ArticlePDF Available

A Response to "Getting to the Bottom of 'Triple Bottom Line'"


Wayne Norman and Chris MacDonald launch a strong attack against Triple Bottom Line or 3BL accounting in their article "Getting to the Bottom of 'Triple Bottom Line'" (2004). This response suggests that, while limitations to 3BL accounting do exist, the critique of Norman and MacDonald is deeply flawed.
Moses L. Pava
Wayne Norman and Chris MacDonald launch a strong attack
against Triple Bottom Line or 3BL accounting in their article "Getting
to the Bottom of Triple Bottom Line'" (2004). This response suggests
that, while limitations to 3BL accounting do exist, the critique of Nor-
man and MacDonald is deeply flawed.
ayne Norman and Chris MacDonald make a strong attack against Triple
Bottom Line or 3BL accounting in their article "Getting to the Bottom of
'Triple Bottom Line" (Norman and MacDonald 2004). They correctly note that
there has been relatively little academic research on this topic. This is particularly
troublesome given that this term is now widely used in business circles. A Google
search in February of 2004 returned roughly 52,400 web pages that mention this
phrase.' One of the purposes of their paper, then, is to begin a rigorous debate about
the strengths and weaknesses of 3BL. This is an important and long-overdue goal.
Unfortunately, the authors' own conclusions are deeply flawed.
The authors begin their analysis by methodically setting out five claims that they
believe are being made by the supporters of 3BL. These are as follows:
components of "social performance" can
in relatively objective ways on the basis of standard indicators.
A social "bottom line"—that
something analogous to
a net social "profit/loss"—can be calculated using data from these indicators
and a relatively uncontroversial formula that could be used for any firm.
Claim: Measuring social performance helps improve social
performance, and
with better social performance tend
to be more
able in the long run.
Strong Social-Obligation
Firms have an obligation to maximize (or
weaker: to improve) their social bottom line—their net positive social im-
pact—and accurate measurement is necessary to judge how well they have
fulfilled this obligation.
The firm has obligations to stakeholders to disclose
information about how well it performs with respect to all stakeholders (Nor-
man and MacDonald 2004: 246).
Business Ethics
ISSN 1052-150X. pp. 105-110
Immediately after presenting these five claims, the authors criticize the "vagueness"
of these formulations. "[T]he truth of many of these claims is salvaged at the expense
of their power," they write (Norman and MacDonald 2004: 246).
In particular, Norman and MacDonald believe that the transparency claim is
especially weak. They state that everyone believes that corporations have obliga-
tions to disclose some information to stakeholders beyond financial measures, but
the real questions is "what information do stakeholders actually have a right to, and
how would one justify such rights-claims?" (Norman and MacDonald 2004: 246).
I believe that the authors are correct when they complain that there is virtually no
substantive discussion among academics about what must be disclosed, what can
be disclosed, and what may not be disclosed to corporate stakeholders. And, to the
extent that their article sparks a dialogue centered on this single issue, it will have
served an important purpose.
However, this problem about the boundaries of what is appropriate and not ap-
propriate to disclose is not unique to the advocates of 3BL accounting. This is a
problem for everyone interested in more and better corporate disclosure, presumably
even Norman and MacDonald. For example, Wal-Mart—which is not one of the
companies that have adopted 3BL accounting—is currently under intense pressure
to disclose the names of
overseas factories. The question of whether or not Wal-
Mart has an obligation to disclose this information can be debated, but it does not
hinge on one's acceptance or non acceptance of 3BL accounting.
The fundamental basis of the authors' rejection of 3BL accounting is based on
their rejection of 3BL's so-called Aggregation Claim. Apparently they accept the
other four claims of 3BL (even transparency). To Norman and MacDonald the Ag-
gregation Claim is the only distinctive aspect of 3BL accounting. In their memorable
words, "what's sound about the 3BL project is not novel, and what is novel is not
sound" (Norman and MacDonald 2004: 247).
