In the second part of our three-part series on the benefits of sustainability in the workplace, we turn our attention to the social aspect. While the environmental benefits of sustainable practices are often at the forefront of discussions, the social dimension is equally important. According to the UN Global Compact, “Social sustainability is about identifying and managing business impacts, both positive and negative, on people.” A sustainable workplace fosters a positive work environment, enhances employee well-being, and contributes to the community. This article explores the key social benefits of incorporating sustainability in the workplace.

Employee Health, Wellbeing, Happiness and Productivity

A sustainable workplace is more than just an eco-friendly space. It is also designed to promote the health and wellbeing of its occupants. By incorporating natural light, indoor plants, and ergonomic furniture, sustainable offices can create a comfortable and pleasant environment that supports employee productivity and happiness.

A few ways that physically sustainable workplaces can contribute to employee well-being include:

  • Improved indoor air quality: Using low-VOC materials, proper ventilation systems, and air purifying plants, sustainable offices can maintain high indoor air quality, reducing the risk of respiratory issues and allergies.
  • Enhanced mental well-being: Biophilic design elements, such as green walls and water features, can bring nature indoors, providing employees with a calming and stress-reducing atmosphere.
  • Ergonomic workstations: Sustainable workplaces often incorporate ergonomic furniture and adjustable workstations that promote proper posture and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders.

In ​addition​​ ​to the physical work environment, businesses that incorporate Health & Wellbeing initiatives will ​benefit​​ ​ from improved employee engagement and teamwork—an example of health and wellbeing initiatives.

  • Physical activities – workplace sports competitions to support healthy lifestyles 
  • Team building – physical and mental events to boost teamwork 
  • Mental health – mental sessions that focus on work-related stress  
  • Health – company-funded healthcare and checkups 
  • Community – volunteering and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives to get involved in the business’s community. 

Human Rights & Equality

Human Rights and Equity are key components ​of social​​ ​ sustainability. Businesses must manage the welfare of ​their​​ ​ employees and provide equal job and career opportunities regardless of race, gender, religion or nationality.

The UN “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets out a vision for sustainable development grounded in international human rights standards, putting equality and non-discrimination at the centre of its efforts and encompassing not only economic and social rights but also civil, political, and cultural rights, and the right to development.”

The benefits of a diverse team extend beyond the company’s internal functioning; they also create a more inclusive, representative image that resonates with a wider range of clients, partners, and communities. A 2018 Boston Consulting Group study found that diverse companies generate 19% more revenue due to innovation, demonstrating the tangible value of diverse ideas and perspectives. Moreover, a comprehensive review by Scientific American noted that diversity enhances creativity and fosters innovation, adding to the rich tapestry of ideas within an organisation.

Attracting Top Talent

Companies prioritising sustainability and showcasing their commitment to social and environmental responsibility are more likely to attract and retain top talent. Jobseekers, particularly millennials and Gen Z, often seek employers who align with their values and demonstrate a genuine commitment to sustainability.

By offering a sustainable work environment, businesses can appeal to the growing pool of environmentally conscious jobseekers and set themselves apart from competitors in recruitment.

Improved Credibility

A strong sustainability strategy can enhance a company’s reputation and credibility among clients, investors, and the broader public. Businesses implementing sustainable practices demonstrate corporate social responsibility and commitment to ethical and socially responsible operations. This can lead to increased trust and stronger relationships with stakeholders.

Furthermore, by showcasing their sustainability efforts through transparent reporting and communication, companies can build credibility and foster a positive brand image. This can help attract new clients and customers who value businesses dedicated to making a difference.

Additionally, being recognised as a sustainability leader can open doors for industry awards, media coverage, and public recognition, further enhancing the company’s image and reputation as a socially responsible organisation.

Reduced Regulation Threat

By proactively embracing sustainability and adopting industry best practices, companies can stay ahead of regulatory changes and avoid potential fines or penalties. As governments continue introducing more stringent environmental and social regulations, businesses that take a proactive approach to sustainability are less likely to face regulatory challenges.

Additionally, by staying ahead of the curve, companies can demonstrate their leadership in the industry and set an example for others to follow. Being an early adopter of sustainable practices can also create opportunities for collaboration with other organisations and policymakers, potentially influencing the development of future regulations and industry standards.

Moreover, leading the charge in sustainability initiatives can provide businesses with a competitive advantage, as they can offer innovative solutions and services that cater to the evolving demands of clients and customers seeking more sustainable options.

Being Part of the Community

Sustainable businesses must recognise the importance of supporting local communities and engaging in socially responsible activities. This can include supporting local charities, organising volunteer initiatives, or partnering with local schools to provide internships and work experience opportunities.

Being Part of the Community

By actively contributing to local communities, businesses can create a positive social impact, foster goodwill, and strengthen their ties with the community. Moreover, engaging with the community allows companies to better understand local needs and concerns, enabling them to develop products and services that address these issues and resonate with their target audience.

In addition to supporting local causes, sustainable businesses can contribute to the community by promoting environmentally friendly practices, such as recycling programs, carpooling initiatives, and educational workshops on sustainability. By sharing their knowledge and expertise, companies can empower their community to adopt more sustainable behaviours, further amplifying the positive impact of their efforts.

Being an active community member enhances a company’s reputation and fosters long-lasting relationships with local stakeholders, which can drive future growth and success.

Unlocking the Potential of Social Sustainability in the Workplace

Embracing social sustainability in the workplace is a responsible business decision and a valuable investment in the company’s and its employees’ future. Businesses can create a more inclusive, supportive, and thriving work environment by prioritising employee well-being, attracting top talent, enhancing credibility, reducing regulatory risks, and contributing to the local community.

In the final part of our three-part series, we will examine the economic benefits of sustainability in the workplace. By adopting a holistic approach that considers sustainability’s environmental, social, and economic dimensions, businesses can unlock the full potential of sustainable practices and enjoy long-lasting success.