Social sustainability is part of the three aspects of sustainability. It is often referred to as ethical sustainability in conversation when discussing the three E’s of sustainability.
It is just as important, if not more than economic sustainability and environmental sustainability because without ethics and social values, the other two are not enforceable.
An easier way to look at these sustainability disciplines is by considering them as profit, planet, and people. Today we are going to focus on the people aspects, specifically social and ethical sustainability.
We will also cover several social sustainability examples as they relate to common themes to help you better understand the discipline.
Sustainability refers to being able to meet both current and future needs without limiting our upcoming generations. Social sustainability goes deeper by covering human welfare, rights, living and work conditions, and more. In terms of ESG, ethical and Social sustainability is one part of the bigger picture.
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What is Social Sustainability?
Social sustainability is an aspect of sustainability that is often overlooked. While most discussions cover economics, agriculture and environmental sustainability, the social aspect is often the most important.
To better understand, let’s take a closer look at the meaning of the term. Social sustainability is basically the process in which places, communities, and workplaces design or plan for total well-being.
This means that people will have the space, ability, and support needed to engage, evolve, and live healthy lives. There is social sustainability in just about every aspect of life ranging from business and healthcare to childcare and development.
Building healthy communities are possible with both informal and formal measures are in place to support the community as a whole. Livable communities that are democratic, diverse, connected, equitable, and offer a good quality of life for all within it are those that are really socially sustainable. To create this type of community more than a plan or process is needed to make it effective.
The structures within that community in addition to the thought process of the community members will need to support future and current generations in a way that ensures the health, economic stability and environmental growth required for long-term maintenance. We will go over some social sustainability examples in more detail in our next section.
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Different Forms of Social Sustainability
There are many forms of social sustainability, in fact, it is applicable in just about every aspect of society. Some social sustainability examples are easy to understand while others may be a bit more complex.
Social and ethics are often interchangeable but in the field of sustainability refer to the same principles. Caring about the physical, mental, and emotional health of others is the main point of social sustainability. There is a myriad of ways to accomplish a healthy balance depending on the setting and your role in the situation.
For example, in a retail setting as the manager, it is important to ensure that the employees working under you have the tools needed to get the job done effectively. At the same time, you as their manager need to provide a safe and healthy work environment so they are happy to work and go about their task without mental duress.
Other forms include community welfare, care for the disabled, educational equality, access to healthcare for the underprivileged and so many others.
Even social acceptance and equality fall under the banner of social sustainability. In order for people to get along and for communities to prosper as a whole, there must be some level of respect and understanding even when ideals, religions, and methodologies differ.
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General Examples of Social Sustainability
Let’s go over some general social sustainability examples. We will get a bit more specific on some topics later in the article, but this is a great way to comprehend the topic as it relates to ethical sustainability in general.
One of the most relevant examples of social sustainability this year is resolving issues of racism and also dealing with discrimination. In the police department, there have been harsher treatments and punishments for people of color.
Social sustainability would deal with the issues at the base level that would help remove or at least address inherent racial issues while also working to deal with discrimination in the community.
Some other currently relevant social sustainability examples cover discrimination issues in schools and also in social communities. One of the biggest social sustainability topics on the headlines this year has been equality for marginalized communities, specifically LGBTQ+. Ensuring basic human rights and working towards social acceptance is a big part of ethical and social sustainability.
The point of this effort is to create communities, workplaces, schools, and even governments that are diverse, accepting, and reflective of those who live within the community. For many even having equal access to workplaces or a safe environment has been a struggle, but with diversity initiatives and other social sustainability programs, there has been tremendous progress over the last several years.
Healthcare is one of the biggest social sustainability issues to date. Though it is still a modern concern, it has been a topic that has been around for generations.
Access to basic healthcare by low-income residents, people of color, those with disabilities, and even those of different genders has been a hot topic in the social sustainability realm.
The physical and mental health of a population is one of the biggest factors that contribute to the overall success of a community. Infant mortality rates within a specific population and life expectancies also fall under the umbrella of social sustainability.
