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The three pillar-model of sustainability – Part 3

Note in advance: If you haven’t read them yet, here is Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series.

In the discussion about sustainability, the focus is often on environmental and climate protection and economic restructuring – but one dimension of sustainability is often overlooked: social sustainability. This dimension emphasizes that all development decisions must focus on human rights and involve society as a whole. Social sustainability is crucial to creating a just and inclusive society in which all people have the opportunity to lead a fulfilling life. The following section takes a closer look at what the social dimension of sustainability means and why it is crucial.

What is the social dimension of sustainability?

The social dimension of sustainability refers to the well-being of society as a whole. It encompasses various aspects, including human rights, social justice, equal opportunities, access to education and healthcare, social security, cultural diversity and the promotion of social inclusion. At its core, it is about ensuring that all members of society can lead a life of dignity and self-determination and that the foundations of life are preserved for future generations. The dimension of social sustainability protects the interests and livelihoods of all people worldwide.

Here are some examples of the principles pursued by social sustainability:

  • Equal opportunities: Social sustainability strives for equal opportunities for all people, regardless of their gender, origin, social status or other characteristics.
  • Social justice: A just society is a sustainable society. This means that all people should have access to basic needs such as food, shelter, healthcare and education. By promoting social justice, poverty and social inequality can be tackled and the wellbeing of all improved.
  • Health and well-being: The social dimension of sustainability also includes protecting the physical and mental health of the population. This includes access to quality healthcare, safe working conditions and a healthy environment that promotes well-being.
  • Cultural diversity and social inclusion: A sustainable society respects and promotes cultural diversity and social inclusion. Social sustainability strives for an atmosphere of respect, tolerance and mutual understanding.
a man holds a cardboard sign that reads "equality"

Social sustainability and the SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals adopted by the United Nations to promote sustainable development in economic, social and environmental terms by 2030. Some of the SDGs are directly linked to social sustainability:

  • Goal 1: No poverty. The goal is to end poverty in all its forms everywhere, including extreme poverty, unemployment and social exclusion.
  • Goal 3: Good health and well-being. This goal strives to enable all people to lead healthy lives and promote their well-being by improving access to quality health care and social protection systems.
  • Goal 4: Quality education. Goal 4 aims to promote inclusive and equitable quality education and enable lifelong learning for all.
  • Goal 5: Gender equality. The goal is to eliminate gender discrimination and violence against women and girls and to ensure that they can participate equally in all areas of public life.
  • Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth. This goal aims to promote decent work, increase productivity and economic growth and ensure sustainable and inclusive economic development.
two hands embrace the model of a small globe on which small human figures are standing all around

How can we promote the social dimension?

To strengthen the social dimension of sustainability, we must make collective efforts and take concrete measures to promote equal opportunities, social justice and the well-being of all members of society. This includes strengthening the education system to make education accessible to all and to support lifelong learning. Similarly, the creation of decent jobs with fair wages and working conditions is crucial to promote economic stability and social inclusion. Promoting gender equality and combating discrimination and social exclusion are also essential steps towards building an inclusive society. In addition, investing in social protection measures and healthcare is essential to improve the well-being and quality of life of all people. In summary, measures must be taken that aim to meet the basic needs and rights of all members of society and ensure that no one is left behind in order to create a sustainable and just society.

In our everyday lives, we as individuals can make a positive contribution to social sustainability through conscious and responsible consumption, volunteering, education and awareness raising, supporting social initiatives and practicing empathy and compassion. By questioning our decisions and actions in terms of whether they take into account social justice and the well-being of all members of society, we can help to build a fairer and more inclusive world.

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