March 17, 2023
As a retail shareholder, profitability and price per share is paramount. But three other “Ps” are of growing importance to individual investors and make up what’s called the triple bottom line – people, planet and prosperity.
Companies like Apple (Tii:AAPL) that include the triple bottom line in their strategy believe that social well-being and the health of the environment deserves the same attention as profits, but not at the expense of them. In fact, Dow Jones research found that organizations working on their triple bottom line actually do better financially than their market peers.
Just because a company prioritizes social, environmental and philanthropic goals does not mean it ignores profitability. In fact, the two strategies often go hand in hand. Take an example from IKEA. In 2016, the company increased sales to $37.6 billion, but used some of its profits to recycle what was otherwise waste material from its lumber. Instead of throwing the waste away, it turned the discarded materials into some of its top-selling products. Sales have grown, even during the pandemic and the company’s profits have increased, even after investing in renewable energy and sustainable sources of raw materials.
“In many situations, it's possible to do the right thing and make money at the same time,” Harvard Business School Professor Rebecca Henderson said in a report called Sustainable Business Strategy. “Indeed, there's good reason to believe that solving the world's problems presents trillions of dollars’ worth of economic opportunity.”
Research by Nielsen found that 48 percent of U.S. consumers would change their consumption habits to lessen their impact on the environment. In 2018 alone, this sentiment translated to roughly $128.5 billion in sales of sustainable, fast-moving consumer goods, according to a Harvard Business Review story.
Beyond helping companies capitalize on a growing market for sustainable goods, embracing sustainable business strategies can be highly attractive to investors. According to the Harvard report, evidence has increasingly shown that firms with promising environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics tend to produce superior financial returns. As a result, more investors have begun focusing on ESG metrics when making investment decisions.
Some publicly traded companies are deeply committed to following triple bottom line principles while others are using some aspects of it. Here are a few brands and companies that follow all or some triple bottom line principles:
The North Face is owned by VF Corporation (Tii:VFC), an American global apparel and footwear company. The North Face donates annually to a carbon farm fund it created and has also invested heavily to enhance the adoption of carbon-capturing practices. It pays a 25-30% price premium for merino wool from sheep farmers who use eco-friendly farm practices.
Apple (Tii:APPL) is already carbon neutral across its corporate operations and are on the way to making carbon neutral products by 2030. Its aim is to make products using only renewable resources or recycled materials. Apple has a rigorous program to ensure the safety of chemicals used in its products as well.
Coca-Cola (Tii:COKE) set a goal for collecting and recycling a bottle or can for every one they sell and make 100% of our packaging recyclable. Coca-Cola is water balanced and returns more than 100% of water used in our drinks back into the ecosystem. Its water stewardship goals are aimed at increasing water security where the company operates. And the company set a target to reduce its carbon emissions 25% by 2030 from a 2015 base year.
DHL (Tii:DPSGY) has a mission to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The company is doing this by setting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions target by 2030 in line with the Paris Agreement through the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and investing 7 billion Euros to reach it. With the investment, DHL will increase its use of sustainable aviation fuels, design all new buildings carbon neutral, offer a comprehensive portfolio of green products and electrify 60% of its last-mile delivery, after which it will have more than 80,000 e-vehicles on the road.
Salesforce (Tii:CRM) founder and CEO Marc Benioff believes in giving back to the communities that Salesforce serves. He has created a culture at Salesforce that has a pledged to donate 1% of its products, time and resources to philanthropic causes.
Nvidia Corp. (Tii:NVDA) has a dedicated recruitment group for the sole purpose of making sure it has a diverse talent pipeline, a rarity among technology companies, many of whom are behind on gender and racial parity. The company also has a procurement policy that prohibits raw materials being sourced from certain conflict zones.
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