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Recalling and Updating the Triple Bottom Line with John Elkington
In a 2018 article in Harvard Business Review, John Elkington, Chairman of Volans, writes: “How often are management concepts subjected to recalls by the people who invented them? It is hard to think of a single case. With this in mind, I’m volunteering to carry out a management concept recall: with 2019 marking the 25th anniversary of the “triple bottom line,” a term I coined in 1994, I propose a strategic recall to do some fine tuning.”
Elkington adds, “So why recall it now? The Triple Bottom Line has failed to bury the single bottom line paradigm. From the outset, the goal was system change — pushing toward the transformation of capitalism. It was never supposed to be just an accounting system. It was originally intended as a genetic code, a triple helix of change for tomorrow’s capitalism, with a focus on breakthrough change, disruption, asymmetric growth (with unsustainable sectors actively sidelined), and the scaling of next-generation market solutions.”
In this live, virtual fireside chat, Impact Entrepreneur’s Laurie Lane-Zucker discusses with Elkington the motivations behind his coining of the TBL concept, his perceived failure of the concept to achieve its intended ends, and how the concept can be updated to effectively leverage the kinds of system change necessary to transform business and contribute to the building of an authentically sustainable impact economy.
JOHN ELKINGTON is a writer, thought-leader and business strategist, a serial entrepreneur and, at heart, an environmentalist. He is the Founder and Chief Pollinator at Volans, a certified B Corporation driving market-based solutions to the future’s greatest challenges.
John is also Honorary Chairman of SustainAbility, and sits on an A-Z of some 20 boards and advisory boards. He has written 19 books, and his latest is co-authored with Jochen Zeitz, former CEO of PUMA and now co-chair, with Sir Richard Branson, of The B Team. The book, entitled "The Breakthrough Challenge: 10 Ways to Connect Today’s Profits with Tomorrow’s Bottom Line" comes full circle from John’s 1997 "Cannibals with Forks", where he first introduced the Triple Bottom Line concept.
Laurie Lane-Zucker is Founder and CEO of Impact Entrepreneur, LLC, an impact economy business that hosts the Impact Entrepreneur Network — a large, global network of “systems-minded” entrepreneurs, investors and scholars of social and environmental innovation — and publishes Impact Entrepreneur Magazine. For over 30 years, Laurie has been a “pioneer” (Forbes) and recognized leader in sustainability, social enterprise, and impact investing. Laurie was the founding Executive Director of the international environmental organization, Orion Society, which publishes the celebrated Orion Magazine, as well as the founder of a global sustainability think-tank, the Triad Institute, and Hotfrog, a Founding B Corporation, GIIRS Pioneer Company, and the first company ever to complete an equity transaction on an impact investment exchange. Laurie is the bestselling and multiple award-winning publisher and editor of books and magazines on sustainability and social impact, and the author of numerous articles on entrepreneurship and impact investing.