April 18, 2022

How can startups implement the Triple Top Line?

Talk in sustainability circles has moved past the bottom line, to the triple top line.

Freya Pratty

2 min read

We’re used to discussion of the bottom line, and even the triple bottom line, but now discussion in sustainability circles has turned to the triple top line. We asked Greta Monstavičė from Katalista Ventures, a Lithuanian accelerator and fund focused on Triple Top Line investing, to explain more. 

So what is the triple top line (TTL)?

The TTL was coined by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, an architect and a chemist. They used it to describe product design that was human-centric, mindful of the planet and profitable at the same time. 

It’s now evolved into a business approach that asks companies to think about those principles too. The idea is that the business should be created not just to minimise its negative impact on people and the planet, but to create a positive impact with every sale. It’s about building a model that is sustainable no matter how much you scale it; as opposed to growing a company and then mitigating any harm it causes afterwards. At the core of the TTL concept is the principle of interconnectedness, where companies reflect how a decision in one category affects the others.


How can startups build it into their strategy?

We believe it is not only important to create TTL startups but also to transform startups to be TTL. It starts from understanding where you are right now — define your company's vision, mission and value, and identify key impact areas of your business. Identify metrics to guide you towards achieving your business goals in each key impact area and look for opportunities to create a positive impact. Then it’s about managing your impact — defining initiatives that move you towards your goals and thinking about how they affect people, the planet and your profit. 

For example, how would resource efficiency affect costs and environmental sustainability? How would sustainability training for employees affect their capacity to innovate and come up with new products? Ultimately, TTL can be used as a tool for innovation, value creation and decision making.

What does it mean for investors? How does it affect the bottom line?

TTL startups are more resilient, adaptable in the face of uncertainty and more competitive. Treating all three Ps — people, the planet, profit — as equally important means that they are linking positive impact to profitability and can be financially sustainable in the long term. This gives them a competitive edge over other startups and makes them a more attractive investment prospect for impact investors, who are interested in seeing impact, but also a clear path to profitability.

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Freya Pratty

Freya Pratty is a senior reporter at Sifted. She covers climate tech, writes our weekly Climate Tech newsletter and works on investigations. Follow her on X and LinkedIn