People, Planet, Profit - Why The Bottom Line Matters

For many businesses the bottom line focuses on their financial success. However, in 1994, John Elkington came up with the Triple Bottom Line of People, Planet, Profit, ‘a sustainability framework that examples a company’s social, environment, and economic impact’. Adopting this framework allows businesses to create long-term value by understanding their effect on their people and the planet. Focusing on the ‘three P’s’ and building a sustainable organisation, business leaders are able to meet their objectives with their future needs in mind.



People are the heart of every organisation and businesses need to ensure that they are able to provide their employees with a healthy work life balance. This will ensure an increase in productivity and a positive mindset. This part of the framework does not only focus on the people within the company, but everyone that is impacted by the business: employees, families, customers, suppliers, as well as any other important stakeholder.

One-way a business can ensure a sustainable workplace, is by offering flexible and hybrid working hours allowing their people to feel comfortable and less pressure from their workplace. This will help to build a work culture ensuring fairness. However, business leaders also need to focus on developing their people and including benefits that support their employee’s well-being.



Many companies are now working hard to reduce their carbon footprint in order to work towards protecting the environment. Business leaders are understanding the positive and negative impacts that their organisation is having on the environment and are working to better it. People care about the protecting the planet and will choose to purchase from businesses that they believe also care, so companies have started to analyse not only their own effect on the environment but are choosing suppliers and partners who share their beliefs.

Businesses have been implementing recycling bins in offices and have encouraged their employees to help the planet by instigating a cycle to work scheme. They have also started installing solar panels which doesn’t only work towards saving the environment but also helps to save money. Some organisations have also introduced hybrid or electric car policies with EV points as well as building living walls helping to increase biodiversity within urban areas.



The profit P does not only refer to the financial result at the end of the year. It refers to any impact the business has on the economy, whether local or international, including creating job opportunities, generating innovation, taxes, and building wealth. This part of the sustainability framework is about being able to stay in business for the long run.

This is the part of the framework where businesses can get confused and struggle the most, limiting themselves by focusing too much on the traditional meaning of profit. There have been suggestions that the term ‘People, Planet, Prosperity’ is a better description of the Triple Bottom Line, believing that this is truly reflective of what Elkington meant when coining the sustainability framework. This new terminology highlights that it is through the positive and negative economic impacts that we achieve prosperity.



A great example of a company that has implemented this framework is Patagonia. They pledge 1% of their total sales to the preservation and restoration of the planet. They understand that successes and losses are connected to the social and environmental impacts of their marketplace. Patagonia is dedicated to helping the environment and prioritising the planet and their people over profit.


The bottom line is the fundamental and most important reason of why your business does what it does. It needs to match your values and not solely focused on making a profit. Implementing the People, Planet, Profit sustainability framework allows a business to concentrate on their social and environmental impact and work towards improving it to ensure a greater profit.

To see how hgkc can help you be more sustainable, find out how ready you are for your journey by taking our Business Health Check to see where you are now and where you need to go.

Categorised: Leadership

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