How to Design Alltogether? The Triple Bottom Line


  • Ricardo Barrera


sustainability, social responsibility, ethic behavior, hybrid organizations, design


Business´ owners want their enterprises are profitable, and that profits stay forever. In other words, they want business economic and financially sustainable. Citizens want business socially responsible, and also environmentally careful, and contribute to recover it.

The liquid societies (Bauman, 2000) create and destroy markets very quickly, and shareholders demand CEOs adapts their enterprises to those changes, maintaining profitable. Corruption scandals promote strong society claims, demand ethic behaviors. There are more sights about the environment. Paris signature authorities tell “these are not enough” (Paris Climate Agreement, 2016).

There are theoretical papers about each of these aspects, but there aren’t a holistic view trying to find systemic answers.

How have enterprises that are simultaneously sustainable, ethically behavior in all domains, and environmentally responsible:

Are enough to choose a CEO who can make the triple goals?

Can move the enterprise with a consulting work to the triple ends?

Must promulgate laws, with strong penalties, to force enterprises to obtain the triple line?

Is it necessary to (re-) design the enterprise to put on the way to the triple results?

The first three questions are not enough. To choose a CEO with those capabilities is possible only for a few numbers of organizations, if it is possible. Consulting is, by definition, limited in time, and it needs a corporation’s behavior for the entire life. And if we have laws about, they cannot explain how to do it. It’s necessary that ALL the company, their members and all around collaborate and coordinate to have a chance to arrive.

In recent times there are proposals to a new way of enterprises, with linked profit business with social impact and environment, call hybrid organizations. They try to generate at the same time, economic, social and environmental value (triple bottom line). Combine the current concepts of sustainability and systemic impact on all the dimensions requires a new design.

In general, it is observed that the treatment of comprehensive way concerned is omitted. It focuses from one or another aspect, emphasis on certain features, but not about taking the overall design, which makes it difficult to appear companies at the same time achieve sustainability on all fronts. Those that exist are shown as successful examples, but is veiled how they succeeded, and the small number shown not allow inferring a viable design. It is about advancing the design companies that meet all requirements and work in line with the systemic dimensions that define Sustainability. Design tools and business models wide target.

How to design organizations broad objectives that are sustainable from economic, social and environmental perspective, taking into account its surroundings and prospects?

Cybernetic models available, such as VSM, systemic tools developed in recent decades, as models of Ackoff, Ulrich, Jackson, Checkland, Bosch, among others, suggest that counted with enough devices to address the design of this new type of companies.

It is necessary to consider the behaviors of businessmen, culture and expectations, since what is being proposed are, to some extent, a Copernican shift in the way of acting and directing companies. It is necessary to consider that it will be necessary not only explain the design, especially its possible results and advantages compared to traditional.

Today, when Millennium Development Goals post 2015 seeking simultaneously to defeat the scourge of poverty, and lead humanity to sustainable development, we must make all the productive forces in each place are aligned to work simultaneously on all fronts: economic, social, environmental, etc. This requires having previously developed academic responses, otherwise treated no objectives or goals but mere wishful thinking. Perhaps this is a small step in the right direction.