Triple Bottom Line: More about People than Profits

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Last week I shared the triple bottom line adapted from our ECOpreneuring book. The triple bottom line encompasses people, planet and (some) profits. Since people run a business, I started by examining how the DNA of a Green Business Starts with People, touching on customers and employees (apparently not highly valued at the now defunct Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns).

The other two People bottom lines are vendors/suppliers and investors (if your business has any), addressed below:

(3) Vendors and Suppliers

How a sustainable business chooses and interacts with vendors and suppliers, so-called business-to-business transactions, that provide the supplies and services the business needs to run is one way ecopreneurs are helping grow and magnify our impacts. We seek out like-minded vendors with whom to do business. Co-op America’s Green Pages ( is often our first stop to look for products our business might need, since it lists thousands of socially and environmentally responsible businesses.

A growing number of small businesses are perhaps inspired by the Amish and their collaborative sense of community and shared economic prosperity. Rather than working alone, many Amish provide goods or services to each other, working together on projects that on the surface may benefit only one farmer, but on the whole end up benefiting the entire community. As author Bill McKibben writes about in Deep Economy, there’s greater comfort and security from community membership than individual ownership. This idea is reflected in the business-to-business commerce mushrooming on the Internet and in small businesses, especially the nanocorps, or new forms of interlinked commercial websites, like

The growing Fair Trade movement increasingly helps with purchasing decisions, particularly for food such as coffee imported from developing countries, with labeling certification programs providing greater accountability, enabling you to ensure that the farmer is paid fairly. Fair Trade practices value fair payment for the product, investment in local people and communities, environmental stability and gender equity. The non-profit TransFair USA ( offers information and a company directory for all Fair Trade certified products, including coffee, tea, herbs and fruits or vegetables.

Similar to Fair Trade, a growing movement of companies and organizations are committing to source products from sweatshop-free manufacturing facilities. Sweatshop labor, whether in the form of employing children, women and men in substandard plants for unfair compensation or under inhumane, dangerous or toxic working conditions, contributes to growing social inequity around the planet and, obviously, exploits people for profits. To research products or services, consider using from Co-op America, documenting social and environmental impacts of major corporations while providing opportunities to vote for change with your dollars. Global Exchange, an international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice around the world, devotes numerous resources and information related to a globally fair and just economy (

(4) Investors

If your business is large enough to require financial backing from investors, then providing competitive returns on their investment is a must. Most ecopreneur businesses, however, find that socially responsible investors tend to embrace the values and mission of the organization by offering more flexible and financially favorable terms.

Despite all the talk about more jobs by politicians, city administrators eager to lure a large multinational corporation to open shop in their community, or neighbors who are struggling to pay rising food, energy, health, and education costs with what they’re being paid working at their job, perhaps it’s time to ask what kind of job is being offered.

My wife and I have found that starting our own triple bottom line small, ecopreneurial business — focusing on people — has allowed us to create the good life, on our terms. Millions of Americans have discovered that launching their own dream green business changes the world for the better, today (not at some foggy future date). Next week, I’ll touch on the bottom line associated with the health of the planet.

Graphic Source: Angry Trout Cafe, Minnesota


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