees, customers, investors, and society as a whole.
The TBL approach has been embraced by many organizations worldwide, from small businesses to multinational corporations. For example, Patagonia, a U.S.-based outdoor apparel company, has adopted a TBL approach and strives to minimize its impact on the environment while promoting social and economic sustainability. Patagonia has implemented a range of eco-friendly practices, such as using sustainable materials in its products, reducing waste and water usage, and investing in renewable energy sources. The company has also supported a range of social and environmental causes, such as environmental conservation, fair labour practices, and public advocacy.
Similarly, the Dutch multinational corporation, Unilever, has embraced a TBL approach and has set ambitious sustainability targets for its operations. The company aims to reduce its environmental footprint and increase its positive social impact while continuing to generate profits. Unilever has implemented a range of sustainable practices. They have adopted practices like sourcing raw materials sustainably, reducing carbon emissions, and promoting gender equity and human rights.
How to reach the three Ps and achieve the triple bottom line?
Achieving the three Ps of sustainability (people, planet, profit) requires a holistic approach. It involves integrating sustainable practices into all aspects of business operations.
Here are some key steps that individuals and organizations can take to work towards a more sustainable future:
Ensure social equity and fair treatment of all individuals involved in your operations. This includes employees, customers, suppliers, and the wider community. Some actions that can be taken to achieve this include:
- Developing fair and inclusive employment practices and ensuring equal opportunities for all employees
- Ensuring the health and safety of workers and promoting work-life balance
- Building strong relationships with suppliers and promoting fair trade practices
- Engaging with and supporting the local community through volunteering, donations, and other initiatives
Reduce your environmental impact and promote the responsible use of resources. This includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving water and energy, minimizing waste, and protecting biodiversity. Some actions that can be taken to achieve this include:
- Implementing energy-efficient practices and investing in renewable energy sources
- Reducing waste through recycling, composting, and waste reduction initiatives
- Sourcing raw materials responsibly and reducing the carbon footprint of supply chains
- Protecting and restoring natural ecosystems and biodiversity
Ensure financial viability and long-term sustainability through responsible financial practices. This includes maximizing profits while minimizing negative impacts on people and the planet. Some actions that can be taken to achieve this include:
- Adopting a long-term perspective and focusing on sustainable growth
- Encouraging responsible consumption and production among customers
- Investing in sustainable technologies and processes to reduce costs and increase efficiency
- Reporting transparently on social, environmental, and financial performance and holding oneself accountable for progress
Ultimately, achieving a triple bottom line requires a commitment to balancing economic, social, and environmental considerations in decision-making. Furthermore, a company should aim at prioritizing sustainability and responsibility as key values of the organization.
In conclusion, the triple bottom line is an essential framework for businesses looking to operate in a sustainable and socially responsible manner. By considering the impact of their operations using the three Ps model, companies can ensure that they operate in a way that benefits the environment and society while also remaining financially viable. Adopting sustainable practices can help businesses reduce their impact on the environment, and attract and retain customers. Hence gain a competitive advantage. By committing to the triple bottom line, businesses can play a crucial role in creating a more sustainable and equitable future.
Triple Bottom Line examples: Companies that use the 3 Ps model?
Many companies around the world use the triple bottom line (TBL) approach, which focuses on people, planet, and profit. This model helps to evaluate their social, environmental, and financial performance. Here are a few examples of companies that have adopted TBL principles:
A clothing company that prioritizes sustainability and ethical practices in its operations. Patagonia has been a pioneer in sustainable business practices. Patagonia approaches sustainability by using organic cotton, reducing waste and carbon emissions, and investing in renewable energy.
- Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles: https://www.patagonia.com/footprint.html
- Patagonia’s Corporate Responsibility page: https://www.patagonia.com/corporate-responsibility.html
A global consumer goods company that has committed to achieving sustainability across its operations. Unilever focuses on sourcing sustainable raw materials, reducing waste, and promoting sustainable living through its products.
- Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan: https://www.unilever.com/sustainable-living/
- Unilever’s 2020 Sustainable Living Report: https://www.unilever.com/Images/unilever-sustainable-living-report-2020_tcm244-562596_en.pdf
- Unilever’s Corporate Responsibility page: https://www.unilever.com/sustainable-living/responsible-business/
A flooring company that has made sustainability a core part of its business strategy. From reducing its carbon footprint, and using recycled materials to creating closed-loop production systems to minimize waste.
- Interface’s 2021 ESG Report: https://investors.interface.com/corporate-responsibility-esg/
- Interface’s Environmental Product Declarations: https://www.interface.com/US/en-US/sustainability/environmental-product-declarations
- Interface’s Mission Zero page: https://www.interface.com/US/en-US/sustainability/mission-zero
Ben & Jerry’s
An ice cream company that is committed to social and environmental responsibility. Additionally, it sources fair trade and non-GMO ingredients, reducing its carbon footprint, and supporting social justice initiatives.
- Ben & Jerry’s Social & Environmental Assessment Report 2019: https://www.benjerry.com/whats-new/2019/11/social-environmental-assessment-report
- Ben & Jerry’s Climate Justice page: https://www.benjerry.com/values/issues-we-care-about/climate-justice
- Ben & Jerry’s Social Mission page: https://www.benjerry.com/values/social-mission
A sustainable bank that uses its financial resources to support social and environmental initiatives, including funding renewable energy projects, organic farming, and fair trade businesses.
- Triodos Bank’s Annual Report 2020: https://www.triodos.com/downloads/about-triodos-bank/financial-results/annual-reports/2020/triodos-bank-annual-report-2020.pdf
- Triodos Bank’s Sustainable & Impact Investing page: https://www.triodos.com/investment-management/sustainable-and-impact-investing/
- Triodos Bank’s Mission, Vision & Values page: https://www.triodos.com/about-triodos-bank/who-we-are/mission-vision-values/
These are just a few examples of companies that have embraced the triple-bottom-line approach to business. There are many more companies across industries using TBL to create a more sustainable and equitable future.
What are the three pillars of sustainability?
The three pillars of sustainability are the social, environmental, and economic aspects of sustainable development that need to be balanced to achieve long-term sustainability.
What are the 3Ps of sustainability?
The 3Ps of sustainability are People, Planet, and Profit. They represent the three interconnected dimensions that need to be considered in sustainable development, including social equity, environmental stewardship, and economic viability.
Who created the Triple Bottom Line (the three P’s: People, Planet, Profit)?
The Triple Bottom Line framework, which includes the three P’s of sustainability, was created by John Elkington in 1994 to measure a company’s performance in terms of social, environmental, and economic impact.