Dean of sustainable business stratergizing, John Elkington
, did something unusual recently. Writing in the Harvard Business Review
he issued a "recall" for his well-known business concept the "triple bottom line" or TBL.
He argues, despite successes with some businesses including Unilever and Novo Nordisk, the concept had failed to "truly shift the needle".
I'm a fan of the the notion that "better is good" and think that TBL led to valuable thinking, debate, data, and analysis. But 25 years is a long time. Any organization (or consultant) that hasn't done some serious re-thinking after a quarter-century needs some serious re-thinking.
So, what now? Elkington calls for "a triple helix for value creation, a genetic code for tomorrow’s capitalism, spurring the regeneration of our economies, societies, and biosphere."
The TBL was constrained by being a new accounting format trapped inside traditional businesses. Businesses might track whether they were becoming more sustainable but what got measured didn't necessarily get done.
The new version needs to truly internalize "regenerative" thinking -- baking an emphasis on people & planet into the organization. We need what Carol Sanford calls