12: Triple Bottom Line → John Elkington: The Recall of a Management Concept (25 Years Later)

It is time for realignment and a shake-up: system change should equally focus on accounting and purpose.

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John Elkington

John Elkington is the executive chairman of Volans, co-founder of SustainAbility, blogs at Johnelkington.com, tweets at @volansjohn.  John is one of the world’s leading authorities on sustainable development and developed the ‘triple bottom line’ business strategy. He is the author or co-author of 50 published reports, thousands of articles, and 19 books, including the no. 1 bestselling The Green Consumer Guide (1988). 

In this episode, the following topics are discussed:

  • 2019 is the 25th anniversary of the TBL
  • People — Planet — Profit
  • Accounting vs Purpose
  • System change — not the accounting
  • Double entry bookkeeping
  • 6000 companies are engaging in sustainability reporting
  • Branding and advertising — misleading with green
  • HBR says this is first time any management concept has been recalled
  • Social entrepreneurs
  • TBL is not intended to be a mechanism to support tradeoffs
  • Improve on two dimensions, and holding the third constant
  • Tomorrow’s capitalism inquiry — Aviva Investors
  • Crowdsourcing the revamp — using technology to communicate more widely
  • How does shared value link to the TBL
  • Competing language is a glorious alibi to do nothing at all
  • What lies on the horizon for the revamp?We need framework and tools that drives business in ways that we have not seen yet
  • Look at leadership companies, like Unilever, and explore what
    TBL thinking has delivered in their businesses. (Revamp 1)
  • CEO must be on board
  • The evolution of B2B platforms — Paul Polman — look at B2B platforms and look at what is working and what is not — do we need multiple platforms? (Revamp 2)
  • The role of government and policy makers
  • Financial markets through the lenses of the CFO and the tie to sustainabilty (Revamp 3)
  • Larry Fink at BlackRock, “Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”
  • Avoiding the label of environmentalist
  • John as an agitator —
  • ‘Playfulness’ as an indicator of flexibility and embracing change? 
    OECD: 80 -90% of companies know a sustainability commitment is necessary
  • Corporate culture —
  • The term greenwashing — safety and health diversity are easy to claim, but a CEO saying it is different than real results— someone at Board level must be directly responsible for performance
  • Climate change, human rights, communicating TBL to Wall Street → learning journeys
  • The sort of company that does TBL reporting and brand activism
  • Comparing 1970’s corporate leadership to today
  • SDGs
  • The word ’sustainability’ and it being perceived as something bad
    A pending financial crash
  • Dirty industries proclaiming sustainability — and the need to call out ranking without looking at what goes on behind the scenes
  • The need to disrupt the ranking industry
  • Provoking or calling out bad corporate behavior
  • Incremental change is boring — disruption or civilizational change is more fascinating and engaging
  • When words or phrases first appear they are like membranes — new concepts that engage — the more a term is used it becomes less engaging
  • The forecast that the SDGs will equal 12T in opportunity — dissecting the number — skepticism and forecasts
  • We have moved from looking at sustainability as an impediment and viewing it as an opportunity and instrument for transformation
  • Big brands that disappear
  • Paradigm shifts

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