What is Social Sustainability?
Social sustainability is one of three pillars of sustainability. These three pillars of the sustainability model include Environmental Sustainability, Economic Sustainability and Social Sustainability. Out of these three pillars, Social Sustainability seems to receive less attention publicly. Social sustainability includes aspects such as livability, human rights, labor rights, social responsibility, community development, etc.
Why do we need social sustainability?
We need social sustainability in order to provide equality and a good quality of life within communities, particularly communities of the less fortunate. The basic notion of sustainability is taking responsibility for the fact that our actions have an impact on others, including the world at large, and also taking future generations into account while doing so. Social sustainability considers the entire worldview in relation to globalization, communities and culture.
What happens when we ignore and neglect social sustainability?
With so much focus on Environmental Sustainability and Economic Sustainability, it seems that not enough emphasis is on Social Sustainability. A community is not just its environment – it’s the people in the community. The social environment is equally important as the physical environment itself, therefore Social Sustainability should be at the forefront of the world’s concern as we move forward in the future. All three of these pillars play a role in social development and each is important.
When a plan is developed and implemented to improve all three aspects of sustainability, it will be easier for communities to become more socially sustainable. When this issue is ignored, you see tragedies like Rana Plaza building that collapses last April in Bangladesh, killing 1,000 men, women and children. The Rana Plaza building housed many garment factories and even after inspectors had deemed the building to be unsafe, the factories supervisors ordered garment workers to work regardless – costing them their lives.
And sadly, this is not the first time we’ve heard about a tragedy like this and it should be considered to be a wake-up call to business leaders around the world. Ignoring the human side of global supply chains is simply unacceptable and can no longer be tolerated. Recognizing, embracing and ensuring social sustainability globally, will ensure that we are investing in the livelihoods of factory workers, farm workers and putting an end to worker exploitation – sweatshops.
What does Social Sustainability have to do with my business?
Being a socially sustainable business means being a “good business,” makes products sell more because your business is a reputable and respectable company, and it means less risk for your company. Because by implementing social sustainability, your business is mitigating risk. While by ignoring social sustainability, your business widely opens itself up to future liability and human rights issues.
For example, if your company happens to outsource to one of these factories that is deemed unsafe for workers and something tragic then happens to the workers, you will have big problems on your hands that your business just can-not afford. If something like that were to happen, you’re not only sacrificing your product and brand name, but the entire companies reputation as a whole.
Not to mention that it’s simply inhumane to treat people the way they’re being treated around the world. Everyone deserves clean and safe working conditions, and everyone deserves fair working wage. It’s time to put an end to social irresponsibility and turning the cold shoulder to the many injustices that continue to be swept under the rug around the world. And it’s now time for social sustainability and equality for all.