Social & Environmental Sustainability have been divided into two distinct silos. Is this logical? Katy Stevens from EOG weighs in on whether it’s past time the two halves to sustainability be brought together.

Any introduction to sustainability will present two of the main considerations as being people and planet. But due to the evolution of corporate sustainability, the two issues are often managed in quite separate silos, resulting in an unbalanced attitude, approach, and available budgets in the different areas.

Environmental sustainability undeniably hogs the limelight, receiving far more time and resources from most brands. As outdoor individuals working in the outdoor industry, one reason for this may be that we have an intrinsic connection to the environment that makes the topic a lot easier to get internal buy-in. Social sustainability, meanwhile, is a lot less accessible and can be difficult to measure, monitor and impact. An added challenge lies in the different methodological frameworks used: Environmental data is often very quantitative, whereas the information found on the social side is largely qualitative.

However, new policies are quickly turning what used to be “nice to have” sustainability into compliance. For example, the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) will include obligations in social and environmental due diligence down to the extraction of raw materials. Measures being discussed include required remediations for affected persons, groups, communities and/or the environment and heavy sanctions and expansion of civil liability for non-compliance. These are significant changes and may require a shake up in the way that social sustainability is viewed and integrated into organizations and the prioritization of related budgets.

Going forward, the two sides to sustainability need to be brought together whereby each environmental topic must also be viewed through a social lens, and vice versa. This could be approached in many ways, but a good starting point could be an adapted version of the Doughnut economics model. Here, relevant social boundaries are visualized at the centre of the planetary boundaries, with the centre representing a responsible operating space.

This could then be operationalized by implementing an HREDD risk assessment framework. By using global datasets and consistent scoring frameworks for both sets of issues, organizations could be able to think and manage these risks in the same way. Resources can then be more effectively targeted when mitigating or remedying human rights or environmental harms.

 

Lead Photo: iStock

 

Katy Stevens
info@norragency.com
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