Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 127, Issue 3, pp 623–642

Resources and Capabilities of Triple Bottom Line Firms: Going Over Old or Breaking New Ground?



Supported by a qualitative study of triple bottom line (TBL) firms—those that simultaneously prioritize economic, social, and environmental objectives—we investigated the market logic and practices of TBL firms to better understand how they fulfill their mission and achieve their goals. We explored if and how TBL firms may differ in their approach to stakeholders and the management of their resources, including dynamic capabilities. We employed a research design that emphasizes the iterative comparison of narrative data within themselves and with scholarly literature [i.e., resource-based view (RBV)] to develop new theoretical insights. Because the RBV is commonly used to theorize how firms achieve competitive advantage, we explored whether TBL firms achieve competitive advantage differently from what RBV theory would predict. Our data suggest that how a firm defines value has a significant influence on the capabilities it creates and how it treats its resources. We find that TBL firms redefine value to not only focus on the end product or service but also to include the systemic cost of delivering goods. As a result, TBL firms differ from prevailing scholarly thought in RBV. They strive to have resources that are sustainable and therefore imitable, commonly found, and substitutable. Moreover, they are not only transparent in their processes but also collaborate with others in the value chain and in their sector. In doing so, they deliberately create new markets from which other firms can benefit. Rather than focusing on competitive advantage, they focus on collaborative advantage.


Resource-based view Corporate social responsibility Triple bottom line Sustainability Social entrepreneurship 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management, Mendoza College of BusinessUniversity of Notre Dame, 366 Mendoza College of BusinessNotre DameUSA
  2. 2.All4One DevelopmentMissoulaUSA

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