Lesson 11: Social Sustainability

This is all about social sustainability, but what exactly does that mean? Social sustainability within a company refers to things like human rights, fair labour practices, health, safety, and wellness. It also refers to areas like diversity, equity, work-life balance and empowerment.  

Outside of a company, social sustainability can refer to things like community engagement, philanthropy, volunteerism and other similar ventures. Social sustainability can also be reflected in product responsibility, including product performance, safety and standards.  

Many council and government tenders focus on your commitment to supporting local businesses and the local community you operate in. The reality is, it’s becoming increasingly harder to win new business if you don’t have a presence in the location you are tendering for. With so much competition out there, tenders now have a greater focus on social sustainability and your ability to support your local environment and community.  

This means that when you’re looking at your bid strategy, you should start focusing on targeting your local areas. Conducting your business locally is extremely favourable.  

Common questions can include: 

  • If awarded the contract, what will be the benefits for the local community? 
  • Tenderers must demonstrate how their organisation will contractually commit to providing employment opportunities and/or education, training, and apprenticeship opportunities in the local community. 

Be Proactive in Your Approach to Social Sustainability 

The simplest way to respond to the above questions is to consider the social impacts of everything you do. This includes things from business strategy to management and operations, projects, programs and policies. Basically, by eliminating negative social outcomes, you can improve the quality of peoples’ lives – employees, clients, consumers and visitors. And, at the same time, you can improve your operational, reputational and social performance. And while you can’t really put a number or ROI on that value, it still shouldn’t be underestimated. 

In order to be successful in social substantiality, companies need to take an active (and not a reactive) approach for their social impact. Organisations need to look at social outcomes not only in the short-term, but also in the long-term. This will help you engage your workforce and create an attractive and coveted workplace. On a grander scale, it will also help reduce negative human and social outcomes such as poverty, inequality, segregation, exclusion, crime and safety, just to name a few. 

Take note that this may require a shift in mindset among management and employees. Try starting with a few well thought-out projects to assess perspectives and needs. Remember that small wins will develop over time into a culture that breeds loyalty and excellence, which is what every business should focus on achieving.  

Corporate Social Responsibility 

Implementing a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Policy will enable you to outline the focus of your business and commitment to helping local governments and local communities to deliver socially, ethically and environmentally responsible outcomes.  

Corporate social responsibility can take on many forms, so here are some of the common ones.  

  • Education and job – Provide opportunities for job seekers from socially disadvantaged groups to apply for jobs, and to succeed in their roles once employed. 
  • Youth opportunities – Provide pathways for disadvantaged youth to benefit from the skills and expertise within our business and through our partnership network. 
  • Social Procurement – Partnering with social enterprises to purchase goods beyond the value of the goods or services being purchased.  For example working with Indigenous businesses, working with social enterprises and social benefit suppliers. 

Another example of Corporate Social Responsibility is not about giving money; but more about giving time. This could be your business has a charity you are working with where every staff member donates one day of their time, to work in that charity.  For example your company might provide 5 days a year and work with the Soup Kitchen. 

Local Employment 

All Australian States and Territories are committed to putting local businesses and workers first. This means: 

  • the local government will support local businesses and workers by mandating that small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are given a full and fair opportunity to compete for government contracts of all sizes and types. 
  • A portion of total hours worked on government projects must go to our future workforce – apprentices, trainees and cadets. This helps to develop local industry, create new jobs, grow the economy and provide new opportunities for apprentices, trainees and cadets. 
  • Using local and/or Australian made products and equipment to deliver the services. 

Many tenders can be tested by a local benefits test where the government body, would  evaluate the benefits of your business would bring to the local area, should you be selected as the preferred supplier. 

Some benefits you may be able to include are: 

  • increasing local employment opportunities 
  • increasing socioeconomic development within your regions (including employment and training) 
  • supporting social objectives 
  • purchasing from local businesses 
  • using local supply chains as part of service delivery. 

It is essential for you to highlight in your tender, if you: 

  • Are a small or medium business 
  • List any CSR initiatives you have implemented into your business 
  • Detail any charities or support you provide in the local area of business. 

Indigenous Employment and Procurement 

The Federal and State governments have mandated the increase in Indigenous employment and procurement 

The  Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) is to leverage the Commonwealth’s annual multi-billion procurement spend to drive demand for Indigenous goods and services, stimulate Indigenous economic development and grow the Indigenous business sector through direct contracts and indirectly through major suppliers via subcontracts and employment opportunities. 

It can be difficult for many businesses to employ or partner with Indigenous people or companies, however it is essential that you spend the time to research this area of opportunity for your business. 

This could be to: 

  • Creating culturally safe and appropriate work environments and work practices 
  • Advertising in the right spaces to increase attraction of indigenous applicants 
  • Ensure all job advertisements include the statement “that you are an equal opportunities employer, we invite applications from all backgrounds”  
  • Use an indigenous business as part of your operations, such as an Indigenous marketing company or an IT company. 
  • Provide Indigenous products to your customers as part of your service delivery 
  • Employ Indigenous people in your business. 

A great source of information is Supply Nation. Supply Nation provides Australia’s leading database of verified Indigenous businesses – https://supplynation.org.au/