The Three P's - People, Planet & Profit - Why They Matter and How Your Brand Can Use Them
The Triple Bottom Line, or better known as the three P’s: people, planet and profit is a notion that is gaining attraction in today’s environment of business transparency. The phrase, however, was first coined back in 1994 by John Elkington, the founder of a British consultancy called SustainAbility. The phrase and Elkington’s argument was that companies should include 3 different bottom lines within a company’s strategy.
The first is the more traditional measure of what you would think of when you say ‘the bottom line’ meaning corporate profit. Whereas the last two incorporate a more holistic approach to business. The second P is the bottom line of a company's “people account” - a measure of how socially responsible an organisation has been throughout its operations. And the third is the bottom line of the company's ‘planet’ account - a measure of how environmentally responsible it has been. Together, all 3 describe how the goal of sustainability is within the sweet spot of all 3 of these different values and as argued by Elkington are each of fundamental importance in future proofing a businesses success.
But before we dig into why this concept matters and how your brand can use them, let’s first dig into each one a bit further.
This bottom line is essentially a measurement of social responsibility that a company shows. This not only refers to the people who are a company’s employees, but also the wider community in which a company operates its business. A simple way to see how a business affects people is to ask, “How does this company benefit society?”. A company that is invested in the Triple Bottom Line will pay fair wages and ensure that its employees work under humane conditions. These companies also care about giving back to the community in the form of philanthropy.
‘Planet’ is the measurement of how environmentally conscious a company is in its operations and production. This is also something that we would refer to as whole-system thinking, where brands will consider utilising profits to fuel eco-initiatives and address issues such as carbon consumption within the supply chain. TBL business will also work to tackle issues of waste and renewable energy.
As mentioned ‘Profit’ is the most traditional measurement of a company’s success. TBL companies recognise that their impact on people and the planet are just as important as their profit and do not believe that the three are mutually exclusive. Being socially and ecologically conscious is not in opposition to being profitable. New future-facing businesses are proving this theory today more so than ever by placing a greater investment in systems, supply chains and sustainable practices that will lead to a commercial gain in the future.
With consumers increasingly looking to brands for purpose, assessing its long-term contribution to society and the planet, this is forcing brands to become increasingly transparent about their values and initiatives – even if their overall outlook is imperfect.
So, how can your brand use the 3 Ps?
As consumers question their consumption habits – a shift that has accelerated thanks to social distancing and self-isolation as well as climate crisis concerns – many want to buy less and what they do buy needs to align with a consumer’s own moral purposes. Meaning, it is high time for business to embrace whole-system thinking and focus on betterment.
To incorporate the 3 P’s into your business it is about setting actionable goals and not just setting overarching moral guidelines. Despite many mainstream brands buying into notions of purpose and sustainability and proactive mission statements, the brands that will thrive in this decade of transparency are the ones who will take a more realistic, honest and iterative approach to development.
In our data-driven economy, the most successful way to incorporate the 3 Ps will be through measurable touch points. The value your brand brings to consumers, emotionally and functionally, will become the new measure of success and the ideas, innovations and actions your brand takes will need to be quantified in order to fully impact upon the eco-conscious tomorrow.