The world is moving to value a social sustainability model as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the emerging climate crisis and the rise of social justice movements. The pandemic has seen 50% of consumers rethink their personal purpose and re-evaluate what’s important in life.
This is affecting their decisions and changing their buying habits. They are looking to sustainable brands, organisations that adopt social responsibility, not in just their supply chains, but also how they treat their own workforces. This ‘social license to operate’, is an emerging global trend.
For this article, we draw on a recent report from IOSH to discuss what social sustainability means for your organisation and how adopting the movement creates a strategic advantage.
What is Social Sustainability?
Social sustainability is a process for creating sustainable successful places that promote wellbeing, by understanding what people need from the places they live and work.
Social sustainability is about identifying and managing business impacts, both positive and negative, on people. The quality of a company’s relationships and engagement with its stakeholders is critical. Directly or indirectly, companies affect what happens to employees, workers in the value chain, customers and local communities, and it is important to manage impacts proactively.
These days, society is overwhelmingly demanding brands that help consumers to lead sustainable lifestyles.
Globally, this is demonstrated in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals relating to organisations which include:
- Ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages.
- Achieving gender equality and empowering women.
- Promoting sustained, inclusive, sustainable economic growth, productive employment and decent work for all.
- Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns that address the management of chemicals and waste.
- Providing justice, peace and strong organisations.
Investors Expect Good Safety, Health and Wellbeing
Today, organisations are under increasing pressure to demonstrate excellent social performance. This is not only to their end consumers but also to the stakeholders in the business. Stakeholders are no longer solely interested in how the business turns a profit but how this profit-making affects the people employed and the environment.
They want assurance around long-term plans for managing and improving the skills, knowledge and experience of employees. Also, they want to know that employees are working in a safe and healthy environment and that their well-being is supported. Finally, fair treatment and equality are at the forefront.
Corporate social sustainability starts with how organisations treat their people which is underpinned by the organisation’s value system. It is here where the organisation needs to ensure they meet their fundamental responsibilities in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. Critically, they need to incorporate these principles into their strategies, policies and procedures to establish a culture of integrity.
Fundamentally, social sustainability is intertwined with workplace health and safety. When an organisation views everything that they do through a health and safety lens, they start to develop a socially sustainable business. Also, investors and consumers are creating increased pressure for organisations to report on and improve safety and health.
Read our article, How to Create a Mentally Healthy Workplace in 2021.
How Do You Achieve Social Sustainability?
A businesses’ social license to operate depends greatly on its social sustainability efforts. In addition, a lack of social development, including poverty, inequality and a weak rule of law, can hamper business operations and growth.
At the same time, actions to achieve social sustainability may unlock new markets, help retain and attract business partners, or be the source for innovation for new products or service lines. Internal morale and employee engagement may rise, while productivity, risk management and company-community conflict improve.
Organisations can improve achieve social sustainability by:
- Contributing in other ways to improve the lives of the people they affect, such as by creating decent jobs, goods and services that help meet basic needs, and more inclusive value chains.
- Making strategic social investments and promoting public policies that support social sustainability.
Read our article, Preventing Workplace Injuries and Controlling Risk.
What Does a Socially Sustainable Organisation Look Like?
Some achievable actions you can take to operate as a socially sustainable organisation include:
- Eliminating any hint of modern slavery in your business and supply chain
- Managing risks to the mental health and wellbeing of your workforce
- Ensuring parity between mental and physical health
- Investing in your people and ensuring they have the skills to operate safely
- Reducing the risk of workers being injured and being made ill by work
- Ensuring fair pay and treatment
- Providing a good place to work for your employees
- Taking a person-centred approach that builds the mutual respect of their workforce.
Your organisation’s values should always inform the above actions. Remember to measure your steps and feed them back into your reports for investors, shareholders and employees. After all, others should recognise and reward your socially sustainable practices through loyalty to your company and brand.
Read our article, 9 Ways to Provide an Integrated Approach to Workplace Mental Health.
How Can Tap into Safety Support Social Sustainability?
In the Tap into Safety Integrated eLearning Platform’s course library, there are several microlearning courses to help you to manage and improve the skills, knowledge and experience of your employees. For example, in the Governance category, there are courses on:
In the Mental Health Literacy Category, there are courses on:
And, the Safety category has numerous courses to keep your employees, contractors and visitors safe.
How Does the Platform Work?
The Platform has over 110 courses that cover general safety, leaders, managers and supervisors soft skills, compliance, governance and mental health literacy. Courses can be completed online, and on smart devices, they draw on a microlearning and interactive delivery format and have a robust assessment. The software can be hyperlinked from your existing systems, is simple to use with a consistent flow. As one client remarked when we asked our customer base what they like about the Platform:
Everything. It is simple to use and the access to so many and varied courses that cover varying topics relevant to many industries makes it very engaging. The fact that each course is up-to-date, relevant and compliant provides reassurance to the trainer that they may have overlooked. . It has drawn me in so often just to explore and examine the breadth of material available.
In addition, there are numerous LMS features such as assigning pass rates, assigning courses, and using our API’s to get the results back into your reporting programs. We also support workers with low literacy and where English is not the first language and even offer courses in multiple languages. And, we offer customised safety inductions and include your policies and procedures. Finally, we can customise the courses in the library to suit your organisation’s needs as well as write new customised courses for you or upload your video content and create assessments.