With globalization and new innovations and technology impacting and changing our lives every day, it’s no secret that valuing equality within our business structures and communities is the only way forward.
We’ve recently seen how a global pandemic can so easily pull the rug out from under us and wreak havoc on our societies, making the need to shift into sustainable business models so much more important.
The ‘triple bottom line’ or people, planet, profit business framework was coined in 1994 by, best-selling author and serial entrepreneur, John Elkington. This triple bottom line is a sustainability framework that looks at a company’s social, economic, and environmental impact highlighting the importance of not overlooking people and planet when chasing the profit. This model puts our wellbeing, protecting our natural environment, and supporting economic development at equal importance when doing business.
We’d like to take it one step further and introduce a fourth “P” to this framework, purpose. When we infuse our purpose into our business, we are answering the very powerful question about why we exist? What and who are we here to serve? Our purpose in business is powered by our values and when we have these set in place with clarity and confidence, our mission, vision, and business ethos flow naturally.
Let’s break it down to understand the 4 Ps and how we can easily apply them into our business models:
Planet- We need nature to survive
With climate change at the forefront of future developments, more and more people are starting to demand that businesses operate in transparency and honesty and that their overall decision making aligns with the health of the planet in mind. The planet in this framework encourages businesses to reduce their ecological footprint everywhere possible. To include the planet into your business structure, you can look at reducing waste as much as possible by using green packaging and products, use green and carbon-neutral digital platforms, using eco-friendly marketing and collateral materials, and managing your natural resources (water, energy, food) more efficiently.
People- A healthy environment fosters healthy communities
Your people are considered, your employees, your labor, and everyone involved in achieving your mission and vision. People can also be considered as the community around your business and our global society as a whole and how we as business owners impact them with our actions and decisions. Some ways to equally incorporate people into your business model are by paying fair wages, ensuring humane and safe working conditions, employing BIPOC employees, working with BIPOC clients or who share your values of prioritizing these communities, practicing gender equality by addressing gender pay gaps and gender-diverse employment, and offering company-sponsored volunteer programs to give back and make a difference in your community.
Profit- Healthy societies sustain economic stability and growth
We all know the goal of a business is to make financial profitability, but in today’s business world, we’re seeing more and more businesses adopt the triple bottom line model viewing it as PART of their business not just why they exist. Some thought leaders such as Tom McCallum, have gone as far as saying that Profits are to be seen as the result of the main drivers of People + Planet + Purpose.
Without a fundamental purpose, healthy people, and a balanced planet, your business cannot make a profit. As Elkington states, “Success or failure on sustainability goals cannot be measured only in terms of profit and loss. It must also be measured in terms of the wellbeing of billions of people and the health of our planet.”
A great example of a company exercising profit as part of their triple bottom line and sustainable leadership is Patagonia, also known as the Activist Company. The motto this company lives by is, “We’re in business to save our planet.” Understanding that taking care of the planet creates new markets which make more money, CEO of Patagonia Rose Mercario, made the decision to donate $10M from saved tax cuts to environmental protection groups! If all businesses operated with this mindset, imagine the type of world we would live in!
You can exercise the profit of this framework into your business structure by investing in renewable and regenerative practices and committing to donating a percentage of your profits to charity, environmental groups, or natural disasters.
Purpose- The true business of doing business is to improve our human experience
When we add purpose into our business models, we uncover the true reason our businesses exist. The true business of doing business is to improve humanity and our experiences around us.
But what exactly is a purpose-led company? If you want to deeply engage with your employees, clients, and customers, then understanding and sharing why you do what you do is crucial. Think about the brands you love, where you buy your local coffee, your favorite underwear company, or neighborhood restaurant. We love our favorite brands and will always support and recommend them because of what they stand for, their values, and the experiences we associate to them.
A great example of purpose-led business structures are those that are B Corps Certified. The B Corps certification requires business owners to balance purpose and profit and is the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance by evaluating how a company impacts its workers, community, environment, and customers.
It’s easy to achieve deep client and customer relationships when we know our purpose and stay true to our values. Some important elements to be clear on when finding our purpose are:
Mission – what you do, how you do, and why you do it
Vision – where you’re aspiring to go once you reach your mission
Values – how you do your business and how you behave internally and externally
You’ll be able to uncover your true brand purpose easily after becoming very clear about your mission, vision, and values understanding why your business exists and where you fill the gap in your market.
A Shift Towards Global Business Equality
With the increase in climate catastrophes, youth-led demands, conscious consumers, and global pandemics that cripple our economies and health, it’s crucial to do business through a sustainable, regenerative, and ethical lens. Consumers are looking at businesses to help them make more sustainable purchases, to lead in transparency and honesty about their environmental and social practices, and to create better, smarter, cleaner, and greener solutions. As business owners, we have the power to transform mentalities, supply chains, and production as we know it.
Elkington himself believes there’s a big future of businesses dedicated to transforming our world for more equality, social, and environmental good.
“I see a bright ray of hope coming from the high-energy world of B Corporations. There’s a lot of momentum there; around 2,500 businesses worldwide are now certified as B Corps. All are configured around the TBL (triple bottom line) — dedicated to be not just “best in the world,” but “best for the world.” – John Elkington
Let’s unite as businesses to push for the importance of all 4 Ps including purpose because without purpose, it’s nearly impossible to build a sustainable, equitable, and secure future. If you’re struggling to find your mission, vision, and values and you need help building a strong business foundation, check out our guide on How to Define your Brand Values. You’ll find some techniques to uncover your purpose and why your brand exists. Feel free to reach out and connect with us, we’re always happy to talk to other business owners on their journey making a positive impact for a sustainable and regenerative future!