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Examples of Social Sustainability in Aged Care
Ethical and social sustainability concerns are a big part of the long-term strategy of both businesses and communities. There is always a demand for specific resources and when it comes to the aging population, the demands are increasing at an exponential rate When it comes to aging, there are many social inequalities that have improved, but still a great deal that needs to be addressed.
Some social sustainability examples in aged care will be discussed here, but the list of actual problems is much more intensive. One of the biggest issues in aged care is that people are living longer, but access and demands on resources for the younger population is growing much quicker than expected.
The increase in population has placed a higher demand on land, water, energy, food, and even medical resources. The increased demand also directly leads to an increase in pricing.
While those who are still of working age have the ability to increase their income to compensate, most of the aging population is facing a crisis as their savings or passive income is unable to match the increased demand and price hikes.
In aged care, these social sustainability issues are becoming a growing concern as the population continues to age and also as life expectancy rates increase. Organizations, healthcare facilities, and communities must find ways to cater and care for this increasing demographic in a way that is humane and sustainable at the same time.
This can include the creation of more old-age programs, encouraging those in the younger population to volunteer, offering incentives for children to care for their parents and help ease the pressure on existing old-age communities, and more. In addition, new facilities that have a lower environmental impact will need to be built to help house and care for the aging population.
More research is also needed to understand and anticipate the long-term needs of the aging community so that businesses, governments, communities, and the healthcare system can adapt in a way that provides proper care while also effectively managing available resources. There are also emotional health and mental health factors to consider.
Many of the current population are dealing with a higher than usual rash of mental health disorders, as they age, these issues will be carried over into the aged community. As a social sustainability concern, measures need to be put in place to treat and care for these issues before they become an epidemic.
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Examples of Social Sustainability in Childcare
Social sustainability as we have mentioned is about the well-being, cultural competence, and equity of a community. When it comes to children and families, specifically, childcare being socially sustainable is very important.
Not only does it help children succeed during the most important developmental years of their life, but it also teaches them how to practice social sustainability as they grow older and mature. Knowing what social sustainability in childcare is on paper and seeing it in action can often be two different things, so we will give you some easy-to-understand examples.
The well-being of the children in a care setting is very important. The way a child feels will have a dramatic effect on how they behave and act with others around them.
Childcare workers should always take time to renew their mental health and stay inspired so they can pass along those positive vibes to the children in their care.
Treating people equally is important, but treating people equitably is more effective for social sustainability. One example is on fairness. Fair is not about everyone getting the same things. That is equality. Sustainability is about everyone getting the tools they need to be successful, which is equity.
When it comes to social sustainability in childcare, it is important to give the younger generation the tools, time, strategies, and support needed for them to be successful and participate in the world around them. That means taking a deep look at what each child needs according to their age, culture, learning style, personal challenges, and more.
While that may mean one child may get more attention than another at times, in e childcare setting it will allow all of the children to have an equitable chance at getting ahead.
Being culturally competent and inclusive is also a big part of social responsibility in childcare. Not only do you need to include everyone regardless of their background, you also need to teach others about respecting differences in opinion, culture, ability, and more. This is the point of social sustainability and when put to proper use, can be an effective tool that drives development.
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Social Sustainability in Business
Social sustainability examples from a business perspective deal mainly with the effect business has on society as a whole and on people in the local community.
In most TBL models, this is the most under-quantified part of sustainability. In business, TBL models look at the financial aspects, environmental aspects, and social aspects of corporate impact.
Instead of planning, most businesses use this model to help track and gauge company performance. Social sustainability examples in business are things such as what practices they have in place to ensure fair labor and fair wages.
A companies stance on human rights and what they do to ensure they are offering a high-quality work-life balance is another example of business-based social sustainability.
Although most companies don’t have workers living at the worksite living conditions and community engagement is still an important aspect of social sustainability in this field.
It is important for companies to care about how their presence affects the local community both for good and for ill. Through philanthropy and volunteerism, the social impact can be shaped in a way that supports positive growth and fosters goodwill. Social sustainability in business also covers between the company and the investors or stakeholders.
The amount and reliability of supplier payments and even the effect of the products on the lives of the end consumer all play a role in social sustainability. Proper implementation will help to mitigate risk and even help support a healthy bottom line.