What is TBL (Triple Bottom Line)?

True Tamplin

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®
Updated on January 11, 2021

Triple Bottom Line (TBL) Definition

The Triple Bottom Line, or TBL, refers to the 1994 theory by John Elkington that companies ought to operate in consideration of social and environmental consciousness as well as profit.
Elkington believed that companies can and should be managed in a way that earns profits as well as improves the quality of people’s lives and the planet.
Thus, TBL is sometimes used to measure performance in corporate America.

Defining Triple Bottom Line in Simple Terms

The idea behind the triple bottom line is that if a company ignores how it interacts socially and with the environment, it cannot get an accurate sense of the true cost of doing business because it isn’t seeing the full scope of its actions.

Problems in Calculating TBL

One of the challenges involved in gauging a company’s TBL is that it is difficult to measure.

Profits are numerical and so easy to measure, but it can be hard to measure the value of, for example, reducing greenhouse emissions or preventing an oil spill except in terms of the impact to profit.

Furthermore, as Elkington has pointed out, social and environmental responsibility can be somewhat subjective.

Some may interpret a company having a limited impact on the environment as a success, while others might want to see a company actively improving the environment.

What is TBL (Triple Bottom Line) FAQs

TBL stands for Triple Bottom Line.
The Triple Bottom Line, or TBL, refers to the theory that companies ought to operate in consideration of social and environmental consciousness as well as profit.
The idea behind the triple bottom line is that if a company ignores how it interacts socially and with the environment, it cannot get an accurate sense of the true cost of doing business because it isn’t seeing the full scope of its actions.
Profits are numerical and so easy to measure, but it can be hard to measure the value of, for example, reducing greenhouse emissions or preventing an oil spill except in terms of the impact to profit.