Have You Heard of the “Triple Bottom Line”?

Here is a concept that is super meaningful to EVERY age group, EVERY economic stratum and (hopefully) across the ENTIRE political spectrum: Triple Bottom Line, or “TBL”.

Triple Bottom Line graphic
Source: Wikipedia

For the younger readers, this term is much more familiar and probably even taught in universities for the past decade or two. But for others this term may have gotten lost in the sea of such terms as “synergy,” “social impact,” and “environmentally friendly”. HOWEVER – TBL is the real deal. And we are seeing it at work inside the framework of capitalism as well as “outside” the purely capitalistic-driven world: a growing world where profit matters, BUT not at the expense of people and the environment. Please read on.

Think about it for a minute… working your ### off and creating success may be one of the highest highs you can get. Building a successful start-up, medium-sized manufacturing business or global company – even building a great family or simply excelling at your job – these are what America (and capitalism) are all about.  But in 1994 a guy, John Elkington, coined the term “the triple bottom line” to emphasize the three P’s of people, profit and planet. It has taken off more recently in the past 10-15 years with the growth of technology – and (IMO) the vast creation of wealth that technology companies have fostered in certain places.

The reason this matters TODAY of all days is that each day is our opportunity to make a positive impact on the world – through our contributions to our businesses, our jobs, through our actions and our attitudes. “How does this relate to making money in my portfolio?” you may ask. Well the question may not have an immediate answer related to IF your portfolio’s performance will be even, down versus UP at December 31, 2018. Yes, this matters! But the bigger answer is around where your portfolio will be 10, 20, 30… even 50+ years from now. For example,

  • What companies’ stocks will give your portfolio enough growth potential for the long, long-term?
  • What indexes will lower your long-term risk while still giving you the opportunity to outpace the inevitable inflation that will increase your lifetime costs in healthcare, food, travel and housing?
  • Critical: how will costs and advice on asset allocation and asset location in your portfolio contribute to your portfolio’s long-term success?
  • And perhaps most important of all: who will you trust to guide you for the long, long-term? (That is a real, non-self-serving question.)

The answers to these questions matter more than short-term portfolio results. TBL will continue to be a major, building force of companies everywhere.

Thank you to a Notre Dame friend for enlightening me on this term. I am a bit late to the enlightenment, but we learn something new every day.

And, yes, the same University of NOTRE DAME whose 176-year motto is “A Force for Good”. And, yes, NOTRE DAME whose women just won the NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP in basketball against many season-long odds.

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