A Holistic Approach: Social Sustainability

aware_ member BMW Group shares a holistic understanding of sustainability implementing social sustainability into their Corporate Social Responsibility strategy 

When one thinks of the topic of sustainability, ecological and economic sustainability quickly come to mind. However, an equally important third pillar of sustainability is social sustainability that focuses on people and society (Utopia). There is no universal definition of social sustainability, if only because the boundaries between the three pillars of sustainability are hardly separable. One approach to the definition is to describe social sustainability as the conscious organization of social and cultural systems and their state of health. This can be achieved by improving human capital, e.g., through education, and strengthening social values and institutions, thus improving the resilience of a social system. Within companies, this relates, for example, to the effects of social action in dealing with employees, relations with interest groups or the company’s general responsibility to society (Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon). Compliance with labor rights, social standards and health protection of employees are of great importance; a regular income secures livelihood and enables material but also social and cultural participation in everyday life (NÖ Energie– und Umweltagentur). Overriding all of this is the goal of enabling all people to live in dignity (Utopia).  

For globally traded products, Fairtrade is a well-known seal, which guarantees, for example, regulated working conditions and a ban on discrimination and exploitative child labor. To further strengthen social sustainability, attention can be paid to companies with CSR certifications or products can be purchased or services can be used from socioeconomic enterprises (NÖ Energie– und Umweltagentur). The United Nations (UN) set sustainable goals with its 2030 agenda that also contribute to social sustainability, such as defeating poverty and hunger, achieving health and well-being, quality education, decent work or gender equality, among others (Utopia). 

Our aware_ member, the BMW Group, shares a holistic understanding of sustainability. For the BMW Group, environmental measures such as CO2 reduction and circular economy are of great importance. Through their actions, they aim to influence positive sustainable development to create peace and prosperity for people and the planet now and in the future. The automotive company wants to contribute to the ecological, economical, and social sustainability progress.  

One example of this is the partnership with the UN Alliance of Civilizations, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2021. Focal points of the collaboration are gender equality and combating inequalities within and between countries through intercultural dialogue. By doing so, in the ten years of the partnership, more than 60 organizations have been strengthened and more than five million people have been reached. Since then, the BMW Group and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) have regularly presented the Intercultural Innovation Award. The award goes to innovative projects that promote an inclusive and diverse society. It aims to identify the most innovative grassroots projects that encourage intercultural exchange around the world.

Give Something Back To Berlin

Here is an excerpt of the winners over the last years: 

180° Wende 

180° Wende was launched in Cologne in 2012 as a peer-to-peer network that connects young people to prevent radicalization and delinquency. Founder Mimoun Berrisoun wants to train committed young people to resolve conflicts without violence and to act with civil courage. With this approach, the project reaches out to those left behind by mainstream institutions, bringing the youth community together to support their disadvantaged peers. Addressing sensitive issues such as extremism, discrimination, and xenophobia in a non-stigmatizing and labeling way, the movement takes a positive approach by offering encouraging alternative narratives that focus on skills, togetherness, mutual respect, and valuing diversity. The project thrives on the engagement of young volunteers and benefits from a broad network and support from local authorities. It offers a wide range of services and projects, such as an independent prevention counseling center, coaching groups, school workshops, and vocational training programs. 

Give Something Back to Berlin e.V. 

Give Something Back To Berlin (GSBTB) is a project platform and network that provides neighborhood volunteering opportunities for the growing group of non-German speaking people in Berlin. The community of qualified volunteers from over 50 nationalities offers projects and collaborations throughout the city. The multi-award-winning association aims to challenge the current discourse in Germany between newly immigrated and established communities and achieve positive results. From music to cooking projects, the initiative creates community integration tools that bring together foreigners, German natives, and vulnerable groups like refugees. All activities are open to all and are completely free of charge. 


KICKFAIR is an innovative, value-based educational concept for holistic potential development. It uses street soccer as a staged game with its learning potential to initiate a variety of educational, learning and social integration projects that focus on young people and address issues such as intercultural learning, integration and violence prevention. KICKFAIR reaches around 5,000 young people a year, mostly between the ages of 12 and 18, trains multipliers, internationally active youth leaders and accompanies young adults on their path to responsibility.  

by Marie Klimczak 

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