Top 5 Social Sustainability Examples You Need To Know

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by KnowESG
Image of diverse people placing down their hands in cohesion

When discussing the three pillars of sustainability: the economic, environmental, and social, the latter should not be overlooked. Often referred to as “ethical sustainability”, it is just as critical - if not even more so - than economic and environmental strength. Without a firm foundation based in ethics and social values, we cannot hope to maintain the other two branches of sustainable development moving forward. 

What Is Social Sustainability?

We can simplify sustainability as ‘people, planet, and profit', the ‘Triple Bottom Line' approach. The priority here is on people, the rest follows. Social sustainability takes into consideration human welfare, rights and liberties, workplace atmosphere, and more. 

In regards to Environmental-Social-Governance (ESG), ethical and social sustainability is only one part of the larger picture. However, keep in mind social sustainability focuses on the overall ‘wide-lens' goal for sustainability: to ensure our current needs are met without compromising those of future generations.

Types of Social Sustainability

Social sustainability is relevant in almost every sphere of society. Some examples are easy to comprehend, while others may be more difficult. At its core, social and ethical sustainability involve being mindful of the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of those around us. There are countless ways to achieve social sustainability through a balanced approach based on your surroundings, as well as your own position within it.

For example, for a retail manager, it is imperative that you ensure your team has the resources they require to perform their jobs efficiently and with excellence. You must also provide an atmosphere of wellness and safety so that your employees are content while they work - free from mental strain or anguish. We must not overlook other important elements such as corporate social responsibility and community welfare services for those in need, equal educational opportunities for all, access to healthcare for disadvantaged populations, and more.

Social sustainability entails much more than just acceptance and equality among diverse groups - it necessitates respect, empathy, and understanding even when individuals or communities disagree on ideologies, faiths, or approaches. To ensure the success of a collective society as well as harmonious relationships among its inhabitants, embracing diversity is paramount.

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Top 5 Social Sustainability Examples 

Acknowledging the ubiquity of social sustainability and its significance in our lives is essential. It encompasses actions we can take as individuals or communities that aim to improve society - enhancing the quality of life, reducing disparities, protecting cultural heritage, and empowering others with sound health decisions, learning opportunities, and occupations. 

Here are 5 examples:


Ensuring that healthcare is accessible to all community members, regardless of their financial capabilities, is fundamental to promoting social sustainability. This type of service falls under the category of public goods because it benefits everyone in society, not just those who pay for it. Furthermore, by making essential services such as healthcare available to individuals who cannot purchase them on their own, we are providing an invaluable form of public service that will have lasting positive effects on our local communities and generations beyond us.

Moreover, this service promotes a sense of community by allowing users to bolster connections. Recent research indicates that the use of ratings can significantly improve social aspects in healthcare - particularly organisational and design components which impact healing and the long-term social sustainability combined with design of facilities. Excitingly, these results point towards the promising potential for social capital growth.


Education is a powerful tool for promoting personal growth and development, which explains why it serves as an invaluable example of social sustainability. By equipping students with knowledge about the environment and their community, access to education encourages people to be more mindful of their ecological impact. Additionally, obtaining educational qualifications can help individuals develop new skills essential for succeeding in current and future career opportunities.

Besides, schools, universities, and colleges are essential locations where new generations can form substantial social relationships. This fosters more unified communities, thus reinforcing social cohesion and sustainability.

Poverty Alleviation

This is imperative to reduce economic inequality and improve the quality of life for those living in impoverished conditions. The United Nations has officially recognised this urgency by designating it as one of its Sustainable Development Goals—a testament to how vital eliminating poverty is to our global sustainability quest.

By volunteering at your local charity or community centre, you can assist in making the world fairer by reducing poverty. You will get to know people facing financial hardship comprehend their hardships better and give back to society while providing them with new opportunities for prosperity.

Groups like The Organization for Poverty Alleviation and Development (OPAD) provide a beacon of light to the world with their social sustainability initiatives. For instance, its most recent project in Zambia managed to benefit thousands of people who were on the brink of poverty due to drought-like conditions in their region. Similarly, this study demonstrates how NGOs can help create supplier development programmes that enhance global social sustainability within supply chains.


Childcare is a cause that concerns us all, whether we have children or not. It affects our friends and family members who do, as well as society at large. Childcare has tremendous implications for the economy, environment, and community, making it an essential element of social sustainability. Adequate access to childcare services means single parents can retain jobs and better structure their children's time.

That access conundrum is particularly challenging in the United States, where childcare can be costly and not equally accessible. This has caused parents to feel stressed about leaving their jobs or leaving children unsupervised at home.

The economic effect of childcare on working parents and broader society is immense. For example, introducing parental leave policies positively impacted the number of hours mothers worked within three years of childbirth. A more recent study revealed how following the UN's sustainable development goals framework when implementing childcare relates to achieving sustainability worldwide. It is clear that providing quality child care has lasting benefits for children and significantly contributes to global progress and prosperity for everyone involved.

Social Equity

Social equity is about ensuring everyone has the same opportunities to thrive and voices that are heard in decision-making processes affecting their lives. It goes beyond just treating a target group of people fairly or equally - true social equity involves respecting individuals, giving them a platform to make an impact, and granting them fair treatment.

Not only should we be striving to achieve tangible objectives like reducing poverty and raising educational achievement, but social sustainability must also encompass the intangibles, such as how people feel when they engage with their communities. Loneliness can often be equally detrimental to a person's well-being as hunger!

Social sustainability is a crucial component of any society, involving far more than just financial inclusion. It's about bringing people together to create shared experiences, such as participating in sports or attending cultural events. This builds trust between citizens and public and civic institutions and promotes community empowerment. For example, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLU) offers various services that help ensure social justice throughout the United States - demonstrating how powerful social sustainability can be when working towards strengthening our communities.


Social sustainability is essential to living, working, and playing in a fair world. That's why the pillars of sustainability, including the social pillar of sustainability examples, are so crucial. With human, economic, economic, and environmental sustainability and social sustainability - we are literally working to secure our future.

As a final note, it's important to embrace the fact that we have - with our sheer numbers and influence on our only planet - become custodians of our home world. Everything starts with the fair, equitable social treatment of each other. The rest will follow.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 5 principles of social sustainability? 

The 5 principles of social sustainability are (1) Social equity and justice, (2) Diversity and inclusion, (3) Democratic participation and empowerment, (4) Livelihood security, and (5) Social well-being and quality of life.

What are the 3 social factors of sustainability?

The 3 social factors of sustainability are (1) Social equity and inclusion, (2) Community engagement and participation, and (3) Access to basic services and resources.

What are the social sustainability pillars? 

The social sustainability pillars of inclusive societies are often considered to be threefold: (1) Economic well-being, (2) Social equity and justice, and (3) Environmental protection.

What are the key factors of sustainable social development? 

The key factors of sustainable social development are (1) Social inclusion and equity, (2) Empowerment and participation, (3) Economic development and livelihoods, (4) Access to basic services, (5) Environmental sustainability, and (6) Good governance.

Which is the best example of sustainability? 

A good example of sustainability is the implementation of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigate climate change. Another example of socially sustainable is the implementation of circular economy principles, where waste is minimized and resources are used in a closed-loop system, reducing the need for the extraction of virgin materials.


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