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Symbiotic Business

Triple Top Line Businesses



Triple Top Line (TTL) Businesses are central to Intrinsic Earth (IE) and the emerging civilisation. Existing business operations that focus only on producing economic value have created - and are creating - innumerable problems from pollution and health issues to over-consumption and alienation resulting in worldwide depressive illnesses.  TTL Businesses have the core values and basic strategies that contribute positively to social and ecological systems alike.  A key action line for IE to identify and promote a next generation of TTL Entrepreneurs by establishing TTL Entrepreneurial Hubs. 



Existing developmental goals and models are being challenged because they are creating widespread ecological and social problems. The understanding that informs this project is that such problems are a consequence of limitations imposed on the information used to promote, facilitate and assess value. This much is relatively well-known and is evident in those essential actions at all levels of society expressive of a less constrained set of values such as the Paris Climate Agreement (2015), the 17 Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, stakeholder business models, energy efficiency, the use and reuse of materials, closing material cycles, the design and redesign of products and generally in those organizations that are attempting to achieve sustainability.


However, belief in the existing developmental goals and models remains prevalent and this situation is dysfunctional for it supports systems, practices and values that work against the essential actions identified above. The use of GDP as a development goal at the level of nation states and financial profits in corporations are both based on models that use limited information and attempts have consequently been made to augment the information they use by such as environmental economics and green, environmental, social and sustainability accounting systems. But such augmentations are necessarily marginalized and their impacts are correspondingly reduced. This study seeks to resolve this situation by focusing on the creation of a next generation of business models that simultaneously generate the three value streams of ecological, social and economic: Triple Top Line (TTL) businesses.


Theoretically, the above situation is well described by the “hard core” of theoretical assumptions and “auxiliary beliefs” as described by Lakatos (1970). The failure of the existing developmental goals and models to develop theoretically in spite of empirical evidence is, according to Lakatos, “regressive”. “Progress” in theory development occurs when a new theory has more empirical content than the old.


An emerging generation of business models is organized around the three value streams identified above. Whilst it is likely that existing developmental problems will mean that the new models will have some support from companies, societal initiatives such as citizen cooperatives, government bodies, academia and NGOs, there will be resistance since trade-offs will be required. Nonetheless, the emerging generation of business models makes better sense for we urgently have to meet our needs without causing more social and ecological problems: we and the Earth cannot take it!


In conventional business models the financial values take center stage. In the emerging generation of models this shifts to a configuration of social, ecological and financial values and it is vital that these values are realised at the same time and in balance with each other and that one set of values does not exclude others. Consequently, a reorientation is required within business operational processes and in new collaboration relationships with other actors in value chains, networks and in society. These changes in values will result in forms of collective value creation that allow for the creation of developmental goals and models better suited to empirical evidence; a progressive transition to TTL businesses.


Your support is needed to help identify, validate and support Triple Top Line businesses. This support can be shown in many ways from joining Intrinsic Earth and contributing to and spreading our knowledge; attending or organising our events; or you may be inspired to start your own Triple Top Line business - if you do so, please let us know!.


Birkin F. K. and T. Polesie (2012)  Intrinsic Sustainable Development: Epistemes, Science, Business and Sustainability. Singapore: World Scientific Press.

Foucault, M. (2002 [1966]). The Order of Things - An archaeology of the human sciences. London: Routledge Classics.

Lakatos, Musgrave ed. (1970). Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 118.

Latour, B. (2013). An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns. Harvard: Harvard College.