If you follow me on social media or if we’ve had the honor of meeting, there’s a good chance you’ve heard me talk about the “quadruple bottom line.” I love the concept so much that the BeneForza logo alludes to it. So what is it?
The quadruple bottom line (QBL) concept expands on the “triple bottom line” (TBL) you may have heard of before — so let’s start there.
Triple Bottom Line is a philosophy where we measure a business’s performance in three areas: Profit, Planet, and People. Profit is the traditional “bottom line” we hear about in business. It’s important; after all, the old saying goes, “no margin, no mission.” But a singular focus on profit, regardless of how we get there, has led to what I not-so-lovingly refer to as “bastardized capitalism.” That’s why the TBL brings in two additional balancing facets of performance measurement — Planet, which measures our performance as it relates to the earth and other species who share it with us, and People, which measures our performance as it relates to our employees, clients, suppliers, and the communities we operate in (and beyond). If your business has good performance in the profit realm but is causing harm to our planet and people, your overall performance isn’t so great after all.
The QBL adds a fourth measure: Purpose. I love adding in the fourth measure because businesses who aim to do good in the world generally have a specific impact they’re trying to make, and this bottom line highlights that impact. Most of the time, their impact area (purpose) would fall into one of the Planet or People categories, but they’re not just trying to perform well — they’re on a mission of transformation. As an example, Patagonia says, “we’re in business to save our home planet.” Mod Pizza “exists to contribute to a world that works for and includes everyone,” and intentionally hires people who are often overlooked and face barriers to employment. Bombas states that their “mission since day one has been to help those experiencing homelessness.” These are just a few well-known examples; I’ve worked with a firm owner whose business’s purpose is to teach everyone, regardless of net worth or income, to be a thoughtful giver, and another who is on a mission to change how communities of color think about and relate to their money.
It’s time to move beyond measuring just your profit and move to a quadruple bottom line. There are a number of different metrics you can use to measure your performance in each area — if you’re not sure what to measure, check out the free B Impact Assessment for ideas. Don’t worry about perfection as you’re getting started — choose a few metrics in each area that you can track and control, and create your first QBL. From there you can refine and add metrics over time. Like so many things, the most important step is to begin.