SUSTAINABILITY is now a key driving factor in business.
The challenge, however, involves knowing how to measure and achieve sustainability in a profit-driven world. Back in 1994, the phrase “people, planet, profit” was coined by John Elkington, a well-known serial entrepreneur, business author and an authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development.
The concept Elkington introduced – that is, the triple bottom line – has become part and parcel of almost all discussions about corporate sustainability.
By taking the concept as a triple bottom line, it follows that a company must make an account or take an inventory of the environmental and social impacts of their operations while maximizing profit.
The problem with this is that there always appears to be a struggle to balance the financial costs of environmentally and socially sustainable solutions. In the end, sustainability managers end up having brilliant ideas and solutions for the improvement of the people and the planet – but without being able to implement such solutions for the sake of profit.
In short, the triple bottom line mindset makes it difficult to meet environmental and social objectives since profit is always the priority.
That’s not to say that no company has succeeded in achieving a balance between all three because there are companies that have made it work.
Companies like Patagonia (outdoor wear), Seventh Generation (personal care and cleaning products), A Good Company (e-commerce), Human Nature (bath and body products), Pela (phone cases), Numi Organic Tea, West Paw (pet supplies), Jacinto & Lirio (notebooks and planners), and Echostore (various organic products) are known for their eco-friendly products and focus on social responsibility.
But these companies are few and far between, and we need more.
Mindset shift required
There is a need to have a fundamental shift in our understanding of what businesses are for and what “people, planet, profit” stands for. Then and only then can we make all three elements work together in harmony.
There’s a widespread thinking that the purpose of every business is to make money or profit. After all, this is the mindset we grew up with and even business schools teach this.
The fish vendor makes money selling fish, the sari-sari store owner makes money selling various food and household products and the dentist makes money cleaning teeth or making dentures.
While each business could make money, profit is not the goal of business. If people stop eating fish, or start cooking all meals at home or can’t afford to get their teeth checked, none of the businesses mentioned would last. Businesses must provide value to the community in order to last.
The value we are talking about here is not as simple as providing fish, cooked meals or dental services. Every business must provide value to the people and the planet – in the short and long term.
Profit-driven businesses tend to focus on money in the short and long term.
Not on the people or the planet.
People + Planet = Profit
It may seem like an uphill struggle for businesses focused on sustainability and social good, but it is true that People + Planet = Profit.
When people find your business to be eco-sustainable and ethical (no exploitation or labor malpractices), they will support you.
This means that profit is actually an inherent outcome if you provide value to the people and the planet. And let’s not even divorce people from the planet. Anything that is good for the Earth is good for us.
Therefore, in a sustainable business, the importance of profit must never exceed (nor should it be any less) value.
Baguio tourism numbers
Now, how about implementing the People + Planet = Profit equation in the City of Baguio?
After all, our current mayor heavily promoted his environmentally focused political platform during the campaign period prior to the last mayoral elections.
Now that the city is allowing more tourists into the city, 3,000 tourists daily is said to be low or insufficient; that is, according to a post published by the Public Information Office of the City of Baguio published last July 6, 2021: “Magalong claimed that the present daily tourist arrivals in the city is not yet sufficient to allow the gradual and safe revival of tourism as one of the local economic drivers.”
We all know about our long-term environmental problems and the sometimes seemingly eco-unfriendly moves the city government has taken.
Unsustainable tourism being one – a problem that has existed for ages.
So, why not change things or shake things up?
Why not make the environment the priority for once?
Why focus only on profit?
When will we ever learn?