Updated: May 5, 2021
In recent times ‘sustainability’ has become a popular buzzword with influencers who promote eco-friendly lifestyles. From metal straws to bamboo toothbrushes, it seems an entire industry has blossomed from an environmentally conscious agenda. Likewise, awareness of the importance of economic sustainability has heightened amongst the public, with debates about the conservation of finite natural resources.
However, the third dimension of sustainability - social sustainability, receives considerably less attention and is often overlooked altogether. Yet without addressing all three of these ‘pillars’ of sustainability, it is not possible to achieve a truly sustainable society.
Social sustainability benefits us all, but particularly those in underrepresented communities, by striving to shift the balance towards equal representation. But until the stories of people in groups less represented are told, and their voices are heard, we cannot progress to a socially sustainable society.
So what’s stopping this?
The impact of social sustainability is not as easy to demonstrate outwardly at an individual level. With environmental sustainability in particular, there comes a certain virtue and ‘feel-good’ factor around the idea that you’re saving the planet.
The work of social sustainability, however, is more introspective. It involves people with societal power being honest with themselves about how their lifestyles harm marginalized communities. To reduce inequalities, we need transformative change. Those in privileged groups must be willing to climb down from their positions of comfort and acknowledge the unearned benefits they have received.
It is possible to ensure equal opportunities and reduce inequalities through the elimination of discriminatory laws and practices. To do so, we must listen, make space for others and consciously challenge our biases.
The importance of social sustainability should not be underestimated. In fact, at TNE, we believe this concept is such an essential part of our collective future that we’ve coined the term ‘socially-sustainable media’ to represent our purpose and aims.
So, what is social sustainability? Why is it necessary, and what does it mean to TNE?
According to the Western Australia Council of Social Services (WACOSS), “social sustainability occurs when the formal and informal processes, e.g. systems, structures and relatio