The term ‘triple bottom line’ *is a phrase bantered around in business circles. It reflects building social and business organizations on 3 “bottom lines”…profits, people and the environment. It's a terrific idea for building a sustainable economy but we need a Full Spectrum Economy if 3BL is going to become a global way of building our social and business organizations.
Translating the triple bottom line from concept to action is the challenge that is before us. There are success stories than can be highlighted in specific organizations and even a few countries like Denmark. As Riane Eisler has shown in her book, “Real Wealth of Nations...creating a caring economics”—it does pay to care and companies that engage in 3BL outperform their counterparts.
But isolated success stories are not what we need now---3BL needs to become the global system instead of the exception to the rule. The current consumer, market-driven economy has elevated “profits” way above people and the planet. Business leaders often agree on a personal level with 3BL, but explaining their business decisions to stock holders who perceive 3BL as interrupting the profit flow and thus, the rise in their stock value is much more difficult.
That’s why we need to create a Full Spectrum Economy. It offers the support structure necessary to enable the 3BL to become the norm for social and business systems.
The current 3 sector economy of markets, government and illegal economies (the only ones measured through the GDP and GNP) puts such enormous pressure on the markets to make profits—since profits are the only source for wealth creation in our current economy. That’s why 3BL could easily go the way of “TQM (Total quality management) or Six Sigma and other ‘management’ systems that are good on paper but don’t translate into real life on levels that make it significant. Broadening the economic measurement system to include other options for wealth creation is necessary if 3BL is to take hold throughout the globe.
A Full Spectrum economy does just that---it is a 6 sector economy and it brings in the 3 missing sectors of Household enterprise, Volunteer service and Natural environment as part of the economic measurement system. The addition of Household enterprise and Volunteer service sectors makes possible new ways for accumulating “real wealth” beyond the markets. This brings the people into the equation while taking the pressure off the markets to be the sole creator wealth. The natural environment sector’s “true cost accounting” measurement brings in the planet aspect of the 3BL. It equalizes the playing field in the market sector—allowing more businesses to honor the planet and factor it into their strategic plans because they know all businesses are participating.
As it stands today, 3BL is a great idea but happening on limited levels. If we transition the current economy from a 3 sector to a 6 sector system Full Spectrum Economy, 3BL would be possible everywhere!
* According to Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_bottom_line it is defined as: “The triple bottom line (or "TBL", "3BL", or "people, planet, profit") captures an expanded spectrum of values and criteria for measuring organizational (and societal) success: economic, ecological and social. 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.