Posted by: genevievetaylor | June 25, 2008

Triple Top-Line?

On to the question of how(!) do we make our organizations sustainable?

One useful term to discuss is the idea of the Triple Top Line.

Particularly over the last ten years, as practitioners and companies have started to put sustainability into practice, additions to the definition have also been added. A couple of years ago, a colleague Ed Quevedo (professor over at the Green MBA, and long-time consultant in this work) first introduced me to the term “Triple Top Line”. The idea of the triple top line is that there are opportunities as well as savings to be had in sustainability; that instead of only looking for efficiencies, we can actually find new products, we can redesign processes that actually increase value, not just efficiency. Very intriguing from a strategic point of view – CEOs can begin to set business direction by looking for “Triple Top Line” ideas.

For example: At the recent (May 2008) Sustainable Enterprise Conference, Autodesk talked about their process of sustainability. Three years ago, they actually started with marketing and sales, sponsoring a green event in New York. That led to looking at their own operations, seeking new efficiencies along the lines of energy and water.

And then their Product Development department joined in the fun. You see, they have a product called AutoCad that the vast majority of designers in the building industry AND the landscape industry use to design our physical landscape. And now those smart, creative software creators are innovating to make it easier for the incredible number of designers that use their product to design in congruence with the natural landscape, to incorporate passive solar and green elements.

An excellent example of a Triple Top Line Opportunity

Not only is this little story an incredible example of finding the unique leverage point that that organization is positioned to use, but it is also an interesting example of how a company looked for the top line opportunities first. On their website, their marketing department has done an excellent job of highlighting all of the exciting designers who are using AutoCad to “Innovate in Green.”

Triple Top Line is very exciting – it moves beyond the idea of sustainable development, beyond Triple Bottom Line, it finds more than the operations folks in an organization listening; you start to find marketing & sales, CEOs, and product development paying attention. Plus, it is a very positive term – lets look for opportunities for growth, not just cost-savings.

However, Top Line advocates have the same challenge that Bottom Line advocates have – they still get fuzzy when they think about the “People Part.”

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