Triple bottom line

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The triple bottom line represents a spectrum of criteria for measuring organizational (and societal) success: economic, ecological and social. This expression is used in English-speaking countries.

According to The Natural Step USA, triple bottom line is becoming the standard for urban and community accounting and the dominant approach to public sector full cost accounting. In the private sector, a commitment to corporate social responsibility implies a commitment to some form of TBL reporting. The triple bottom line is often expressed through examples: profit, planet, and people.


This framework is often viewed as reductionist and critized by sustainability thinkers. One form of criticism is noting that theso-called three pillars of sustainable development (profit, planet, people) are hierarchized in a system's view of how they operate: the environment (the "planet") is a condition for society (the people) which is a condition for the economy (profit). So the three spheres can be viewed as embedded one into another.

Another representation of sustainability is seing it as a pyramid with four sides: environment, society, economy, and governance as a form of regulation of society and economy.