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The Concept of Quadruple Bottom Line Essay

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Updated: Oct 19th, 2020


Nowadays rapidly changing world sets new opportunities and challenges in the field of business development, where a precise attention should be paid to economic and social changes. Modern theories of corporate social responsibility elaborate new strategies in order to meet the customers’ expectations. In this regard, the paper examines the concept of Quadruple Bottom Line (QBL) including its sustainability, validity, and applicability resulting in the analysis of its implementation in ASEAN.

QBL Concept

In order to uncover the notion of QBL, it is essential to pinpoint that it is based on the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) concept. The TBL concept assumes building a business, according to which entrepreneurs and managers should take into account not only the financial performance but also the social and environmental performances. The purpose of the company component was added to the QBL concept to form the fourth pillar that is the future generations. In particular, this business concept focuses on four pillars of sustainable development such as planet, people, profit, and purpose. As a rule, it is used not only as a management tool but also as a tool for accounting.

Sustainability and the QBL Concept

This future-oriented approach determines a long-term sustainable development of the company. In terms of the development, the QBL sustainability might be understood diversely. The core lays in the fact that it the QBL concept is a way of planning the strategy, in which the goal is achieved in the future and, at the same time, it should meet the requirements of current situation.

There are various tools to achieve the sustainable development decision making including carbon footprint, lean manufacturing, and others. However, Waite (2013) states that “recent emphasis has been placed on the green economy and the circular economy as a way to attain sustainability” (p. 36). The majority of leading corporations all over the world comprise the focus on future and practice in their social responsibility due to the changing internal and especially external environments. From the above observations, it becomes obvious that the connection between the QBL concept and sustainability is strong and reflected in the provision of clear, socially acceptable, and environmentally friendly development in the future.

Validity and Applicability

Before the implementation of QBL, it is essential to identify both its validity and applicability. According to Fonseca (2015), the survey conducted among Portuguese Organizations to examine the relation of the QBL concept and sustainability showed that internal context, stakeholder orientation, external context, and managers’ satisfaction correlation statistically validated the corporate social responsibility. In other words, Fonseca (2015) understood the validity of the given concept as a driving force of organizations. In this connection, it might be applied throughout companies to minimize negative environmental and social impacts nowadays and in the future.

The other scholar, Bratt (2012) explains the QBL concept on the example of non-profit housing organizations in the United States. The author considers that the private housing sector is a relevant area for the QBL concept application as it concerns people’s needs and the need to serve them in an appropriately friendly manner. It should be emphasized that the goal is to design an innovative strategy creating a high-quality housing and neighborhood and minimizing conflicts. The concept helps to embrace a variety of tasks set by this field. Bratt (2012) incorporates the following four objectives of QBL concept: financial viability, social and economic needs, the applicability of the concept, and environmental sensitivity.

In their turn, Teriman, Yigitcanlar, and Mayere (2009) investigate the context of sustainable urban development and the QBL concept. They believe that “the need to incorporate government factor into the QBL sustainability assessment framework alongside the economic, environmental and social development factors” (Teriman et al., 2009, p. 9). The use of QBL in assessing the descried area is considered valid as it counts for the integral parts of it and allows achieving the long-term sustainable development. The QBL mechanism elaborated by authors also assumes the feasibility control along with transparency that proves the applicability of the concept.

Finally, Dart and Armstrong (2010) state that the QBL concept “includes ‘cultural’ objectives” that is the reason for the validity and applicability of the concept in social enterprises. In this context, the term of culture should be understood as a way of indigenous or aboriginal organizations’ performance. The QBL present a significant tool of right action and thought (Lowe, 2010). In addition to the three fundamental values of TBL, the author adds perception / principles constituent.

Likewise Dart and Armstrong, Lowe claims that the concept is directed at the cultural aspect. What is more, it integrates east and west standards connecting them and creating cross-balance relationships. To create the balance, the concept focuses on four components that were mentioned earlier. However, the human factor remains the most innovative. In addition, the QBL’s applicability is indispensable to the marked context as it forms the comprehensive model of the corporate social responsibility leading the planet forward.

Implementation of the QBL Concept in ASEAN

Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is the regional integrated association of South-East Asia, which includes a number of members. The paramount goal of the organization is to create economic and socio-cultural community as well as to ensure its security and the protection of human rights and freedoms (ASEAN Foundation, n.d.). In order to provide the above provisions, ASEAN holds the corporate social responsibility that is a concept whereby the organization considers the interests of the society placing the responsibility for the influence of their activities on customers, suppliers, shareholders, employees, local communities, and other interested parties.


Profit. The economic processes taking place in the countries of ASEAN are based on bilateral agreements on free trade zones. Such agreements have entered into force since 2009 (Lee, 2011). The effectiveness of ASEAN is particularly apparent in the area of economic development. It goes without saying that the steps to mitigate the political and territorial disputes defined by the regional community allowed the countries of the region to provide the necessary political stability and well-chosen model of export-oriented economic development in the context of the relatively cheapness of labor.

The influx of capital from outside allowed the ASEAN countries to achieve very high rates of economic growth – an average annual GDP raised up to 28 percent since its establishment (ASEAN Foundation, n.d.). Besides, despite the recent severe financial crisis, which was accompanied by political and social upheaval depreciation of the national currency decline, ASEAN countries managed quite successfully to overcome its consequences. This fact was further confirmation of viability of ASEAN as a regional political and economic association, which now acts as an important partner of Japan, China, and South Korea in negotiations on the formation of the North-East and South-East of Asia free trade zone.

