Triple Bottom Line toward a Holistic Framework for Sustainability: A Systematic Review

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Vittoria Loviscek


Context: 25 years after it was coined, the triple bottom line (TBL) is now considered a failure by its own author. The concept can be considered the foundational base for the development of a necessary new business model for sustainable operations management. Objective: this paper aims to present systematic literature updates, controversies, limitations, and future framework developments of the TBL concept presented by Elkington in 1998. Methodology: through a systematic literature review spanning from 1998 to 2019, considering two main bibliographical databases, it was possible to evaluate the use of the concept in the sustainability literature. Results: the main results present that the concept has not lost its credibility; on the contrary, it reached its peak in the past five years, due to environmental and societal pressures. Also, it has been used inadequately considering only two of its three spheres (either financial and social, or financial and environmental). Conclusion: the study also exposes capabilities that if included to the TBL concepts can result into success of the business model. Therefore, our aim is to scrutinize how the concept has been used along these years, reflect on its impact in the academia and the business segment, and draw some conclusions on future research agenda and the transition toward a holistic framework for sustainable operations.


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Loviscek, V. (2020). Triple Bottom Line toward a Holistic Framework for Sustainability: A Systematic Review. Journal of Contemporary Administration, 25(3), e200017.


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