Do Advocates
the Aggregation
What Norman and MacDonald want for social and environmental reports is "an
agreed-upon methodology that allows us, at least in principle, to add and subtract
various data until we arrive at a net sum" (Norman and MacDonald 2004: 249).
they state, is what the Aggregation Claim demands. But, given that this
methodology does not exist, and given that this is the only distinctive claim of 3BL
accounting, the whole movement, in their view, becomes "a kind of he" (Norman
and MacDonald 2004: 256).
It would seem that Norman and MacDonald's critique of 3BL accounting is
wholly dependent on their assertion that advocates of 3BL really do accept the
Aggregation Claim. According to Norman and MacDonald, "Organizations such
as the Global Reporting Initiative and AccountAbility have embraced .. . the 3BL
concept for use in the corporate world" (Norman and MacDonald 2004:244). Surely
then, one would imagine from the flow of their argument, these two organizations
especially would fully endorse the Aggregation Claim.
But Norman and MacDonald note correctly just a few pages later that this, in
fact, is not the case. They admit that "the Aggregation Claim .. . is definitely not
endorsed by any of the major social-performance standards to date" (Norman and
MacDonald 2004: 247). They also note, that in practice, no company endorses this
claim. So if the Global Reporting Initiative, AccountAbility, and real businesses
do not endorse the Aggregation Claim, who does?
Norman and MacDonald must and do admit that, in practice, no one actually ac-
Their point
that even though no group really accepts the Aggregation Claim,
logical consistency demands that advocates of 3BL should endorse the claim.
Here is how the authors derive their conclusion. "The keenest supporters of the
3BL movement tend to insist, if only in passing, that firms have social and environ-
mental bottom lines
just the same way that they have 'financial' or 'economic'
bottom lines" (Norman and MacDonald 2004: 249, emphasis in original).
Flawed Logic
There is no source for this claim. Given that the entire argument rests upon its
truthfulness, this is surprising, especially in a paper that already includes thirty-
seven endnotes. For the sake of argument, however, let us assume (despite the fact
that this claim has not been documented) that it is true. Does the Aggregation Claim
logically follow from the claim that firms have "social and environmental bottom
lines in just the same way that they have 'financial' . . . bottom lines"?
The central point of my response is that it follows only if the advocates for 3BL
already accept an Aggregation Claim for the financial bottom
My most impor-
tant disagreement with Norman and MacDonald is with regard to this precise issue.
It is simply not the case that there exists a single number that aggregates financial
performance, and therefore no one should demand this of social and environmental
reporting either.
I think that one can argue that the overriding point of the metaphor of the triple
bottom line is to challenge the traditionally held assumption that any number
alone—including net income—can meaningful capture the appropriate assessment
of corporate performance. Norman and MacDonald seem to take it as a matter of
faith that net income, or the traditional bottom line, is the single source of financial
information included in annual reports to shareholders. It is the number that ag-
gregates financial performance. This is not the case, though.
For years there has been an increasing demand for better financial accountability.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Accounting
Standards Board (FASB) in the U.S. have met this demand by requiring additional
disaggregated disclosures. Anyone who teaches financial statement analysis will
tell you how important it is t o blend information from many different sources about
many different elements of performance. At the simplest level, no one would dream
of evaluating a company without looking at operating cash flows in addition to net
income. Similarly, no one would consider an investment by focusing on operating
cash flows and completely ignoring a risk measure. Is there anyway to aggregate
net income, operating cash flows, and risk? Not to my knowledge.
It is true that financial accounting continues to report a number called net
income, but it is not true that accountants claim that this number tracks financial
performance in a one to one fashion. What is truly confusing about the Norman
and MacDonald paper is that they themselves seem to recognize this very point in
an extended endnote. They state:
It really should be noted that the income statement, with its famous "bottom
is but one of the principal financial statements used to evaluate the
health of
firm. The others include the balance sheet, the statement of cash
flows and the statement of owners' equity. (Norman and MacDonald 2004:
n. 20)
What they fail to notice here, however, is how devastating this note is to their
own argument. By everyone's agreement, net income does not aggregate financial
performance into a single number. It is better thought of as a matrix of financial
why hold the advocates of
reporting to a higher
standard than is currently acceptable in the
realm? In other words, if you
can not summarize financial performance with a single, objective number, you
certainly should not expect to summarize social and environmental performance
in this way.
