In addition to environmental and economic dimensions, sustainable development also has a social aspect. According to Dorothea Breier, ethnologist and scholar of urban studies at the University of Helsinki, “Development that only takes into account the environment and the economy cannot be sustainable”. Breier believes that the social dimension is often neglected in these discussions – but without a social viewpoint, no sustainable goals can be achieved.
This is why the UN has highlighted the social dimension as one indicator of sustainable development, alongside the environment and the economy.
From the research perspective, social sustainability is an elusive concept. In the UN’s Agenda 2030 goals for sustainable development, social sustainability includes, for instance, aspects such as equality among all individuals, gender equality, health and education. Yet, not much research has been conducted on the topic so far.
“The lack of related research may come from the difficulty of grasping social sustainability, as the notions on the concept are often subjective. It’s very fragmented and complex, something that evades definition”, says Breier.
Breier herself investigates grass-roots initiatives through the prism of equality, social inclusion, accessibility of urban spaces and the potential of bottom-up solutions to solve certain issues.
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