The New Bottom Line: People Before Profit

It was the description I used to introduce business for social purpose to the Long Term Capitalism challenge in 2013.

Jeff Mowatt
7 min readAug 11, 2021

I was using the phrase to convey the point that "P-CED takes the bottom line past profit to people". The 'Marshall Plan' for Ukraine had expanded on this statement:

'An inherent assumption about capitalism is that profit is defined only in terms of monetary gain. This assumption is virtually unquestioned in most of the world. However, it is not a valid assumption. Business enterprise, capitalism, must be measured in terms of monetary profit. That rule is not arguable. A business enterprise must make monetary profit, or it will merely cease to exist. That is an absolute requirement. But it does not follow that this must necessarily be the final bottom line and the sole aim of the enterprise. How this profit is used is another question. It is commonly assumed that profit will enrich enterprise owners and investors, which in turn gives them incentive to participate financially in the enterprise to start with.

'That, however, is not the only possible outcome for use of profits. Profits can be directly applied to help resolve a broad range of social problems: poverty relief, improving childcare, seeding scientific research for nationwide economic advancement, improving communications infrastructure and accessibility, for examples – the target objectives of this particular project plan. The same financial discipline required of any conventional for-profit business can be applied to projects with the primary aim of improving socioeconomic conditions. Profitability provides money needed to be self-sustaining for the purpose of achieving social and economic objectives such as benefit of a nation’s poorest, neediest people. In which case, the enterprise is a social enterprise.'

The term would later be found in the Guardian describing sustainable business:

Then I discovered the Network of Spiritual Progressives and this vison from Rabbi Lerner

'A New Bottom Line is one that judges the success of every sector, system and institution of our society (economy, government, schools, health care, the legal system) based not on the old bottom line of whether they maximize money, profit and power, but instead by the extent to which they maximize love and caring, kindness and generosity, empathy and compassion, social, economic and environmental justice, peace and nonviolence, and protection of the life support system of our planet, as well as encourage us to transcend a narrow utilitarian approach to nature and other human beings and enhance our capacity to respond with awe and wonder to the universe and to see the sacred in others and in all sentient beings. '

What our founder meant about taking the bottom line past profit to people was that his concept of People-Centered Economic Development was about business which uses profit for a social purpose. It was published in 1996, free-to-use for anyone wanting to use business to benefit humanity.

It drew attention to the risk of being disenfranchised in the dawning Information Age

"We are at the very beginning of a new type of society and civilization, the Information Age. Historically, this is only the third distinct age of civilization. We lived in an agricultural age for thousands of years, which gave way to the Industrial Revolution and Industrial Age during the last three hundred years. The Industrial Age is now giving way to the Information Revolution, which is giving rise to the Information Age. Understanding this, it is appropriate to be concerned with the impact this transition is having and will continue to have on the lives of all of us. In that it is a fundamental predicate of “people-centered” economic development that no person is disposable, it follows that close attention be paid to those in the waning Industrial Age who are not equipped and prepared to take active and productive roles in an Information Age."

Essentially People-Centered Economic Development is about putting people above profit:

By 2014 a group called the Blueprint for Better Business came to the same conclusion , that people and not profit are the purpose of business:

"Over the past couple of years a group from business and society have been working on a distinctive approach to this. Called a Blueprint for Better Business, it offers a way for businesses to renew and regain a sense of social purpose. The key question is why a business exists. The point this group focused on is that the true purpose of business is to solve problems and meet social needs. Profit is the result. Profit is not the purpose."

Oxfam CEO Marc Goldring was singing from the same hynmsheet:

Next was Jae Coen Gilbert of B Corps:

"We are beginning to see an evolution in capitalism, from a 20th century view that the purpose of business is to maximize value for shareholders to a shared view that the purpose of business is to maximize value for society. Significantly, this transition is being driven, not by government regulation, institutional blame, or partisanship, but by market-based activism and personal responsibility. We are witnessing an historical moment when, rather than simply debating the role of government in the economy or the role of business in society, people are taking action to harness the power of business to solve society's greatest challenges. "

In 2019 A major report from the British Academy argued that capitalism should be reformed to put people before profit:

In 2009, The Times reported that Vatican researchers had used Google to discover the latest thinking in economics. When published it said this about the use of profit:

‘This is not merely a matter of a “third sector”, but of a broad new composite reality embracing the private and public spheres, one which does not exclude profit, but instead considers it a means for achieving human and social ends. Whether such companies distribute dividends or not, whether their juridical structure corresponds to one or other of the established forms, becomes secondary in relation to their willingness to view profit as a means of achieving the goal of a more humane market and society’

“Striving to meet the deepest moral needs of the person also has important and beneficial repercussions at the level of economics. The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly — not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred. .”

In 2018 with no pandemic in sight , again the Vatican spoke of a People-Centered Economy

In 2021 they are saying that the recovery from the pandemic should be people-centered:

In 2009 the president of the UN General Assembly was a Sandanistan priest who wrote:

“The anti-values of greed, individualism and exclusion should be replaced by solidarity, common good and inclusion. The objective of our economic and social activity should not be the limitless, endless, mindless accumulation of wealth in a profit-centred economy but rather a people-centred economy that guarantees human needs, human rights, and human security, as well as conserves life on earth. ese should be universal values that underpin our ethical and moral responsibility.”

In 2021 they and the Web Foundation are arguing for a people-centered approach to connectivitiy:

"In light of the importance of addressing the digital divide in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Sustainable Development Goals, the President of the General Assembly has convened a one-day High-level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity on 27 April 2021.

"In this letter, we call on governments, industry, multilateral institutions, civil society, and international financial institutions to close the digital divide by putting people at the centre of our approach to achieving meaningful connectivity for everyone.

Even in Communist China, the approach to recovery from Covid-19 is people-centered:



Jeff Mowatt

Putting people above profit, a profit-for-purpose business #socent #poverty #compassion #peoplecentered #humaneconomy