What's a Triple Bottom Line, and Why is it Important?

triple bottom line graphic

Maybe you’ve heard that “it’s all about the bottom line.” Or perhaps the gem that “whatever you think it’s about, it’s about the money.” Traditionally, it’s considered good business sense to sacrifice just about anything in the name of the bottom line.

But are profits really the only important thing for companies providing goods and services to their customers? What if their customers care about more than just cheap products? And most importantly, are the “healthy” bottom lines of profitable companies the result of unhealthy business practices?

At DoneGood, we resist the idea that a hefty profit is the only thing that makes a business good. That’s why we care about our triple bottom line. In fact, we’re here to help you find all kinds of brands and businesses that care about having a good triple bottom line!

So, what exactly is a Triple Bottom Line?

Simply put, the triple bottom line theory says that for a business to truly be successful, it must prioritize three things: people, planet, and profits (also known as the 3 P’s). This means that in addition to making money, a business has the responsibility to care for the environment and ensure fair pay and treatment for its workers. 

Why is this important?

In a globalized economy where it’s hard to tell exactly where all our stuff is coming from, we’ve gotten used to cheap products—$5 t-shirts, $10 shoes, dollar store party favors, plastic trinkets, discount toys, and so on. But those price tags are often falsely cheap. These products cost the same as they always have—but businesses and consumers are no longer footing the bill. The planet and the people making our products are now paying the price for our “cheap” products.

For instance, If a business uses a sweatshop on the other side of the globe to produce cheap t-shirts, it might show a profit, but it’s perpetuating mass poverty in developing countries. If a company looks for the cheapest way to operate, it might seek shortcuts that end in them polluting a river.

And that negative impact spreads. In the examples above, the ripple effects are felt in the forms of foreign aid, and in the government spending taxpayer money for river clean-up and healthcare. Everyone pays when a business neglects its social responsibilities. It’s not just as simple as “the bottom line.” If a company doesn’t focus on its social impact, it’s not really looking at the full cost of doing business. 

Well, that sucks. Is anything happening to change it?

Thankfully, yes! Lots of amazing individuals are realizing that they can use business as a force for good in the world. They’re starting businesses that pay living wages, provide safe working conditions, get approved by ethical third-party certifiers, offset carbon emissions, go zero waste, and utilize sustainably-sourced materials (these are just a few examples!) In addition to all of this, they make great products that turn profits and create jobs. Call it a triple bottom line, call it social impact, call it conscious consumerism, whatever—we just call it doing good!

And DoneGood exists to help you find those businesses—the ones who are making great products while also placing importance on doing right by people and caring for the planet. We’re a marketplace for ethical shops that source sustainable materials, pay good wages, fight climate change, and resist falsely cheap labor from sweatshops or slavery. We’re like the Amazon that you can shop with a completely clean conscience. 

Businesses don’t have to choose between doing good or making money. With new legal designations like Public Benefit Corporations (which, by the way, DoneGood is proud to be), and certifiers like B Corps (which DoneGood is also proud to be!), it’s becoming more and more possible to focus on profits, people, and the planet. 

Awesome! So what can I do?

Believe it or not, one of the most impactful things you can do is go shopping! You already spend money on clothes, food, home goods, gifts, and more—so why not use that money as a force for good? Support companies who pay great wages and take care of the planet, and you’re joining in on that mission, too!

Use your purchasing power for good! Here’s a great place to start.






Erin King
DoneGood Contributor

Writer, editor, and all-around language enthusiast who uses her love of words to help others.


1 comment

  • Christine D Mont-LaButte

    Thank you for this simple, well-written reason for Shopping For Good. Having been in fair trade for over 20+ years it is hard to find a way of explaining why people should Shop For Good, and this article is perfect! I will pass it on to others whenever I need to explain. Reposting on my social media platforms now!

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