People. Planet. Profits. We all understand the last item. But socially-conscious entrepreneurs, like Mike Paunovich of LocalBizBlogs.com, give equal consideration to the environmental and human impact of their enterprises. This is triple bottom line (TBL) reporting.
The term Triple Bottom Line reporting was coined in 1994 by John Elkington of SustainAbility, a strategic consulting firm. In 1995, SustainAbility developed the "3P" phrase - people, planet, profits. Industrial giant Dow Chemical first adopted sustainability reporting in 1999, and their Global Public Report 2003 including Dow's statement of their commitment to the triple bottom line is a touchstone for anyone studying or reporting on triple bottom line reporting and the concept of corporate social responsibility.
Triple bottom line reporting is a framework for socially responsible companies to measure and report on their impacts on society as a whole, beyond the profit line.
Paunovich says that while it's easy to quantify the "profit" line, it's much harder to do so with the environmental and social impacts of a business. No standardized practices exist for quantifying these additional bottom lines, allowing for a lot of subjectivity among organizations that claim TBL adherence. But at the same time, this presents an opportunity for social entrepreneurs to band together to find a solution for TBL reporting best accepted practices.
For those easing their way into triple bottom line reporting, check out the the Bay Area Family of Funds, which focuses on "double bottom line" investing.