The Irony of a Triple Bottom Line
One of the major limitations of
business ethics movement, to date, has been
the inability
measure and track social and environmental performance in
ingful, consistent, and comparable
But blaming the advocates of triple bottom
reporting for
is to
blame the only group that
and is trying to remedy
Rather than criticizing triple bottom line reports for their
magical number that aggregates ethical performance, academics
should understand the real import of 3BL reporting and try to improve it.
Triple bottom hne reporting is a metaphor to remind us that corporate perfor-
multi-dimensional. Perhaps
the phrase
multiple bottom
reporting might
more accurate description of the goals for
movement, but
is not
the crucial issue here. What is important to note is the irony inherent in the phrase
And this is exactly what Norman and MacDonald have missed. Isn't the very
claim of more than one bottom line a contradiction in terms? Of course it is. But
that's the point. There is no bottom hne nor was there ever a bottom hne—only
multiple and contingent bottom lines.
Norman and MacDonald raise some important criticisms concerning 3BL ac-
counting. Most importantly, their concern that some companies are abusing it to
promote their own interests is accurate. Consider the case of tobacco company
Brown and Williamson's triple bottom line report as an illustrative example of the
problems of 3BL.
Specifically, the company's claim in its social and environmental report that
"balancing responsibility
to ensure the
long-term sustainability of our company with
our responsibilities as a good corporate citizen is not a dilemma" is, at best, hard
to understand (see Brown and Williamson
51). Further, does the company
recognize that cigarettes are addictive in nature? If so, the company does not say
this in this report. Although the document does state explicitly that members of
the "public health group" hold the position that nicotine is an addictive substance,
the company itself
not take a position on this issue here (see Brown and Wil-
33). In fact, the company states that smokers
to use tobacco
products" (the company's emphasis) and "should be free to do so."
In addition, a report advertising itself as "a social and environmental report"
should include some specific statistics on the admitted dangers of cigarettes. For
example, how many people die each year from smoking Brown and Williamson's
cigarettes? We're told over and over again in the document that there are forty-five
but there
are no
specific statistics about
dangers these smokers
are facing. Obviously, the company is trying to represent its own interests in the
best possible light. There is nothing wrong with
There is a problem, however,
when one uses ethical
to hide unethical behavior.
What does all of this imply about 3BL reporting? Jettisoning it because it can
be misused is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Certainly if we have
learned anything over the last decade it is that even audited income statements are
subject to manipulation. Just as no one is calhng to get rid of income statements,
no one should call for the abandonment of 3BL reporting.
Not Just an Academic Debate
This is not just an academic
is currently overhauhng its basic
conceptual framework. This project should be of critical concern to the business
ethics community. Among other issues, the FASB is addressing the objectives of
accounting and deciding which stakeholders will count. As of
writing it looks
as though
the FASB
will re-assert
current and exclusive emphasis
related to the prediction of cash flows, and will ignore social and environmental
indicators (Bullen and Crook
The FASB would be well-advised to examine
the vast and growing business ethics hterature on stakeholder theory before it com-
mits itself once again to Milton Friedman's thin theory of profit maximization.
The triple bottom line is not a panacea. But, unhke Norman and MacDonald,
I beheve it is a step in the right direction. Triple Bottom Line accounting puts the
notion of accountability back into accounting. Further, it is derived from a more
ethically defensible theory of the firm than the traditional annual report with it sole
emphasis on profit maximization for shareholders.
My own Google search in July 2005 revealed 166,000 hits for "triple bottom line," an
increase of more than 200 percent
just a year and a
Brown and Williamson Tobacco USA.
Social and Environmental Report
2002/2003. Winston-Salem, N.C.: R. J. Reynolds Co.
