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This paper presents a proposed framework for measuring multiple bottom lines (MBLs). MBL is a term that describes a company’s desire to not only measure its financial bottom line, but additionally create measures for important, non-financial initiatives and outcomes. The MBL concept evolved as corporate citizenship advocates argued that simply measuring a entity’s bottom line to determine whether the company was successful was not sufficient. Corporate Social Responsibility advocates argued that to truly measure a company’s achievements, the full impact of their efforts on society and the environment also needed to be computed. It was argued that each area of measurement, financial, social and environmental, was equally as important and should have its own bottom line calculation to assess the firm’s progress in that area during the evaluation period. While extensive research and study has occurred on the concept of MBL, theories on how to report and measure MBLs is still evolutionary and inconclusive. In an effort to bridge the gap in the literature and research, this study has developed this research framework for measuring MBLs.

This research: (a) defines a bottom line and MBL, (b) provides background on the MBL theory, (c) outlines existing research and literature, (d) identifies unanswered and underdeveloped research questions, (e) proposes measurement methods for MBLs, (f) addresses how to handle multiple dimensions across companies and over time, (g) develops a conceptual/theoretical framework and an empirical framework for how theories can be tested and (h) concludes with an application of how this research may impact 21st century businesses.


Presented at the American Accounting Association National Conference on August 5, 2014, in Atlanta, Georgia.

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