People. ASEAN includes countries with the different political system. Among them, there are the monarchy, republic, and the military regimes (Lee, 2011). However, ASEAN’s political leaders are aware of the need for the political engagement as it is easier to solve problems together rather than alone. The ASEAN countries are actively cooperating with each other and continue to develop cooperation with dialogue partners (Berman & Haque, 2015).

Currently, these dialogue partners count ten countries. ASEAN’s efforts to expand contacts were showed first in Asia-Europe Summit in 1996, which brought together the European Union states and ASEAN member countries as well as China, Japan, and South Korea.

Planet. Trying to provide safety and security, ASEAN countries hold annual military exercises to counter acts of terrorism and maritime piracy (Fry & Kahn, 2008). ASEAN defense ministers intend to continue to develop cooperation in the fight against piracy maintaining security at sea. It is noteworthy that in recent years, ASEAN increasingly discusses the issue of energy security. The organization plans to build a gas pipeline and creating a unified energy system. In order to solve the problem of energy security, it actively uses the alternative energy sources and energy-saving technologies. More and more attention is paid to the coefficient of energy use. Such measures allow maintaining and enhancing the environmental focus.

Purpose. It is also necessary to mention that the protection of human rights and freedoms is quite acute in ASEAN. In ASEAN’s socio-cultural community the problem of ensuring human rights and freedoms occupies a paramount place. However, currently there is no mechanism of ASEAN is an effective control over the observance of human rights. In political circles, the ASEAN has repeatedly called for the legal approval of the intervention in the internal affairs of the organization members’ issues in cases of gross violations of human rights and freedoms, but the implementation of these calls failed. Perhaps, over time, ASEAN will find the potential way to influence the situation.

Key roles of Leadership and Management

Nowadays the ASEAN countries are in an urgent need to combat new forms of cross-border crime – illegal migration, piracy, illicit arms and drugs trafficking (Fry & Kahn, 2008). In order to counter unconventional threats, it is crucial to implement the appropriate measures to prevent this problem. The role of leadership and management in this case is to engage all the countries and levels of the organization to realize the anti-crime strategies in a timely manner.

Another role of ASEAN’s leadership and management is expressed in the mobilization of the internal resources. The acceleration of the internal investment seems to be rather important in the framework of the global financial instability. Consequently, seeing the mentioned benefits, the strengthening and support of the internal companies will bring the best results.


Speaking of the recommendations that might be helpful to managers in today’s organizations operating in the Asia Pacific Region, it is necessary to point out the creation of free trade zones with Australia, New Zealand, the EU, and the US might be beneficial to minimize trade costs and establish adequate relationships with the world’s leading countries.

Moreover, ASEAN countries are cooperating not only in political and economic fields but also in the protection of the environment. Therefore, the deeper and greater protection such as disaster prevention seems to be accurate and necessary. The reasonable use of natural resources as well as the innovative equipment to avoid serious ramifications should be introduced. ASEAN should understand that it is necessary to take all measures to ensure that residents of ASEAN countries aware of the environmental protection and protection of recreational resources.

Finally, according to Lee (2011), “ASEAN leaders’ should look beyond immediate economic and financial challenges and to enhance the momentum of growth and prosperity of ASEAN” (p. 9). The cooperation with other countries in terms of the major issues such as the fight against terrorism, environmental protection, and others might be important as it would contribute to the comprehensive and collaborative projects and goals. In their turn, it would create safe and friendly global relations.


In conclusion, it should be stressed that the QBL concept consists of 4 Ps that are as follows: people, planet, profit, and purpose. It was stated that the concept helps to achieve sustainability in the organization. As for ASEAN leaders, they are aware of the impossibility of the separate overcoming all the challenges and threats posed by globalization. Based on the QBL concept analysis, the existence and activities of the ASEAN countries in the framework of integration allow each of the participating countries to feel more protected socially, politically, and economically. In the case ASEAN countries continue to promote cooperation in the economic and political spheres, human rights protection, security, and environment protection, they will achieve the complete implementation of the QBL concept and, therefore, a successful operation.


ASEAN Foundation. (n.d.). Web.

Berman, E., & Haque, M. S. (2015). Asian leadership in policy and governance. Howard House, UK: Emerald Group.

Bratt, R. G. (2012). The Quadruple Bottom Line and Nonprofit Housing Organizations in the United States. Housing Studies, 27(4), 438-456.

Dart, R., Clow, E., & Armstrong, A. (2010). Meaningful difficulties in the mapping of social enterprises. Social Enterprise Journal, 6(3), 186-193.

Fonseca, L. M. (2015). Strategic Drivers for Implementing Sustainability Programs in Portuguese Organizations–Let’s Listen to Aristotle: From Triple to Quadruple Bottom Line. Sustainability: The Journal of Record, 8(3), 136-142.

Fry, G. W., & Kahn, P. (2008). The Association of Southeast Asian Nations. New York, NY: Chelsea House.

Lee, Y. Y. (2011). ASEAN matters: Reflecting on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Singapore: World Scientific Pub.

Lowe, N. S. (2010). Aesthetic sustainability as a fourth bottom line orienting building and development. Houston, TX: Empire Advertising & Design.

Teriman, S., Yigitcanlar, T., & Mayere, S. (2009). Sustainable Urban Development.Urban Management, Engineering, and Design Rethinking Sustainable Development, 2(1), 1-14.

Waite, M. (2013). SURF Framework for a Sustainable Economy. Journal of Management and Sustainability, 3(4), 25-40.

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