How Your Company Can Become More Socially Sustainable
For employers and financial advisers only
Wondering what a"socially sustainable" business actually is? Learn more about this by reading Serenity Gibbons' piece from Forbes.
Most business owners have grown to become familiar with the concept of environmental sustainability, whether they proactively sought it out or only discovered it through customer demand.
The idea behind environmental sustainability is relatively simple: commit to best practices to reduce waste, reduce energy consumption, and ultimately protect the environment. Your goal is to operate a business in a way that can be sustained indefinitely without compromising the condition of the natural ecosystem.
The close cousin of environmental sustainability, social sustainability, gets less attention, but it’s also important. If you approach it the right way, it could dramatically improve your business.
What Is Social Sustainability?
What exactly is social sustainability? Just like environmental sustainability, the idea is to create a business that can continue operations indefinitely, without doing harm, except this applies to social issues rather than environmental issues.
Businesses that focus on social sustainability tend to prioritize things such as equity between different groups of people, healthcare and access to health-related resources, protection of local communities, guarding of human rights, enforcing social justice, improving cultural competence, and even more abstract skills such as becoming more adaptable or flexible.
Why Does Social Sustainability Matter?
Why should your company care about this?
From an ethical standpoint, you should consider your social impact. Your business exists in a complex ecosystem, so it's going to affect all the other businesses and individuals around it. It's up to you whether you want that impact to be positive, neutral, or negative. In other words, doing good can be its own reward.
Morale and Productivity
Socially sustainable companies tend to be viewed more favorably in the marketplace. That means you'll have a much easier time recruiting new people to your business, morale may improve, and you may even see a boost in productivity.
Reputation and Brand Image
You get the opportunity to brag about your social sustainability efforts, too. If your company is seen doing good things for your community and the people who work for you, your “brain reputation” is going to flourish and you're far more likely to see higher sales.
Ideas to Boost Social Sustainability
What steps can you take to boost your social sustainability?
Improve hiring practices.
Consider improving your hiring practices. Strive to hire a diverse array of individuals from different cultural backgrounds and with different philosophies and perspectives. Not only will this foster more social equity, but it will also benefit your business directly, as diverse businesses tend to perform better.
Foster a healthy work-life balance.
You know the importance of work-life balance already, but have you structured your business to support it? There are many different ways to approach work-life balance, and that balance may look different to different people. But the more flexible you are and the more accommodating you are of people's personal lives, the better your company is going to do.
Prioritize health and safety.
This should go without saying, but you need to prioritize the health and safety of your workers (as well as your customers). Even simple improvements, such as stricter safety standards or upgraded equipment, can make a big difference. Along similar lines, you'll want to improve the safety of your products; the last thing you want is for a customer to hurt themselves while using your product.
Give back to your community.
Engage in local programs that support your community. One of the easiest and most straightforward ways to do this is to provide information and resources to your community members. For example, law firms often compile and distribute a list of legal resources for their clientele and local residents alike.
Practice ethical sourcing.
Where are you getting your raw materials? Where are you getting your products? Ethical sourcing is now a big part of social sustainability. You don't want to be part of a supply chain that engages in human rights abuses or other atrocities.
Support social issues that matter to you.
Which social issues are most important to your business? Try to find some causes that align with your company's values and mission. From there, you can find some nonprofit organizations that support good work in this area, and you can donate to them directly or volunteer to serve them.
Support healthy lifestyles among your customers.
You can also try to support healthier lifestyles among your customers and your employees. Nurturing habits such as healthy eating and regular exercise can yield very positive results.
These are just some ideas for how you can transform your business to become more socially sustainable. It’s important to brainstorm even more possibilities, collaborating with your partners, your investors, and your customers to generate the best path forward for your business and your community.