ICONS INTERNATIONAL HAS EMBRACED TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE!
Triple bottom line (or otherwise noted as TBL or 3BL) is an accounting framework with three parts: social, environmental (or ecological) and financial. Many organizations have adopted the TBL framework to evaluate their performance in a broader perspective to create greater business value. The term was coined by John Elkington in 1994.
In traditional business accounting and common usage, the “bottom line” refers to either the “profit” or “loss”, which is usually recorded at the very bottom line on a statement of revenue and expenses. Over the last 50 years, environmentalists and social justice advocates have struggled to bring a broader definition of bottom line into public consciousness by introducing full cost accounting. For example, if a corporation shows a monetary profit, but their asbestos mine causes thousands of deaths from asbestosis, and their copper mine pollutes a river, and the government ends up spending taxpayer money on health care and river clean-up, how do we perform a full societal cost benefit analysis? The triple bottom line adds two more “bottom lines”: social and environmental (ecological) concerns. With the ratification of the United Nations and ICLEI TBL standard for urban and community accounting in early 2007, this became the dominant approach to public sector full cost accounting. Similar UN standards apply to natural capital and human capital measurement to assist in measurements required by TBL, e.g. the EcoBudget standard for reporting ecological footprint. The TBL seems to be fairly widespread in South African media, as found in a 1990–2008 study of worldwide national newspapers.
An example of an organization seeking a triple bottom line would be a social enterprise run as a non-profit, but earning income by offering opportunities for handicapped people who have been labelled “unemployable”, to earn a living by recycling. The organization earns a profit, which is controlled by a volunteer Board, and ploughed back into the community. The social benefit is the meaningful employment of disadvantaged citizens, and the reduction in the society’s welfare or disability costs. The environmental benefit comes from the recycling accomplished. In the private sector, a commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) implies a commitment to transparent reporting about the business’ material impact for good on the environment and people. Triple bottom line is one framework for reporting this material impact. This is distinct from the more limited changes required to deal only with ecological issues. The triple bottom line has also been extended to encompass four pillars, known as the quadruple bottom line (QBL). The fourth pillar denotes a future-oriented approach (future generations, intergenerational equity, etc.). It is a long-term outlook that sets sustainable development and sustainability concerns apart from previous social, environmental, and economic considerations.
The challenges of putting the TBL into practice relate to the measurement of social and ecological categories. Despite this, the TBL framework enables organizations to take a longer-term perspective and thus evaluate the future consequences of decisions.