Bullen, Hasley G., and Kimberly Crook. 2005. "Revisiting the Concepts" (May), www
and Chris MacDonald. 2004. "Getting to the Bottom of Triple Bottom
Business Ethics Quarterly 14(2) (April): 243-62.
... In the past, the triple-bottom-line approach has been criticized due to its lack of reliable measurements (Norman & MacDonald, 2004;Pava, 2007). We used formative scales (see Table 1) to measure the firm's multidimensional social, environmental, and financial performance (Jarvis et al., 2003). ...
Full-text available
Almost two decades ago, Prahalad and Hammond [Harv Bus Rev, 80(9):48–59, 2002] introduced the base/bottom of the pyramid (BOP) approach to profitably serving the poor with business models adapted from developed markets while alleviating poverty. In response to disappointing results and ethical criticism, the BOP approach evolved from a just-for-profit approach with a passive role of the poor to an inclusive development approach that integrates the principles of the triple bottom line. A recent review of the BOP literature [Dembek et al., J Bus Ethics 165(3):365–382, 2020], however, reveals a lack of empirical evidence to support the sustainable BOP approach. In this paper, we specify the assumptions underlying the sustainable BOP approach and test them using structural equation modeling with clustered robust standard errors on a unique dataset of 212 firms. Our findings show that BOP business model involvement and adaptive capacity are significant drivers of the triple bottom line at the BOP; however, business model adaptive capacity does not guarantee an ecologically sustainable performance at the BOP. We find that there is a need for further extension of the ethical foundations of the sustainable BOP approach.
... In a similar vein, Bryden and Gezelius (2017) address innovation's legitimate purposes by exploring how institutions for innovation could be designed in order to address sustainability goals. They combine the IS framework with insights from business ethics (especially the influential ideas of Triple Bottom Line accounting (Elkington 1997;Pava 2007;Slaper and Hall 2011) and frame their concept as an IS for ...
Full-text available
Notwithstanding 40 years of global climate policies, carbon dioxide emissions are still increasing and global surface temperature is still rising until today – with all its consequences to ecosystems and the fate of humanity on Earth. Current attempts to stop and reverse unsustainable developments that lead to the climate crisis and to other ecological and social disasters have proven rather ineffective. While there certainly are many reasons for this on the operative level, the dissertation is motivated by the assumption that countermeasures generally suffer from a lack of systemic framing of the wicked sustainability issues. What if solution approaches – despite being brought forward to the best of decision makers’ knowledge and belief – (only) are subject to a perceptual mistake in the way sustainable solutions are currently framed? I propose a change in perspective as decision making basis for improved sustainability governance. It is a call for getting to the systemic root causes of sustainability problems. To achieve a change in (unsustainable) outcomes, I argue, the logic on which they are produced must change. I conceptualize this change as a paradigmatic shift in knowledge-based innovation systems that becomes necessary to equip them with the requirements to foster sustainability transformations. To this end, I adduce the sustainable knowledge-based bioeconomy as an example of a new innovation paradigm. The knowledge base of innovation systems dedicated to sustainability is explored theoretically and empirically on a policy, an educational, and on a business level. The dissertation is composed of four studies published between 2017 and 2020. After an introduction to the topic and the presentation of the theoretical background, the first paper explores the paradigmatic changes necessary to align innovation systems to the normative implications of sustainability transformations. The types of knowledge required for transformations in the case of the shift towards a sustainable bioeconomy are dealt with in the second publication. The elaboration and refinement of the notion of dedicated knowledge provides a knowledge-theoretical basis for better informing policy makers aiming at the installation of a sustainable knowledge-based bioeconomy. In th ethird study, I analyze to what extent elements of transformative knowledge – one integral part of dedicated knowledge – are considered in the design of European academic bioeconomy curricula. The last paper spotlights the role of firms in contributing to a system-wide adoption of the dedication to sustainability. It closes an important gap between the macro-level of transformation theories and the powerful private actors contributing to its overall outcome from the micro-level. The final Chapter synthesizes and discusses the results of the dissertation’s publications by sketching the knowledge-based change of innovation paradigms that contribute to a transformation to sustainability. The results reveal that a reflection of dedicated transformation processes from a paradigmatic perspective offers theoretical insights that can and should inform public, academic, as well as corporate sustainability