Logo handbook corporate social responisbility
logo ethics workshop
Pace University Link
Contact tab space
Theories of corporate social responsibility
Pure Marketplace Ethics Libertarian Marketplace
(Shareholder Theory)
Social Marketplace
(Shareholder Theory)
Shared Value Stakeholder Theory - Soft Progressive Corporate Social Responsibility Triple Bottom Line / Sustainability Stakeholder Theory - Hard
Theories of corporate social responsibility distributed across tensions
Social and
Environmental Engagement
Freedom versus Happiness Individualism versus Collectivism Independence versus Belonging Dignity
versus Compassion
Triple Bottom Line / Sustainability
(People, Planet, Profit)
  Overview Businesses hold three equally fundamental obligations: to produce sustainable results in the social, environmental and economic fields.  

Social fairness

Environmental stewardship

Economic growth and profit


As measured independently of other responsibilities, ensure the fair distribution of opportunity, wealth and welfare along the line of value-creation.

As measured independently of other responsibilities, contribute to the continuing livability of the planet.

As measured independently of other responsibilities, achieve bottom line results ensuring the business’s long term viability.

  Key concepts

Each of the three values are pursued autonomously and businesses should tabulate and present results for each of the three categories individually

Economic sustainability: the idea of profit is gauged by endurance (for the business operation) through time as opposed to immediate maximization.
Social sustainability is understood on the economic and human levels.
Economics: In a metropolitan area, a reality where all executives are hauling down millions a year ultimately becomes unsustainable when other workers can no longer afford to live near the city and so aren't available to do the supporting work necessary to keep the executives going.
Humanity: political unrest and violence may erupt in regions or entire countries where a society's wealth concentrates in a narrow demographic. (The Fair Trade movement may be understood as an expression of sustainability in both economic and human senses.)
Environmental sustainability requires stewardship of our natural surroundings: use balanced by preservation to enable continued use. A brewery dripping industrial waste into the soil fails the test of sustainability when the toxins infiltrate the water table and poison the groundwater the brewery needs to make its beer.

Social and environmental initiatives hold value independent of business activity and are recognized and pursued beside marketplace business activity

  Hard questions

How do you measure success in each of the three areas - people, planet and profit?

How do you measure success in each of the three areas so that you can normalize, that is, compare relative success in each of the three areas?

Assuming you can normalize measures of sustainability in the three areas, should one area - or one cause within an area - be emphasized over the others?


Triple Bottom Line theory is difficult to implement in the theoretically vigorous sense because of problems associated with measuring and comparing results across the three divergent categories of responsibility. One response is a soft triple bottom line ethics, one where distinct actions are taken on all three fronts without rigorously defining their relative import. Another response is to focus efforts on the more abstract idea of "sustainability."

The Great Lakes Brewing Company, which donates to charitable social organizations, acts to preserve the local water supply (important for beer), and seeks long-haul commercial viability.
great lakes brewing

Tweezerman (Beauty products)

TBLI Group (Triple Bottom Line investment strategies)

product red
(under some understandings)

  Prime philosophical theory compatibilities Duty theory, Utilitarianism,Rights theory, Culturalism  
  Human values

Human dignity derived from compassion (as opposed to dignity as foundational and compassion deriving from dignity)

Harmony and fitting into society valued above individual freedom and independence

Collective welfare as the source of individual opportunity and welfare (successful individuals arise from good communities as opposed to good communities being an effect of successful individuals)

  Associated notable figures John Elkington, Gro Harlem Brundtland (Brundtland Commission UN)  
  Branding connect

Great Lakes Brewing


Sustainability Edge

Edelman PR

  Branding misconnect   A blatant web seeding by Kraft (Cached)  
© Ethics Workshop