The Triple Bottom Line Is Just The Beginning

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Many organizations are still talking about the triple bottom line (Profits, People, Planet) as if it’s the gold standard for ethical business. 

While it’s a great improvement over focusing on profit alone, the triple bottom line doesn’t reflect the current expectations of customers, employees and global markets. 

Business leaders are expected to think beyond simple profits (how they benefit) to consider what happens to their many stakeholders. The Profit, People, Planet concept, a popular construct for understanding ethical business, doesn’t cover all of the bases.

For example, the Triple Bottom Line model excludes:

  • honoring laws and regulations
  • demonstrating moral awareness, character and integrity
  • contributing to communities, and 
  • working to ensure a good life for future generations

In the book 7 Lenses, I propose a model for talking about ethical leadership that goes well beyond the Triple Bottom Line to include seven different aspects of responsible business leadership. 

When we look at ethical dilemmas using all 7 Lenses, we get a kaleidoscopic view of what it means to be a responsible leader in a global society. If you want to understand how well you and your organization are leading, don’t stop at the Triple Bottom Line. Take a look through all 7 Lenses.

Yes, Profit, People and Planet are included in the 7 Lenses. But there’s much more to consider. Let’s stop talking about just three parts of ethical responsibility, and let’s talk about the whole picture.


Top 100 Leadership Blog




Prepare Your Leaders For Ethical Leadership Future – Help Them Learn To See Through The 7 Lenses®. 

Includes case examples and questions.

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Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2016 Leading in Context LLC


  1. Dear Linda,thanks for all yours mails, and also for your book 7 lens, I don’t buy it yet, but it loooks great, have a nice weekend.MercèLloret de MarCosta Brava, Spain

    Date: Wed, 24 Feb 2016 08:04:42 +0000 To:


  2. Again, another great piece. Really love reading your material when it comes out as it makes me think about some of the many things that I have missed in the past, but will include in any of my future presentations on the subject of ethical leadership.


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