The topic of sustainability in business keeps getting more importance and attention over time. The three pillars of sustainability, economic, environmental, and social, get different attention levels. While the others get more attention, social sustainability tends to get neglected. It can seem more confusing and tedious than the other two; however, it is just as important and just as easy when learned thoroughly. First, knowing that social sustainability comprises the part of sustainability that is related to people can be a good starting point. Then, all you have to learn about social sustainability and its place in the retail industry is waiting for you to scroll down!

What Does Social Sustainability Mean?

Social sustainability is a part of sustainable approaches generally concerned with people. It is about people and meeting their needs at all times. In this case, these needs are the ones related to the society they live in and the circumstances that are created by the society. Social issues related to human rights make up most of the social sustainability concerns. Poverty, gender equality, health and working conditions of employees fall under the umbrella of social issues that social sustainability is concerned with according to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals presented by The UN. As social sustainability is crucial for individuals in society, it is also crucial for corporations since society and individuals are the centers of many businesses. 

Why Should Businesses Invest in Social Sustainability?

Social sustainability is an effective approach to have for businesses since humans are primarily at the center of many businesses. Before investing in social sustainability, every business should understand its effect on society and individuals. Then you might ask why should you have an effect on society and individuals. If your business is centered around people, you will want them to favor you which will happen only if you favor them. 

Social responsibility is a significant factor that increases employee and customer satisfaction. According to Harvard Business School, 70% of employees would prefer working for a company that has a strong purpose. Moreover, the majority of the employees who work for a socially responsible company remark that they feel more engaged and motivated in their work. Increased employee engagement will eventually lead to increased productivity in the workplace. According to a 2017 study, 87% of consumers in the US state that they are more likely to purchase from a brand that cares about an issue that they care about. 

As a business owner, you should always show that you care about society and people if you want sustainable development. For instance, if you are a fashion retailer you would want your customers to know that you want what’s best for your customers, employees, and society. According to research by Deloitte, sustainable practices valued by consumers include ethical working practices and respect for human rights. Also, according to UN Global Compact for Sustainable Development, social sustainability can help corporations in finding new markets, improving in-company relationships and risk management, and retaining and attracting new business partners. 

Social Sustainability for Retailers

As a retailer, one of your biggest concerns should be to make a strong impression on your customers. At this point, you already know that it is possible if you adopt sustainable practices in your business. The best way of starting this journey is to dwell on several important points like human rights, health and safety, labor conditions, equity, and consumer protection.

Health, Safety, and Labor Conditions

You should always make sure that your business is able to provide its members with proper health care and safe labor conditions. For example, when you provide safer conditions for your employees, you get better and more secure supply chain management. Providing your employees with better labor conditions and ensuring their safety and health will also give you higher rates of employee retention. An easy way of showing that you care about your employees’ health and safety, you can emphasize that you offer comprehensive health insurance for your employees. Also, you have to offer reasonable and equal labor conditions for your employees. Your existing and potential employees should know that they will get what they deserve in recognition for their efforts and working hours. Their well-deserved rights and labor conditions include fair working hours, equal pay, and averseness to issues like mobbing in the workplace. You can hold occasional meetings and panel discussions regarding your employees’ complaints and desires.

Equity and Diversity

When you’re running a business with many employees, you should not risk having a disadvantaged group within your organization. In other words, you should always make sure that every member of your organization has equal rights and opportunities. These rights and opportunities include equal pay, equal working conditions, and a safe working environment within different cultural, ethnic, and racial groups. Your priority should be creating a safe environment for every employee in your organization. In order to make your employees feel that you care about equity, equality, and diversity in your organization, you can schedule educational seminars regarding diversity, women’s rights, equality in the workplace, etc. Of course, these should not remain unfulfilled; you should show people that you care about your employees being treated fairly and equally regardless of their cultural, ethnic, racial, or gender identities. 

Consumer Protection

If you are a retailer, your mission regarding social sustainability for sustainable development is not yet over. As you care for your employees, you should care for your customers as well. In order for your social sustainability strategy to work, you should have a strong relationship with your customers. One of the best ways to achieve that is to consider whatever they might expect from you and your products. You should always provide your customers with the best products, best delivery options, and best return policy they could wish for. Your customers should always feel that you care for people and the community you are a part of. To achieve that, you can improve your return policy and make sure that it is easily accessible on your website. You can provide your customers with different delivery options and let them choose how they want their products to be delivered. You can request feedback through e-mail after purchases they make. That way, you can show that you care about your customers and their thoughts. 

Let Social Sustainability Improve Your Retail Business

Social sustainability became vital for any business nowadays and it is here to stay. The best you can do as a retailer is to adapt it for your business and make the best out of it. If you want sustainable development in your retail business, i.e. retainable improvement, then you should always include social sustainability practices in your business. Putting people at the center of your business is nothing new for you. All you have to do is improve your perception and tactfulness towards people, communities, and society. Caring for people, which your business exists for, is not an additional task but a liability.