There has been no shortage of fascination with the 2016 presidential election cycle for a wide variety of strange reasons. In November, Hilary Clinton, who has come under scrutiny for how she handled classified governmental information, will face off against Donald Trump, who has been the target of fierce criticism for his oftentimes erratic campaign approach, in what will be the most unusual presidential election ever to take place on American soil. In regard to doing business and making money, there is no denying the perceived ‘accomplishments’ that both Clinton and Trump have had, but there may be another candidate, who is no longer in the race, that has a better understanding of what true business success should look like.
Although Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders ended his presidential bid in July, it was his innovative policy approach that stirred excitement in millions of citizens unlike any other candidate in the race. Due to a number of disheartening global problems, and an urgent need to solve them, we can use a number of Sanders’ main talking points as inspiration for improving the way that we do business. Instead of focusing solely on bottom line profits, the time is now that we collectively shift towards the more comprehensive triple bottom line approach.
What is the Triple Bottom Line?:
It was in 1994 when renowned British author and entrepreneur John Elkington coined the term ‘The Triple Bottom Line’ in hopes of positively transforming the traditional way of doing business. Up until this point in time, the vast majority of individuals and corporations were primarily concerned with ‘The Bottom Line,’ or increasing their revenues as high as possible, regardless of the measures that it took to do so. Amid growing advocacy and evidence about world poverty, financial inequality, global warming, and the toll businesses were taking on the environment, Elkington determined that the best way to do business was to be concerned with more than net income numbers. Instead of solely focusing on profits, he told us that businesses should similarly focus on the positive social and environmental impact that they could create.
By using the triple bottom line to focus on profits, people, and the environment, companies can offer employees and consumers much greater business value.
While it may be easy to presume that using the triple bottom line goes against the most basic premise of doing business, the truth is that financial prosperity and monetary gains alone aren’t sufficient at determining true success. Yes, profits are important, but are they still important if they undermine global citizens or deplete the planet’s resources? By approaching business with moral consciousness and appropriate corporate values, the triple bottom line has the power to make capitalism impactful at numerous levels. In addition to the belief that businesses should aim to positively impact societies and the environment, here are a number of other common ways of thinking that are shared by proponents of the triple bottom line:
- Happiness and personal wellbeing are more important than financial wealth.
- The greater global community is interconnected and dependent upon each other.
- The large scale social and environmental issues that we are currently facing are immense and need to be worked towards solving immediately.
- Compassion and generosity are necessary to solve the world’s most pressing problems.
- Each of us has a moral responsibility to take care of one another.
The Importance of Social & Environmental Aims:
While Bernie Sanders wasn’t able to secure the bid for the Democratic nomination, primarily because his ideas were too exotic for traditional voters, he unquestionably was the candidate to create the most excitement on the election trail. Sanders’ unique policy approach was seen as a breath of fresh air by millions of Americans because it was built on ideals such as equality and innovation. One of the Vermont Senator primarily goals throughout his campaign was to raise awareness about the undeniable social and environmental problems that need to be prioritized and solved quickly.
In regard to social issues, Sanders was especially quick to point out problems with wealth distribution and financial equality in the United States and around the world. Poverty statistics tell us that nearly half of the world’s population, close to 3 billion people, live on less than $2.50 per day, and that in the United States, over 43 million people, or 13.5% of the population, lives below the poverty line. Numbers like these point to the bleak reality of the world we live in, where only a select few have the opportunity to truly succeed and the vast majority of people don’t even have access to basic life necessities. “Today, the top one-tenth of 1% owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90%. The economic game is rigged, and this level of inequality is unsustainable. We need an economy that works for all, not just the powerful,” Sanders told us.
The charismatic Vermont Senator was equally impassioned by the environmental realities that our world is currently facing. He told us, “Scientists now tell us that the crisis of global warming is even worse than their earlier projections. Daily front-page headlines of environmental disasters give an inkling of what we can expect in the future, multiplied many times over: droughts, floods, severe weather disturbances, loss of drinking water and farmland and conflicts over declining natural resources.” As Sanders points out, there is now little denying the issue of global warming and unless companies take the initiative to find sustainable business solutions, we will continue to witness the affects of more environmental disasters. For example, it is estimated that by the year 2050, 15% to 37% of our plant and animal species could be extinct.
Moving Towards the Triple Bottom Line:
Thanks largely to an increase in accessible information, social advocacy, and the work of leaders like Bernie Sanders, there has been a major economic shift towards using the triple bottom line as the basis for measuring business success. We can look at a number of notable initiatives that show how businesses and individuals are valuing people and the environment more than ever.
It was in 2010 when Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, two of the world’s wealthiest individuals, organized a campaign called The Giving Pledge and began recruiting billionaires around the globe to join them in making the commitment to eventually give the majority of their net worth to philanthropy. To date, the Giving Pledge has received commitments from 139 individuals who will pledge a total of $365 billion. In addition to this monumental movement, a number of other important signals point to a global shift towards the triple bottom line. New business formations such as social enterprises, B corporations, and benefit corporations have all grown tremendously in popularity because they are structured to allow businesses to focus on not only business success, but also social impact. Furthermore, the shift towards the triple bottom line becomes more apparent when considering how many of the world’s largest corporations have taken on the idea of corporate social responsibility and begun pursing their own philanthropic interests.
Acting as Individuals to Collectively Change the World:
By acting as individuals who share the common goal of making the triple bottom line the standard measurement of business success, we have the ability to collectively change the world. While none of us alone has the power to transform the standards that businesses follow, each of has the ability to initiate change on a smaller scale. If you own a small business, for example, you may want to explore and implement a variety of impactful operating solutions. If you work as an employee in a small business or large corporation, you may want to talk to upper management about potential changes that the company could make to positively impact social and environmental issues. Beyond these steps, each of us can also change our individual behavioral patterns in a way that furthers the global shift towards the triple bottom line:
Become a conscious consumer: Instead of just blindly choosing products based upon a company’s marketing pitch, you should spend the time to research and find businesses that will use a portion of your proceeds for social and environmental purposes. Now-a-days, nearly every industry has companies that are using the triple bottom line to measure their success, so it is vital for us to reward them for their efforts to positively impact the world.
Raise awareness about the concept and issues: If you truly want to help shift the global economy further towards the triple bottom line, it will be imperative that you begin raising awareness about the global issues that we are facing, while also advocating for your family and friends to become more conscious with their consuming. Potentially even more important is that we begin educating younger generations about the importance of using the triple bottom line to solve global issues.
Reduce your carbon footprint and give to those in need: There are a number of useful tools that you can use to help solve the world’s biggest environmental and social problems. Environmentally speaking, you may want to first use a carbon footprint calculator to determine how your behaviors are affecting the environment and then make a donation that acts as an offset to the footprint that you have created. Socially speaking, there are a variety of exceptional charities that you can donate money to, or you may want to start volunteering as a way to positively impact the people of your communities.
It should now be clear too see how the world is at a social and environmental breaking point. Unless individuals, small businesses, and large corporations commit themselves to acting upon this truth, millions of people and animals will continue to feel the consequences. As individuals, it is vital for each of us to begin making beneficial behavioral changes in hopes of collectively changing the world. We all must agree that now is the time that businesses move towards the triple bottom line.