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  • John Reese

Commit to a Triple Bottom Line

Triple Bottom Line (TBL) is an economic business approach in which a company makes a commitment to focus on social and environmental concerns as much as profits. TBL theory posits that instead of one bottom line, there should be three: profit, people, and the planet. This is not a new concept in any way, shape, or form, but it does not seem to have gained momentum in the hospitality industry where old school thinking is often focused on short-term decision making and falls short on big-picture thought.


In a time of heightened uncertainty, hospitality organizations can demonstrate they can be both part of the community and a force for good. This is an opportunity for hotels, restaurants, and senior-living organizations to demonstrate their core values, to act with purpose, and to show they care about their stakeholders.


Right now, Canadians are focused on their families, their friends, and their communities. They also care about the environment and global health. Hospitality organizations have the opportunity to demonstrate how their core values align with those of the larger community.



Critical to these efforts is, of course, authenticity. Efforts made to cash in on greater core value alignment without real change does not fly. The market, especially Gen X and younger, can spot an imposter a mile away. Those of us in hospitality have the opportunity to engage with our communities and our people and become known for making a difference. We should strive to be leaders, not followers, in making contributions to the betterment of the world around us.


The place to start is with profit. There can be no investment in community, people, and the planet without earning a fair return on investment. Adopting a “profit first” mentality is a good place to start. However, this is not about being greedy. It is about going into your fiscal year with clear priorities set and with an achievable budget that targets a bottom-line number. What follows throughout the year are decisions that will secure that target number, even if those decisions are difficult. It is a far cry from the small business owner busting her butt and waiting for the end of the year to see what may be left over for her!


With the bottom-line target set – and held sacred – priorities can be attached to how the business is going to impact people and planet. As with profit, nothing will happen unless the goals are clear, in writing, able to be measured, and somewhat automatic. If decision-makers wait to see what they can afford, the likelihood of any positive impact being made is sharply reduced. Establish the key initiatives as part of your annual and quarterly planning, put the mechanism in place, and measure the impact.

I have often thought that we should really be looking at a Quadruple Bottom Line model that includes what we are doing for our people internally as well as in the community in which we operate. My hope is that this is implied, but often we ignore the fact that caring for our team can be the best way to make social impact. With the industry in the midst of a what I hope to be radical transformation, let’s focus first on paying living wages, offering access to extended health benefits, increasing the fairness of our tip pool process, and creating a level playing field for back-of-house staff and our service teams. Beyond that, and yes it needs to be said, make your team more representative of the community within which you operate.


Does this mean that small business owners need to consider becoming social entrepreneurs and eco-warriors? Only if that aligns with their guiding principles. Really, the effort and cost can be quite low and the impact immediate! Some ideas:


· Commit to donating 1% of your sales revenue to a local food bank or other worthy local charity.


· Raise money by designating one menu item that when sold, the business donates $1.


· Hire someone with special abilities to do extra cleaning or other manageable tasks for a few hours a week and give that person pride, meaning, and purpose.


· Host an event supported by your suppliers that provides a meal for homeless people in your neighbourhood.


· In terms of the environment, seek out an organization that works with small business owners to lessen their overall environmental footprint and become a certified green restaurant!


This all can be done by taking little steps and with a commitment to taking a leadership position, no matter how small. Hospitality businesses are uniquely positioned to become the center of our communities, offer radical hospitality, serve memorable food and drink, have considerable impact on our people and the communities within which we operate, lessen our environmental impact, and generate sustainable profit for all stakeholders.

Until next time!

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