I attended recently a meeting of local business people who are seeking to incorporate their faith into their work environments. They want to practice their faith in meaningful ways in the real world. I was struck by their desire to embrace corporate responsibility that has not a single bottom line, but a triple bottom line. The three bottom lines are often referred to as the three p’s: profit, people, planet.
There are several Hebrew words that can form a theological basis for the triple bottom line the business people believed God was calling them to embrace. The Hebrew word “baruch” has the meaning of “profit” (literally “to cause to prosper”) and that is, of course, a bottom line for a business. What’s significant is that triple bottom line organizations recognize that “profit” isn’t diametrically opposed to “people” or “planet.” All three are to be valued.
The Hebrew word “am” has the meaning of “people” (in the sense of a gathered community). A triple bottom line company pays fair wages to people and takes steps to ensure humane working conditions at supplier factories. Triple bottom line companies make an effort to “give back” to people in their community.
The Hebrew phrase “takin olam” has the meaning of “planet” (literally “world repair”) and has become synonymous with the notion of social action and the pursuit of social justice. The “planet” piece of the triple bottom line indicates that an organization tries to limit ecological damage as much as possible. These efforts can include reducing waste, investing in renewable energy, managing natural resources more efficiently, and improving logistics.
There’s another Hebrew word “avodah” which literally means “work, worship, service.” Triple bottom line businesses are seeking to function in Godly ways have as their “purpose” (another p) engaging in their work as an act of worship to the Lord.
From a Hebrew perspective, keeping all of these p’s as central to business is a way of overcoming all forms of idolatry and instead aspiring to live and work in constructive and beneficial ways that honor God. Is that true of your business?