Social sustainability is one of the three disciplines of sustainability: environmental and economic sustainability. Aside from social sustainability, the two distinct disciplines are economics and ecological sustainability, complementary. Another way to characterise the disciplines is "people, profit, and the planet," representing sustainability's social, economic, and environmental pillars.

Social sustainability is a component of sustainability that is sometimes overlooked by policymakers. While most talks center on economics, agriculture, and environmental sustainability, the social part is often critical. Social sustainability is the process by which places, communities, and workplaces develop or prepare for the overall well-being of their people. Thus, people will be able to engage in healthy activities while still having the ability and support to evolve and live healthy lives. Social sustainability may be found in almost every facet of life, from business and healthcare to childcare and development, to name a few.

With the help of both informal and official measures, it is possible to build healthy communities. Social sustainability requires livable communities that are democratic, varied, interconnected, equitable, and provide a high standard of living for their residents. This type of community needs more than a strategy or a method to succeed. To maintain the health, economic stability, and environmental growth required for long-term sustainability, the structures and thought processes of the community members will have to support future and present generations.

Four dimensions and principles of social sustainability

Amartya Sen, a Nobel Laureate, founded the most prominent and widely used school of social responsibility dimensions.

  1. Quality of life: This broad issue covers many elements of our lives. For example, affordable housing, physical and mental health care, job prospects, access to support, and safety.
  2. Equality and diversity: Equality helps certain groups overcome obstacles and have more influence over their lives. It also entails identifying and reducing disadvantages' causes and reasons. The benefits of diversity include recognising the needs of other groups, appraising their requirements, and training everyone to have diverse opinions.
  3. Social cohesion: Social cohesiveness involves expanding involvement and access to public and civic institutions. One crucial issue is to encourage target populations to contribute to society.
  4. Democracy and governance: Ensure the budget and resources are sufficient to continue sustainability programmes and their measurement.

Social sustainability in business

When it comes to social sustainability from a business standpoint, it is all about recognising the effects of corporations on people and society. The social sustainability component of the triple bottom line (TBL) model is the minor quantitative component of sustainability. The TBL is a framework for accounting that includes social, environmental, and financial aspects. TBL is a performance evaluation framework that many organisations have used. The interplay of these three factors determines the performance of a firm.

Human rights, fair labour practices, living conditions, health, safety, wellness, diversity, equity, work-life balance, empowerment, community participation, philanthropy, and volunteerism are concerns that corporations and social sustainability performance must address. Even though social effects and sustainability issues are challenging to quantify and measure, they are much easier to recognise.

The United Nations Global Compact states that social sustainability should be an integral aspect of any organisation because it impacts the quality of a company's interactions with its stakeholders. Social sustainability is a proactive approach to monitoring and identifying business impacts on employees, other workers in the value chain, customers, and the local communities in which the company operates and operates.

Companies are now cooperating with social sustainability organisations to become more transparent, make their operations or supply chains more ethical, and better understand the human cost of doing business.

According to the United Nations Global Compact, businesses can benefit from pursuing social sustainability in numerous ways. Creating new markets, assisting in the retention and attraction of nosiness partners, and serving as a source of innovation for a new product or service line are possible outcomes—increased internal morale and employee involvement; improved risk management; and reduced company-community tensions.

According to the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), impact investments are the investments made into companies, organisations, and funds to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. The growing impact investment market provides capital to address the world’s most pressing challenges in sustainable agriculture, clean energy, microfinance, and affordable and accessible essential services, including housing, healthcare, and education.

In terms of impact investment, India is one of the most attractive markets globally, thanks to a significant population at or near the bottom of the economic pyramid, limited access to critical services, and little public expenditure on the social sector. It is vital to align impact investment with social companies to promote long-term development. As a result, legislative lobbying is critical to increasing the money available for social inclusion.

This article has been authored by Bhakti Jain.

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