Did you know thatsustainability has a human dimension? (Vallance et al 2011)
This is what we call “social sustainability”,whichisabout identifying and managingthebusiness impacts, both positive and negative,on people (United Nations GlobalCompact). In nature, everything is connected and, if we want to pursuesustainable development, wehave to do it through a holistic approach. This means that we have to considerevery aspectof sustainabilitythat traditionally is divided into the environmental, economic, and socialpillars.
Why should businesses focus on social sustainability?
Although the concept of sustainable development originally included a clear social mandate, it has been neglected for two decades amidst abbreviated references to sustainability that have focused on bio-physical environmental issues (Vallance, Perkins, Dixon, et. Al 2011)
As we stated, social sustainability is defined as “the measure of human welfare” (Mohsen, Mohamed, Paleologos, et. al 2021). Indeed, it is a dimension that affects societies, every kind of community, company, and the lives of everyone.
Social Sustainability is further related to economic and financial success:
- If a working environment is socially sustainable, the employee will be satisfied with his or her job (Glavas, 2016). This will increase their sense of belonging, with a consequent improvement in their performance, directly reducing company costs related to absenteeism and staff voluntary turnover. (Pinzone et al., 2018).
- If managers and employees are provided with continuous learning opportunities, they can develop superior human capital with positive effects on performance in terms of productivity, quality and innovation (Pinzone et al., 2018).
- If a Corporate Socially Sustainable culture facilitates the creation of value by enhancing the perception among key stakeholders that the company is authentically ‘‘doing good’’ (Perrini et al., 2011), this can increase its attractiveness as employers (Jones et al., 2014), building legitimacy and trust in the stakeholder network (Eccles et al.,2012), enhancing brand value and reputation (Orlitzky et al.,2003), and positive evaluation by investors (Lo and Kwan, 2017; Schaltegger and Burritt, 2018)
These are just a few examples enhancing the empirical results of the study (Schönborn, Berlin, Pinzone, Hanisch, Georgoulias, Lanz, et. al, 2019) that, through four indicators,(Sustainability strategy and leadership1; Mission, communication, and learning2; social care and work-life3; loyalty and identification 4) demonstrated that “socially sustainable”means “financially successful”.
Social Sustainability gets us closer to our human dimension and brings us success.
How to make Social Sustainability real?
Social Sustainability measures the social impact of business in our lives, it makes us “more human” and brings us success.
Such a seductive achievement for society raises now a question for us: how can we make it real?
We can bring you some concrete examples of how, at WE&B, we try to practice and promote Social Sustainability……
…Externally, in our projects:
- Encouraging community participation, through our services of Social andStakeholder Engagement: some examples from our projects are Communities of Practice,Competency groups
- Incorporating the ethical and gender dimensions related to our projects
- Measuring the aspects of Nature’s Contribution to People
- Exploring the social contexts in all projects to understand first the community.
…And internally…, with our team:
- Bringing attention to the well-being: a good balance of goal-oriented work, team building activities, flexible working hours, and teleworking is recommended to find balance with personal issues.
- Maintaining company “traditions”, such as Mandela day or St Jordi day, in which we do constructive activities together (cleaning the environment or exchanging book suggestions).
- Promoting continuous trainings
Some other ways to make Social Sustainability real come from the literature (Mohamed, Paleologos, et al., 2021)5, which suggests: measuring the full accounting cost of the lifecycle of products cradle-to-grave, including associated social costs; promoting improvements in social organization systems and community well-being over measurable economic benefits; using natural and recyclable materials in a way that increases impartiality and fairness; transferring funds, know-how, and technology to those who need them.
Do you know other ways to make Social Sustainability real?
Let us know in the comments!
1 Strategies of creating and “living” a sustainable culture, including measuring and improving respective processes, and making them into reality in the company, fostering openness, responsibility, trust, and respect, and the corresponding effort and dedication of the employees.
2 More cognitive and communicative aspects of sustainability, such as corporate learning, communication with the various stakeholders including those outside of the company, and integrity.
3 Strategies emphasizing social behaviors within the company, such as reward systems, equal rights, and care and provision for the employee]Strategies emphasizing social behaviors within the company, such as reward systems, equal rights, and care and provision for the employees
4 This aspect concerns the employees’ perspective, such as identification with and loyalty towards the company.