Triple-Bottom Line: How to be a more sustainable business in 2020

When you look at the word “sustainable”, the first thing that may come to mind is your impact on the environment. But how does that definition change when you think about business sustainability? Many in today’s society would say that it is still rooted in the idea of leaving a better planet than the one we were given and this is proven by the number of sustainability initiatives that companies are releasing, from Bank of America to Dell. However, business sustainability is not just about the environment.

In 1994, John Elkington coined the term “triple bottom line” when referring to business sustainability, stating that sustainable businesses look at three different measures of success: Profit (the economic bottom line), Planet (the ecological bottom line), and People (the social equity bottom line).


Profitability is part of just about every conversation in regards to our industry. Whether it be at the loan level, by LO, or just the lender’s overall profit, it is at the heart of every mortgage bank. Profit is also where a business must start when looking to be sustainable. If your accounting team doesn’t have the proper tools to recognize if and why your company is profitable, there is no moving forward with your other sustainability efforts. However, also note that the economic bottom line is more than just the profitability of a business. It also includes multiple other areas such as taxes paid, monetary flows, and jobs created, and even though these are quantifiable, you most likely won’t find them on the latest profitability report. Understanding how these things affect your financial profit will also help in understanding the other two measures of sustainability success.


In other industries, recognizing ways to be ecologically sustainable may be a bit easier, but when your company handles intangible products and services, these methods may not be as obvious. Because of this intangible product, we must look at the tangible things we encounter every day. Having your headquarters in a Green Certified building, much like Guild mortgage, isn’t going to happen overnight. However, utilizing the right technology can help reduce your company’s footprint relatively quickly. Secure cloud storage and document sharing technologies, including branch reporting modules and electronically-submitted commission worksheets, eliminate the need to print out lengthy reports and documents. If you must print out these documents, look into using recycled paper and be sure to print on both sides of the paper, so you use less overall. For more tips on getting started, check out


Even more difficult than measuring ecological efforts is your company’s social sustainability. The UN defines social sustainability as “identifying and managing business impacts, both positive and negative, on people.” This includes the effects on employees, customers, and local communities. We’ve seen a rise in efforts of our industry to promote social sustainability, with groups such as mPower and mPact, however every business should do their part. Charitable efforts that benefit the communities your business serves, volunteering opportunities and benefits for employees, and socially responsible investing are just a few ways your company can begin its social sustainability efforts.

Moving into the next decade, sustainability isn’t going anywhere. If anything, it will become more important. Therefore, when evaluating your company’s efforts, your goals should reflect the long-term nature of sustainability and span across all departments.

Check out these articles for more information on the Triple Bottom Line, sustainability, and efforts to become more sustainable:


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