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Social Sustainability

Zayn Toghyan
MTC Freelance Writer

What is Social Sustainability?

Sustainable development discussions often focus on the environmental or economic aspects of sustainability. As such, social sustainability is often an overlooked aspect of sustainability. All three dimensions of sustainability must be addressed to attain the most sustainable outcome possible.

Social sustainability occurs when the formal and informal processes; systems, structures, and relationships actively support the capacity of current and future generations, creating healthy and liveable communities. Socially sustainable communities are equitable, diverse, connected, democratic and provide good quality of life.

Social sustainability is a process which creates successful sustainable places that promote wellbeing. This can be achieved through understanding what people need from the places they live and work. Social sustainability combines design of the physical realm with design of the social world, infrastructure to support social and cultural life, social amenities, systems for citizen engagement, and space for people and places to evolve.

It is the ability of a community to develop processes and structures which not only meet the needs of its current members, but also support the ability of future generations to maintain a healthy community.

Social Sustainability in Business

Companies that raise the importance of social sustainability recognise the significance of their relationships with people, communities and society. Social responsibility becomes part of their core business strategy and they consider how their activities affect people. Inevitably, there is always a human cost to doing business. A socially sustainable business will consider the safety of its workers in a particular location. It will not allow its workers’ safety to be compromised by forcing them to work in a building that has been deemed unsafe. Providing safer working conditions, living wages and job security creates a more secure supply chain.

According to the UN Global Compact, aiming for social sustainability can help businesses in a number of ways:

  • Unlocking new markets

  • Helping retain and attract business partners

  • Becoming the source of innovation for new product or service lines

  • Raising internal morale and employee engagement

  • Improving risk management

  • Improving company-community conflicts

Will Social Sustainability Improve Employment Opportunities?

Social sustainability is a worthy business investment. When workers are paid fairly ,work under safe working conditions, and their well being is taken care of, they will be more productive. Healthy and productive workers then translate to more profits for companies. Furthermore, socially sustainable companies enjoy greater consumer patronage, as consumers tend to support businesses that treat their workers fairly.

The UN Global Compact regards human rights as the cornerstone of social sustainability. This extends to areas such as human rights for these specific groups;


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