What is Social Sustainability? 

There are many approaches and branches that stem off the concept of sustainability, one of them is social sustainability, as interestingly enough it is so far the least explored and invested upon. It may be because of the lack of a clear definition, or because this is seen as something more pertinent to the Third Sector who, to some extent, is already working on it for decades. But this is just speculation, the truth remains that compared to economic and environmental sustainability the public debate on social sustainability is somewhat secondary. 

Talking about social sustainability implies taking into consideration, identifying and of course managing the impact business, public sector, policy, social interventions have on people, and the quality of the engagement between the people and those who impact their lives, either positively or negatively. To be more clear we are looking at topics such as human rights, fair labour, quality of life and living conditions, health, safety, wellness, diversity, equity, work-life balance, opportunities, empowerment, community engagement, philanthropy and a lot more. 

Processes of social sustainability aim at combining social design to the material and physical world, for example the establishment or creation of infrastructures that support social and cultural life, systems for citizen participation and both time and spaces for people to gro, learn and evolve, as well as providing to the leisure and amenities needs. When we look at communities and society at large, among the main benefits of social sustainability can be; an improved quality of the environment, reduction of health risks and hazards from pollution and irresponsible use of energy, restoring neighbourhood connections, knowledge transfer and more. What it means at deeper level is the preservation for future generations, recognising that our actions have an impact on our communities and biosphere, therefore the focus of this pillar of sustainability oit to keep and improve social quality, via cohesion, honesty and focusing on relationships among people

In detail whare are looking at?  

  1. Conservation of energy : reduce energy waste, promoting renewable and sustainable clean energy sources, for the quality of air, soil and water and of the biosphere, cut on energy production costs and increase energy accessibility. 
  2. Developing public spaces : Design public spaces and areas that encourage encounter and interaction, reduce the need of transport and petrol vehicles and accessible to all. 
  3. Promoting local food sources : Support the immediate local economy and reduce costs and waste from large distribution networks, encouraging the quality of the food consumed, reduction of preserving chemicals and storage and contact producer-consumer. 
  4. Local business support : Foster local economic development, employment, small-medium enterprises with and for the community
  5. Energy efficient construction : Building materials as well as architecture that fosters energy efficiency, reduction of polluting materials and construction waste, ensuring the habitat’s climate adjustments in different seasons such as thermal isolation. 
  6. Pollution control : The quality of life and health of the community by reducing the hazards posed by pollutants that affect the quality of air, soil and water, impacting public health expenses, and improve the sustainable use of land and waters, otherwise polluted. 
  7. Waste reduction : Foster a culture of circular economy, re-use, reducing the production of waste and garbage, which impacts both the economy, savings, and reduction of pollution. 

These are just a few example of how investing in social sustainability may look like, a very localised process that aims at the quality of life positively impacting biosphere and community. The overall hat to Social Sustainability is based on Seven Dimensions; Social Interaction, Safety and Security, Equity, Participation, Neighbourhood Happiness, Sense of Place, Housing Satisfaction, and in the next articles we will explore each and everyone of them. Thank you for joining us 🙂  

Published by Lorenzo Nava

Consultant, Trainer and Coach, on participatory learning processes, experiential learning dynamics, non formal education and NLP certified practitioner

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