In searching for a definition of sustainable living I’ve borrowed from a term that comes from the business world — the concept of the triple bottom line. The triple bottom line refers to a balanced view of sustainability in which successful, sustainable businesses are those that achieve positive results in not one but three bottom lines. It includes the traditional financial bottom line, but also takes into consideration positive results in a social bottom line as well as an environmental bottom line. The three bottom lines are categorized as people, planet and profit. The triple bottom line has three overlapping circles representing each bottom line; the area of overlap or balance between the three bottom lines is where sustainability is maximized. For example, a business that makes a financial profit at the expense of the health or well-being of their employees, their customers or society in general has neglected the “people” bottom line to serve the “profit” bottom line. Or if the business makes a profit but has resulted in pollution or some other harm to the environment, that represents neglect of the “planet” bottom line. Neither of these situations would be considered sustainable” over the long term, and businesses operating this way would be in jeopardy.
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