CSR and The Triple Bottom Line
Tools for issuing a successful CSR report


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This webpage presents the tools a business manager needs for issuing a Corporate Social Responsibility report. It includes the links to today’s prominent CSR reporting tools and resources, as well as comparative analyses of the tools.


Brief History of CSR and the Triple Bottom Line


The term "The Triple Bottom Line' has been attributed to John Elkington, author of  “Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business" and to Simon Zadek of AccountAbility 1000.  A triple bottom line report is an accounting of business performance in terms of its impacts on  the economy, the environment and society.  The term “CSR report” is often used instead of a triple bottom line report, but the two are interchangeable. The theory behind the triple bottom line is that it is in the interests of a business to act as a steward of the environment, society and the economy.


The phrase “Corporate Social Responsibility” originates with H. Bowen, who wrote “Social Responsibility of Businessmen” in 1953. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is used to describe businesses’ integration of social and environmental issues into decisions, goals, and operations. Other terms for CSR and are:

One of the most prominent figures opposing CSR is Milton Friedman. In 1970, he wrote an article entitled "The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profit” in which he takes the position that CSR subverts the role of government and “harms the foundations of a free society.”


In 1919, the Michigan Supreme Court held in Dodge v. Ford that a corporation must be managed for the benefit of its shareholders. The court thwarted Henry Ford's efforts to reinvest profits with the goal “to employ still more men; to spread the benefits of this industrial system to the greatest possible number, to help them build up their lives and their homes.”  However, in the United States, the law allows for charitable contribution by business. Other constituency statutes in some state permit a board of directors to consider interests other than that of increasing the value to the shareholder. 


Under  The Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002, a company must make a code of ethics for its senior financial officers available to investors. It can do this by including the code of ethics in its annual financial report, on its Internet website, or by offering to provide the code of ethics upon request in the annual report.


Some of the strongest supporters of CSR are in Europe. Some of the countries that have laws for triple bottom line reporting include France and Denmark.  The EU's Commission’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee promotes CSR as a way to support growth and job creation, as well as social stability 


A key concept to CSR and the triple bottom line is  the stakeholder.  Stakeholders,  defined by Edward Freeman , are  “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization's objectives."


Sources (this list excludes linked sources):

Bowen, Howard,  Social Responsibility of the Businessmen. Harper & Rowe: New York (1953).

Dodge v. Ford Motor Co., 204 Mich. 459, 170 N.W. 668 (1919).

Elkington, John,  1997. Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business. Capstone Publishing: Oxford.

Hansen, Charles, 1991. Other Constituency Statutes: A Search For Perspective. Business Law, 46:1355.

Zadek, Simon et al., Building Corporate Accountability: Emerging Practices in Social and Ethical Accounting, Auditing and Reporting (1997).

Edward Freeman, Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach  (1984).


copyright Laura Musikanski laura.musikanski@gmail.com