The United Nations Global Compact is very clear about the definition of social sustainability in business: “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”. Indeed, many businesses have adopted environmental sustainability practices in recent years, and the concept of sustainability in business is now a familiar one. Social sustainability works along the same lines as environmental sustainability but focuses on businesses' impact on people instead of on the environment.
What does it mean to be a socially sustainable company? Citing from the Global Compact, it requires as a minimum that companies “undertake due diligence to avoid harming human rights and … address any adverse impacts on human rights that may be related to their activities.” There are several examples of actions companies can take to promote social sustainability, including:
- creating decent jobs, goods and services that help meet basic needs;
- developing more inclusive value chains;
- promoting public policies that support social sustainability.
According to the United Nations Global Compact being socially sustainable businesses can also attain important advantages, including:
- unlocking new markets;
- having an easier time retaining and attracting business partners;
- being more innovative in terms of developing new products and services;
- increasing productivity.
Of course, the cornerstone of all corporate social responsibility is promoting human rights, everything from gender equality in work to education and healthcare.