The argument for a triple bottom line of people, profit, and planet, has been going on for more than 100 years. In 1916, the Dodge brothers sued Henry Ford in Dodge v. Ford Motor Company. The courts ruled in favor of the Dodge brothers, stating that a:
“business corporation is organized and carried on primarily for the profit of the stockholders.”
In 1970, economist Milton Friedman published his article “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.” Friedman argues that any money spent by a company on “social responsibility” takes away from the benefit owed to the shareholders.
Progressive businesses have had to fight against this tide of short-term shareholder gains at the expense of other stakeholders. They argue that by focusing on a triple bottom line, people, profit, and planet, they are serving the need for sustainable returns over time.
One center of thought leadership on the triple bottom line is Presidio Graduate School. Presidio is one of the first graduate institutions to focus on sustainable management. Nick Aster was an early graduate of Presidio. During his graduate studies, he wrote for Gawker and TreeHugger.com. As a capstone project for graduate school, Nick started TriplePundit.com. At Triple Pundit, they tell stories about organizations that are making money through environmental and social initiatives.
The Editor in Chief of Triple Pundit is Jen Boynton. Jen describes her path to her role as Editor as “winding and unexpected.” Jen studied sociology as an undergrad. “When I went to college, I had no idea that one could have a values-based career in the business world. When you come out of undergrad with a sociology degree, there’s not much you’re qualified to do.”
She landed a job in the British consulate, working in science and technology. Her job coincided with the George W. Bush as the presidency. President Bush was a vocal denier of climate change. Because of her role in the British Consulate, she could see that the British were taking a more stringent, scientific approach to climate change. Her experience with climate science ignited a passion in her for environmental issues and their social impact. “Especially when it comes go global warming, environmental issues have a social component,” Jen told me.
She moved to San Francisco and took a job with the Union of Concerned Scientists. Though she loved the work, she was frustrated with the slow pace of change in the political realm. She started to become interested in the world of sustainable business. Therefore, she decided to pursue an MBA in sustainable management from Presidio Graduate School. That is where she met Nick Aster.
Jen’s relationship with Triple Pundit started informally. Jen started as a blogger. She says “I was that person tapping his shoulder saying ‘Hey, it would work much better if we organized in this way,’ and “Why aren’t we covering this?’” Eventually, Nick gave Jen the job of Editor in Chief.
Triple Pundit has over half a million unique visitors to their website every month. They publish around eight articles per weekday, focusing on the intersection of business, the environment, and society. They also collaborate with other content producers through what Jen refers to as coopetition, cooperation with competing companies. “We’re competitors when it comes to advertising dollars, but we’re community members first and foremost. The more our field grows, there more there will be for everyone.”
“Triple Pundit is an outlet for the business side of environmental news.”
“When I’m assigning stories, I look for at least two of the three-legged stool: social or environmental plus the business.”
“It’s one part telling stories that need to be told, and one part helping passionate people to find these kinds of jobs and find ways to make their current jobs more sustainable.”
“Like many people in the sustainability field, we have a winding and unexpected paths to our roles.”
“You know quickly whether something is working or not because you have this financial component.”
“Looking back, it seems pretty clear that I was going to find this work.”
“If I could tell my younger self something, it would be that it will all work out.”
“I came to realize that the blogging medium was a natural fit for me.”
“Volunteer. Get involved in passion projects, art projects, activism projects in your community.”
“I’ve always been that person who did more than one thing at once.”
“It’s important to stay active and follow the threads that keep you excited.”
“We’re around half a million unique visitors per month.”
“Social media is, give love and you’ll get love back.”
“Corporate boards that have at least one woman on them have higher stock prices and better resilience”
“There’s an economic benefit to access to education and access to birth control.”
“What’s been most successful for me is doing the things that seem interesting and seem important.”
“For social entrepreneurs, the business angle has to work.”