Catching the Wave of Social Sustainability


Director of Hosking Associates

OneWISH Co-founder


How we do business has and continues to change. Change is our current constant and we are not going back to how we worked before. The pandemic has fuelled technological advancement, astonishing agility, and globally interconnected networks. However, infectious disease, social divide, burnout and isolation mean how we manage health & safety and the work undertaken by facilities management professionals within our organisations has had to adjust at the same rapid rate. Between us we have had to create new adaptations, document, and communicate changes effectively within the backdrop of social justice movements and strained supply chains. We have learnt to prioritise in a manner we have never had to before.

At the heart of all this change are people. Those who stepped forward to work under extraordinary conditions, embracing hybrid work models and increased use of technology. Adaptive, collaborative leadership styles kept our essential services moving and our buildings operational as we learnt just how interconnected we all are. We put our people and their health first and, in the process, harnessed a new way of working.

Combined with a global skills shortage, and in response to worker needs, we can now see how social and ethical principles cannot be compromised in favour of financial and environmental considerations. Richer, larger organisations and governments understand they are going to have to invest in infrastructure and dig deep to support poorer nations, communities, their supply chains and themselves.

Social Sustainability

This is why, and how, social sustainability is inequitably intertwined with Health & Safety. What we do now has never been more critical, which is why business leaders are opening board room doors and focusing on good governance practice.

Sustainability focuses on the very real issues facing our planet and the environment, but it is so much more than this. There must be balance between people, planet and profit for a business to be sustainable in its broadest terms.

When we focus on profits our people, communities and customers suffer. We can’t buy our way out of the global climate crisis because our financial resources are limited. Our organisations, governments and nations are an ecosystem, so if we restrict one aspect it affects another.

Our people have the solutions and by putting their needs first; by creating psychologically and physically safe work, which is respected, they will, in turn, solve these highly complex issues.

It is time to transform our current patterns of production, operation and consumption. This can only be undertaken by considering a whole sustainability model. We need to work collaboratively and be transparent and honest about where we are now, in order to be realistic about where we need to be and how to get there. This is an evolution not a revolution.

Putting our People First

At the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), we understand work is not just a source of livelihood for workers to support themselves, their families and their communities but also a foundation of self-worth, dignity and growth. From the starting point that work should be safe and healthy for all workers. We have demonstrated that good work is not only about wages, salaries or productivity, but also how an organisation looks after its people and its supply chains.

Investors, regulators, consumers, the media and politicians are rightly asking how organisations care for their people. There is a growing social and ethical dimension not only to the choices made by consumers but also in investment decisions and how capital is being invested by fund managers. Organisations of all sizes and their suppliers are choosing who they do business with, and looking at social sustainability to do so.

Articulate to Advocate

Facilities management professionals are adapting to this changing world of work. Together we will create psychologically and physically safe places ready to innovate and inspire. How we articulate this is crucial. A new generation of workplaces designed to place our people first will contribute to a new world of work to bring value. These are collaborative, inclusive workspaces designed around flexible working needs where work life balance is being given a higher priority than ever before. In turn, our people will feel they can bring their whole selves to what they do and together usher a new approach to how we work across the world and with our supply chains.

It’s time to catch the wave with IOSH – or risk getting left behind.