top of page

"Cannibals With Forks : Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business" by John Elkington, 1997

This book shows how businesses can achieve the three inter-linked goals of economic prosperity, environmental protection and social equity, through a triple bottom line

"Cannibals With Forks : Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business" by John Elkington, 1997

Written in 1997, the book "Cannibals With Forks: Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business" by John Elkington captures the essence of sustainability’s major pillars that have become widely accepted today.

John Elkington coined a term: the “triple bottom line” (“TBL” or “3BL”) - an accounting framework to measure social, environmental, and financial results as bottom lines. The phrase "People, Planet, Profit", also coined by J. Elkington, is often used to describe the TBL, which are considered the three pillars of sustainability. 3Ps appeared for the first time in Shell's initial sustainability report in 1997.

The book explains the concepts and their origin, and really digs into the concepts of the triple win, values, transparency, life-cycle technology, corporate governance, transition. It equips you with a toolbox to (strive in) deliver(y) against all three dimensions.

One of Cambridge Sustainability's Top 50 Books for Sustainability, as voted for by our alumni network of over 3,000 senior leaders from around the world.

Having recently reached out to the author with a question on today's barriers in implementing sustainability in companies, Mr Elkington responded:

"The most important barrier to effective business action on sustainability challenges is Economics. We need a much broader definition of value creation and destruction, which is what I was trying to do with the triple bottom line.
The second most important barrier is the short-term time horizons of most financial market actors. We see some progress, but a real paradigm shift is needed. ESG is not enough.
The third is the way-too-slow evolution of business school education.
And, by no means finally, business will not take the really hard decisions unless governments force them to do so."

My recommendation: This is a core reading for understanding the basis of Sustainability concept and how it affects all sides of the market. I recommend reading the book to understand the synergistic value of conscientious business operation, how it add value to stakeholder relationship management, and how to use the concept to become the market leader in a long run.

bottom of page