endeavors. The consideration of innovation paradigms prompts research to explicitly spell out the normative dimension of innovation processes in innovation systems. This is a decisive step to understanding and possibly informing actions aiming at deliberate change. As an example, I have framed the sustainable bioeconomy as a new paradigm that determines the rate and the direction of innovation in a dedicated innovation system. Once the sustainable bioeconomy paradigm is effective, I argue, it will spontaneously trigger a change in resources used without having it imposed from authorities. To get there, however, policies must take due consideration of the specific characteristics of the relevant knowledge flows, academia must be better trained to afford the required shift in perspectives and trigger transformation processes, and companies must reconsider the values they propose and deliver to their customers. The assemblage of publications spells out the theoretical underpinnings of the knowledge-based bioeconomy and its potential to serve as a new paradigm to spur sustainability transformations. More concretely, the dissertation reveals to what extent the role of knowledge and knowledge itself needs to be reconsidered and in which ways it must be expanded for achieving a systemic change towards more sustainable consumption and production patterns.
... Paradoxically, the TBL framework even allows that some companies, which should be considered as unsustainable "by definition," can appear accountable. The following excerpt from Pava (2007), who analyzes the sustainability report of a tobacco company, the Brown & Williamson Company, clearly provides an example of how companies can opportunistically use sustainability reporting to demonstrate their "apparent" sustainability: ...
This book proposes an integrated approach to sustainability reporting, the goal being to overcome certain limitations of the well-established additive approach, where the reporting of environmental, social and economic issues is sequential, but separate. It argues that, in order to successfully communicate its commitment to sustainability, a company should report on how environmental and social issues impact its way of doing business, namely its business model, contributing to value creation. Thus, a reporting framework for business models that encompasses sustainability is presented. In turn, a number of illustrative examples are examined to show how business model reporting could be optimally used to provide effective and integrated sustainability reporting. The book also offers a broad analysis of corporate sustainability reporting, which includes a discussion of the theoretical background, an explanation of why companies provide sustainability reporting, a description of the current regulatory framework for sustainability disclosure, and a review of sustainability reporting literature that shows the main characteristics of sustainability disclosure practices. Given its scope, the book will be of interest to all researchers and practitioners working for companies or organizations that aim to support, implement and improve their sustainability reporting, by adopting a more integrated approach that interconnects environmental and social aspects with the economic and financial results via the business model. The book also offers a valuable reference guide for social science researchers, including PhD students, interested in a discussion of the latest literature on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and the communication of business models.
... Paradoxically, the TBL framework even allows that some companies, which should be considered as unsustainable "by definition," can appear accountable. The following excerpt from Pava (2007), who analyzes the sustainability report of a tobacco company, the Brown & Williamson Company, clearly provides an example of how companies can opportunistically use sustainability reporting to demonstrate their "apparent" sustainability: ...
The additive approach proposed by the Triple Bottom Line represents the most widespread model for sustainability reporting. Its simple basic idea and its similarities to the traditional accounting system represent its main strengths. However, its implementation raises substantial challenges that limit its effectiveness, especially for companies with a genuine commitment to sustainability that decide to adopt a sustainable business model. This chapter proposes a different approach to sustainability reporting based on a company business model. The business model concept is largely used as a management tool and is increasingly proposed as a platform for external communication. Focusing on sustainability reporting, this work aims to show how companies can take advantage of a business model representation to provide stakeholders with relevant sustainability disclosures centered on value creation in a concise and reliable manner.
... Paradoxically, the TBL framework even allows that some companies, which should be considered as unsustainable "by definition," can appear accountable. The following excerpt from Pava (2007), who analyzes the sustainability report of a tobacco company, the Brown & Williamson Company, clearly provides an example of how companies can opportunistically use sustainability reporting to demonstrate their "apparent" sustainability: ...
