Finance & Investment
SustainAccounting Launches World’s First Triple Bottom Line Certification

At the heart of the Certified TBL program is its advocacy of multicapital- and context-based Triple Bottom Line accounting, still new to most organizations but rapidly emerging as the gold standard for measurement and reporting.

This week, SustainAccounting LLC launched its Certified Triple Bottom Line (TBL) program for organizations — the world’s first certification program for integrated TBL measurement and reporting. 

SustainAccounting — a privately held company based in Woodstock, VT, with close ties to the nonprofit Center for Sustainable Organizations, creator of the MultiCapital Scorecard — says the Certified TBL Orgs program differs from all other CSR- and sustainability-related certifications in the following ways:

  • While comparable to the B Corp certification in terms of its applicability to organizations, the similarity ends there — the Certified TBL program focuses solely on performance accounting functions.

  • The standards it relies on to certify TBL accounting in organizations include the requirement that they (1) be context-based, as defined by the Global Reporting Initiative in its Sustainability Context principle; and (2) be consistent with best practices in Context-Based Sustainability.

  • Because of its narrow focus on Triple Bottom Line (people, planet, profit) measurement and reporting, Certified TBL is not at all concerned with outcomes in performance. Rather, it is a practice-level-only certification that does not concern itself with Triple Bottom Line results, per se.

At the heart of the Certified TBL program is its advocacy of multicapital- and context-based Triple Bottom Line accounting, still new to most organizations but rapidly emerging as the gold standard for measurement and reporting. Indeed, the very purpose of the program is to encourage and reward the adoption of context-based accounting, on the theory that management information itself must be brought up to speed before anyone can expect organizations to function sustainably.

At the heart of the Certified TBL program, then, is its advocacy of the MultiCapital Scorecard method — an open-source, context-based performance accounting tool developed by Martin P. Thomas in the UK, formerly of Unilever; and Mark W. McElroy in the US, formerly of Price Waterhouse, KPMG and Deloitte Consulting. Other functionally equivalent methods can be used to qualify under the program, as well.

“The Certified TBL program is the world’s first and only certification credential that explicitly targets the management accounting function in organizations; and in particular the degree to which it measures, manages and reports Triple Bottom Line performance,” says McElroy, who founded the Center for Sustainable Organizations in 2004 and leads the Certified TBL program at SustainAccounting. “And none too soon — indeed, how can anyone expect managers operating in today’s new economy to be effective using accounting tools forged in the old one? Certified TBL solves this problem by providing managers with exactly the kind of expanded, Triple Bottom Line performance accounting system they need to be successful in today’s world.”

Importantly, the MultiCapital Scorecard method featured in the Certified TBL program has been endorsed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as the kind of performance accounting tool that “all companies” should be using; B Lab, creators of the B Corp certification, has also endorsed it for reporting in Benefit Corporations.

As McElroy points out, “These two programs — B Corp and TBL Orgs — are in no way competitive and indeed are quite complementary. Every Certified B Corp can aspire to become a Certified TBL Org, as well, since there can be no better way of fulfilling the measurement and reporting needs of purpose-driven organizations than to use context-based accounting. As an accounting solution for not just profit-oriented companies, but for B Corps, non-profits and other socially committed organizations, too, TBL accounting is uniquely fit for purpose!”

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