The triple bottom line: what it means for our industry

This content is produced by a member of The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

The triple bottom line, or the 3Ps (people, planet and profit), are increasingly being talked about. Companies are not just being judged on their financial performance – they are having to demonstrate their performance around how they manage and look after people and the planet. Dale Parmenter, chief executive officer at DRPG, urges organizations to reprioritize their creative process over financial gain.

As a creative organization, much of the triple-bottom-line thinking and development has to start with the idea. As creatives we have a responsibility to consider all aspects of supporting the 3Ps in the design of any communication project. Measuring ROI on comms is long established; now, how can we extend this to measure the return for our people and planet so that when we start that creative process, we integrate the 3P thinking?

It has to start, as always, with the Why and the What. Why are we doing this project, what’s the desired outcome, and is this the most effective method? I like to use a very simple guide:

  • Outcome – what does the right outcome look like?

  • Action – what do I need the audience to do to achieve that outcome?

  • Influence – am I talking to the audience in their language, and is it in their power to take action?

The outcome would normally be attributed to some sort of value, maybe revenue, employee retention or customer acquisition. Now let’s take this a step further – what if our outcome were things such as no waste to landfill, sourcing locally or supporting a community project? This is when our outcome goes beyond just revenue and into a holistic view of the whole project.

This is where the creatives come in, understanding what those outcomes are before any ideas are considered. The creative will drive the supply chain, it will drive the people agenda, and ultimately have a massive impact on cost, value and effectiveness of the end communication.

For example, take an experiential event to promote a new consumer product. Clearly the outcome would be to drive consumer awareness, which would lead to increased sales and then brand loyalty – simple, that’s the Profit leg sorted. So now we add into the mix the considerations for People and Planet.

For Planet we would consider the design, build and physical collateral; how much power is it going to take, and can we ensure fully recyclable or repurposed material is used? How are we transporting the material? Can we use a digital giveaway format? Can we refuse to use any plastic?

For People, can we employ hosts and hostesses local to each show? What can we source from local businesses? Are there any items or collateral following the project that can be donated to charity to be repurposed? Are we ensuring the messaging and the design is accessible to all?

Just a few considerations creatives should be thinking about before starting the creative process. All these opportunities to support the 3Ps then become the basis of the KPIs for the project – something we can measure and then present to the client of how the project succeeded on three fronts. There is also the opportunity for using the data to communicate with consumers, shouting out and celebrating what this project has achieved on top of just selling the product.

The creative process cannot be viewed as a separate function that sits outside the production elements. It needs to drive the sustainability agenda, and all creatives need to have a broad understanding of sustainability, the opportunities, the threats and the tools they have available to them.