The phrase ‘triple bottom line’ was coined back in 1994 by author and business advisor John Elkington. Since then, companies from every sector, big and small, have adopted and employed it. Nowhere has the concept of the triple bottom line thrived like in the logistics industry, however — today, more than ever. The complexities and nuances of an evolving global supply network have made focusing on the bottom line of paramount importance. And it’s not just about profits.
Get familiar with the triple bottom line
In defining the triple bottom line, Elkington argued for three main drivers of corporate value: economic drivers, social catalysts, and environmental initiatives. He believes that the three Ps — people, planet, profits — must coexist with synergy, and when they do, they’ll drive sustainable growth for companies. To drive this growth, companies need to make equal investments in each. For example:
- Planet: Apple uses low-carbon materials for its products, reducing environmental impact.
- People: 3M makes large contributions to STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) programs to improve education.
- Profits: Toyota’s approach to Lean manufacturing shows emphasis on profits.
Each example shows a specific focus on a bottom-line driver, which folds into enhanced triple bottom line profits over time.
How technology is driving the triple bottom line
Like any business, freight and logistics companies have access to the triple bottom line given the right technologies to pursue efficiency. Digitizing supply chains quantifies them, which is the first step in delineating opportunities for bottom-line savings. Here’s a look at four technologies and how they contribute to triple bottom line profits.
- Real-time business logistics tools. Real-time logistics tools can do for freight what Toyota’s Lean manufacturing principles did for producers. Real-time oversight enables practical decision-making that leads to bottom line profits. It’s already proven practice for some of the world’s largest carriers.
- Transportation management. Smarter transportation management software (TMS) enables both people and profits by affording freight companies powerful control over key shipping variables. From selecting transport options to tracking points of custody, a new-age TMS drives efficiency, which drives bottom-line benefits.
- Contract management. We’ve already begun seeing blockchain contracts within the freight industry, and the future is rife with them. The security and decentralized nature of blockchain contracts enables better contract management with real benefits for people and profitability.
- Emissions tracking. Logistics emissions are a constant source of cost and an area rife for bottom-line savings, across air, land, and sea. Zero emissions may seem pragmatic, but it may be possible using emissions tracking technologies. The upfront cost may be higher, but the long-term savings make it justifiable.
The culmination of these technologies represents a digital force for change within the freight and logistics industry. And while top-line growth continues to be an exciting prospect in an ever-globalizing world, these technologies bring much-needed profit opportunities to the bottom line. More importantly, they enable triple bottom line profits like never before.
Bottom-line profits are a competitive advantage
Technology has always been the answer to innovation, which has allowed companies to become more profitable on the top line and more efficient (read: profitable) at the bottom line. Now, a brand-new crop of digital technology is available to companies across the supply chain.
Harnessing the power of the digital supply chain is how companies can tap into the benefits of triple bottom line improvements. Without them, businesses lose a competitive advantage and the ability to generate positive returns on smart investments for the future.