Social dimension

Fair distribution and equality of opportunities as a basis of good quality of life

The social dimension of sustainability is most difficult to grasp, and thus only little light is thrown thereupon in the discussion about a sustainable future. The reasons for this are, amongst others, that different (scientific) disciplines are connected with the social dimension, and that the social dimension can hardly be quantified. Therefore, today there is no clear concept of social sustainability, and broad recognition is lacking.

Humane life, distribution and equality of opportunities

Social sustainability aims at a humane life, i.e. distribution of social pressure, role allocation, distribution of work / fighting unemployment, and equality of opportunities. The focus is on a humane existence, which can provide for the material and immaterial basic needs. The topic of work plays a crucial role: gainful employment facilitates material participation and safeguarding existence on account of an income, but it also has an essential influence on social and cultural participation (literature: Study by Littig/Grießler 2004).

Social sustainability refers to protection of human health, safeguarding social stability, and safeguarding the capability of development and organization of society (literature: report by Enquete Commission (PDF))

Quality of life as social sustainability

An approach towards measuring and assessment of social sustainability is formed by the concept of quality of life, which is connected to skepticism about the model of growth, according to which increasing prosperity automatically leads to a better life. Studies show that an increasing per-capita income of a society does not correlate directly with the percentage of “very happy people”. Other investigations show that mainly just distribution, not the material prosperity of single individuals, leads to better quality of life of all people. (Comparisons about this topic: Wilkinson / Pickett (2009): Equality is happiness. Why just societies are better for every single one.)

The Human Development Index (HDI)

The indicators of social sustainability have not yet been perfected, because they are difficult to measure. Internationally, for instance the Human Development Index (HDI) serves as a measuring tool, which considers real purchase power per inhabitant, life expectancy, and education (measured according to literacy and school enrolment rate). It indicates, however, only average values, and reveals only little about distribution within a country.

Social indicators in Austria

In the Austrian Strategy for Sustainable Development, mainly the chapter “quality of life in Austria” deals with the dimension of social sustainability. The indicators mentioned in this place consider the topics of social exclusion (unemployment, poverty), social inequality, education, inequality of men and women, and health in a summary.

Enterprises and social sustainability

In connection with enterprises and CSR, social sustainability is mostly referred to the working conditions of the employees. In this context, working conditions, active health promotion, inclusion of socially disadvantaged groups or dealing with reduction of employees, equality of opportunities, participation and working hours are considered. Aspects of human rights, however, are also taken into consideration along the entire value creation chain.

goodworks and social sustainability

The social dimension of sustainability, whereupon often only little light is thrown, plays a crucial role in socio-ecological production on various levels. goodworks strengthen social occupational enterprises in their task of inclusion of disadvantaged persons in the labor market and their participation in working life, respectively through procurement and support of suitable orders. goodworks intend to facilitate appreciative and sensible activities for disadvantaged persons. goodworks thus indirectly affords a contribution towards social balance and more equality of opportunities in society.

At the interface between social and economic sustainability, goodworks assist economic enterprises in actively assuming social responsibility, and consciously cooperating with social enterprises.