This chapter provides an empirical analysis of the sustainability reporting practices of two multinational companies: the German IT company SAP, which operates in the software sector, and the Swedish retailer H&M, one of the most popular brands in the fast fashion industry. Both companies encounter different approaches/sustainability issues when explaining their commitment to sustainability. The aims of this chapter are twofold. On the one hand, it will provide an exemplificative illustration of how the business model tool can be used to interpret the information included in a company’s sustainability reporting, according to the proposal formulated in Chap. 3 of this volume. On the other hand, analyzing two leading companies, both of which provide benchmarks for their respective industries, will offer us insights on whether or not a business case can be made for sustainability, and how sustainability is implemented in the organization and integrated into the company’s value processes.
Full-text available
The peaceful coexistence of business organizations and the communities where they are situated is very imperative to their growth, thus, the emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). However, there may exist clash of interests as to the self-ascertained needs of the host communities and the organisations' CSR priorities. This paper discussed the CSR of a multinational company, Shell, in order to determine if it has in any way, affected its relationship with its host communities in Nigeria. This is due to the recurring disputes that have been recorded between the former and the later in the past and recent years despite the huge CSR programmes that have been organised by Shell in those years. In order to demystify the reasons behind this anomaly, this paper discussed Shell's CSR programmes for their host communities in Niger Delta, the major concerns of their host communities through a careful review of existing literature on the discuss and CSR theories that bother on CSR for host communities. The CSR theories-Caroll's CSR Pyramid, Stakeholder's theory and the Triple Bottom Line theory, were reviewed to understand angles to CSR in order to make plausible suggestions to cub the constant rift between Shell and its host communities. The findings show that apart from their economic responsibilities, Shell's CSR have mostly revolved around philanthropy while the major concern of their host communities bother on their environment which is constantly polluted by the activities of Shell. Thus, the paper recommends that Shell should prioritize working on oil spillage that affects the environment and that effective communication with the company's stakeholders should be the highest determinant of CSR priorities to host communities.
Full-text available
The main purpose of this paper is to define and explore the People-oriented elements in the corporate social responsibility strategies of the banking industry in Romania based on the 'triple bottom line' theory. Taking into consideration the particular position of the social issues in the CSR mechanism, this research can provide useful insights in the Romanian banking sector assessment, and thus help the bank managers to better integrate the community needs in their CSR agenda and to report the CSR outputs according to the 'triple bottom line' approach. The present paper analyses the CSR visibility in the Romanian banking industry, identifying the main reasons behind the CSR decisions, trying to distinguish between different CSR dimensions through a coding process that will reveal the dominant theme of CSR activity in the mentioned sector. In more specific terms, the majority of the banking institutions from the sample have focused on the social dimension of CSR, suggesting a leading direction for the social responsible actions in the current Romanian banking system, with direct implications on CSR communication, reputation or client's perceptions.
With the effects of inclusive economic predicament of 2008, the obstinate problems of importunate poverty and environmental change have focused the attention towards maintaining the sustainability by establishing balance in the triple bottom line (TBL). In this paper, we have tried to critically examine the philosophy of triple bottom line and it’s relevance in maintaining the sustainability. The process of maintaining sustainability in the TBL is undoubtedly facilitated by the citizenship behaviour of companies (Henriques et al. Routledge, London, 2013). Yet the triple bottom line philosophy is being accepted by different researchers because they consider TBL is one of the concepts evaluating and improving the sustainability. Critics are typically “slow to praise and quick to criticize” (Mish and Scammon, J Public Policy Market 29:12–26, 2010) with this the critics of TBL argue on its practicality and validity. One of the critical studies of TBL regarded it as intrinsically ambiguous because it is unable to convey its exact meaning (Norman and MacDonald, Bus Ethics Q 14:243–262, 2004). Triple Bottom Line a framework of sustainability to examine the social, environmental and economic impact of company was recalled by Elikington it's originator despite rapid growth in the area of sustainability extending up over one million dollar in a year as he realized that TBL was not meeting the purpose for which it was created. After comprehensive understanding and building upon the available literature, this paper criticizes TBL and reveals that this philosophy is not based on the real concept, nothing is new, unique and innovative in it. It only explains the already existing concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and a sustainability measurement tool.
