BA 850
Sustainability-Driven Innovation


The 3Ps and Triple Bottom Line


In its purest, most distilled form, the imperatives of sustainability are summed up by just three words: Planet. People. Profit. (Elkington, 1995).

In the practice of sustainability, the "3Ps" are widely known, and while there may be a few variations on the theme, they are almost universally agreed upon. At this level, there is no nuance or measurement or hierarchy, just the simple imperative that the role of sustainability is to simultaneously maximize benefit to:

Planet - The environment and Earth.

People - Everyone inhabiting the Earth, from domestic and offshore workers to families and children.

Profit - The financial and overall long-term viability of the organization.

This all sounds lovely, until we remember that by this same reductive logic, many daunting tasks can be made to sound downright simple:

"It's simple, Orville. All we need to do is make a machine that flies. We have an entire garage full of bicycle parts and canvas!"

What we will see is that the complexity of sustainability lies one layer beneath the elegance of Planet. People. Profit., when one is tasked with the details of how to make all three of these imperatives–which are very commonly in direct opposition–thrive within the organization. As we will address in this lesson and many throughout this course, maximizing the 3Ps involves virtually every facet and function of an organization, and is never truly complete.

But, luckily for us, the constraints, unmet needs, scarcities, and imperatives that face those seeking to improve sustainability are the essential building blocks for developing compelling product and service offerings. As we will cover in the coming lessons, the 3Ps will become a framework for how we seek to innovate.

Variations on the Theme

There are a handful of other expressions of the sustainability imperatives, the leading probably being the "Triple Bottom Line." Though they may be stated or modeled differently, below is a matrix comparing the terminology used in a few different models for sustainability:

Models for Sustainability
Model "Planet" stated as: "People" stated as: "Profit" stated as:
Triple Bottom Line (Savitz adaptation of Elkington, 2006) Society's Interests - Environmental Society's Interests - Social Business Interests
Sustainability "Sweet Spot" (Farver, 2013) Environmental Stewardship Social Well-being Economic Prosperity
B Corporation Impact Assessment (Honeyman, 2014) Good for the Environment Good for Workers Good for the Long Term
Five word summary - Simple concept with massive implications