In order to investigate the current state of German SMEs with regard to social sustainability, students from LMU Munich conducted a survey with Breitenstein Consulting and the German Association of SMEs (BVMW).
Sustainability can be divided into three dimensions: ecological, social and economic. While ecological sustainability has arrived in most areas, social sustainability often plays a subordinate role. Social sustainability focuses on people and society and includes developmental practices, employee participation, and environmental responsibility. In the future, this area of sustainability is expected to play a major role, especially for employer attractiveness, as – especially for young people – aspects such as meaningfulness, participation, life-work balance, sustainability and social engagement are becoming increasingly important.
Results of the Survey
A total of 30 managing directors of German SMEs took part in the survey. The results show that sustainability is generally considered important, but that the area of ecology in particular receives a great deal of attention:
In terms of social sustainability, however, medium-sized companies are already well on their way: The majority pay close attention to regular employee appraisals, a good work-life balance, mental health and diversity. Above all, however, regular employee surveys, the active demand for participation, learning and development opportunities for employees, a strong focus on shared responsibility with regard to ecological sustainability, and the development of a management and corporate mission statement guarantee potential for improvement.
Promoting Social Sustainability in Companies
Based on the results of the survey, three decisive aspects of social sustainability in companies were extracted:
- Participation: Employees are a company’s most important resource. Use their voices through regular surveys and informal feedback. Encourage your employees to actively participate by creating a climate of trust and openness.
- Training and continuing education: Sustainable companies need a sustainable learning culture. Create a mindset of fault tolerance and encourage unconventional ideas to drive innovation and creative thinking.
- Meaningfulness: What is your company’s purpose? And what values do you stand for? A corporate and leadership mission statement helps you and your employees answer these questions.