Full-text available
The paper aims to present CSR activities in the Corona Time and internal stakeholders´ perception of these activities. Many of successful business would like to be more social responsible not only in usual time period, but during the crises, too. They would like to support and help the society. The paper introduces the Case Study of SKODA AUTO. How the business helped the society by CSR activities, and how the internal stakeholders perceive these activities. The description of the perception is based on the survey organized in May/ June 2020, immediately after the quarantine and reducing of emergency measure. The sense of the CSR activities is in their marketing communication, too. Therefore, the attention of researchers was focused on the effectiveness of the marketing communication to internal stakeholders.
Full-text available
This study conducts a comprehensive literature review of articles on the triple bottom line (TBL) published from January 1997 to September 2018 to provide significant insights and support to guide further discussion. There were three booms in TBL publications, occurring in 2003, 2011, and 2015, and many articles attempt to address the issue of sustainability by employing the TBL. This literature analysis includes 720, 132, and 58 articles from the Web of Science (WOS), Inspec, and Scopus databases, respectively, and reveals the gaps in existing research. To discover the barriers and points of overlap, these articles are categorized into six aspects of the TBL: economic, environmental, social, operations, technology, and engineering. Examining the top 3 journals in terms of published articles on each aspect reveals the research trends and gaps. The findings provide solid evidence confirming the argument that the TBL as currently defined is insufficient to cover the entire concept of sustainability. The social and engineering aspects still require more discussion to support the linkage of the TBL and to reinforce its theoretical basis. Additionally, to discover the gaps in the data sources, theories applied, methods adopted, and types of contributions, this article summarizes 82 highly cited articles covering each aspect. This article offers theoretical insights by identifying the top contributing countries, institutions, authors, keyword networks, and authorship networks to encourage scholars to push the current discussion further forward, and it provides practical insights to bridge the gap between theory and practice for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of improvements.
Full-text available
In this paper, we examine critically the notion of "Triple Bottom Line" accounting. We begin by asking just what it is that supporters of the Triple Bottom Line idea advocate, and attempt to distil specific, assessable claims from the vague, diverse, and sometimes contradictory uses of the Triple Bottom Line rhetoric. We then use these claims as a basis upon which to argue (a) that what is sound about the idea of a Triple Bottom Line is not novel, and (b) that what is novel about the idea is not sound. We argue on both conceptual and practical grounds that the Triple Bottom Line is an unhelpful addition to current discussions of corporate social responsibility. Finally, we argue that the Triple Bottom Line paradigm cannot be rescued simply by attenuating its claims: the rhetoric is badly misleading, and may in fact provide a smokescreen behind which firms can avoid truly effective social and environmental reporting and performance.
000 hits for "triple bottom line," an increase of more than 200 percent in just a year and a half References Brown and Williamson Tobacco USARevisiting the Concepts
  • My
  • Google
My own Google search in July 2005 revealed 166,000 hits for "triple bottom line," an increase of more than 200 percent in just a year and a half. References Brown and Williamson Tobacco USA. 2003. Social and Environmental Report 2002/2003. Winston-Salem, N.C.: R. J. Reynolds Co. Bullen, Hasley G., and Kimberly Crook. 2005. "Revisiting the Concepts" (May),
Social and Environmental Report
  • Williamson Brown
  • Usa Tobacco
Brown and Williamson Tobacco USA. 2003. Social and Environmental Report 2002/2003. Winston-Salem, N.C.: R. J. Reynolds Co.
Revisiting the Concepts
  • Hasley G Bullen
  • Kimberly Crook
Bullen, Hasley G., and Kimberly Crook. 2005. "Revisiting the Concepts" (May), www