The Five Contemporary Bottom Lines

I remember when there was once only one ‘bottom line’ – financial, i.e. profit.

Next there was the double bottom line – profit and people.

Then I heard about the triple bottom line – financial, social and environmental.

And then I heard about the quadruple bottom line – profit, people, planet and purpose.

Now in this highly connected, instantly communicated data-driven world, I believe there are five bottom lines that matter most:

  1. Your Business Sustainability – financially speaking.
  2. Your People and Their Culture – the true source of your capability, adaptability and innovation.
  3. Your Brand – your product and service reputation – think innovation, net promoter score and social media impact.
  4. Your Community – includes your neighbours, stakeholders, customers and their connections – again think net promoter score and social media impact, doing good, giving help to those who need it.
  5. Planet Earth – without which we can’t yet exist – think your carbon footprint, energy optimisation, wastage of materials, contaminants and environmental enhancement.

Enterprises that work on and measure those five are not only living values that work, they are also underwriting their sustainable success.

Examples are Disney, Google, Apple, Amazon and Starbucks, and fortunately there are many more.

Unfortunately, there are also examples of companies that broke just one or two of those bottom lines, e.g. VW who falsified emission controls to enhance profits at the cost of the planet and their customers, and ultimately their reputation and their profitability.  Let’s not mention Enron.

Because we can measure everything, there is no excuse for not measuring these bottom lines, other than one’s fears, habits and ignorance, the three human causes of everything that doesn’t work.

If those three demons dominate, then your business is not worth existing, unless you inject the appropriate antidotes of courage, better practice and rapid learning.

What do you think?

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