Social Sustainability for SMEs

Interactive Webinar Series: October 2024 - April 2025

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Social sustainability is a means through which smaller companies can show respect for the people and communities connected to their business – especially their workforce. Social sustainability can improve competitiveness and support meeting the growing expectations of customers, investors, and regulators. Larger companies can also benefit from supporting SMEs on their social sustainability journey through reduced risks within their supply chain and enhanced alignment with their smaller business partners and suppliers on social standards.

 

To support SMEs in navigating the social sustainability landscape, the UN Global Compact Network UK will host seven interactive webinars, focused on equipping SMEs with the knowledge and tools to advance social sustainability within their own operations and supply chains. The webinars will guide SMEs on the topics of human rights, responsible sourcing, living wage, DEI, OHS, social reporting, and governance.

These peer learning sessions are open to all members of the UN Global Compact Network UK but are specifically targeted towards our SME members. You can find information about becoming a member here.

UPCOMING SESSIONS:

Business & Human Rights for SMEs
9 October. 14:00 – 15:00 BST

There is a baseline expectation on all companies to respect human rights, regardless of their size, location, sector, or business model. Human rights form the foundation of social sustainability, so their relevance cannot be overstated. Most SMEs don't have to start from zero when addressing human rights. They will often have attitudes, policies, processes, and practices already in place upon which they can build - even if they aren’t thinking explicitly in terms of ‘human rights’. This session will discuss the connection between business and human rights and how SMEs can align with the 10 Principles of the UN Global Compact, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and other relevant human rights standards to become the supplier of choice for larger buyers, business partners, and consumers.

Understanding Responsible Sourcing
7 November, 14:00 – 15:00 GMT

Understanding the provenance of the products used by your business or sold to your customers, and the working and living conditions of all people connected to your business operations is necessary for companies wanting to procure in an ethical and socially conscious way. Considering most sustainability impacts arise within company supply chains, it is essential to have responsible sourcing and supplier standards in place to ensure human rights are respected and decent work is promoted. In this session, participants will explore the policies and processes that SMEs should implement to ensure a sustainable supply chain.

The Value of Being a Living Wage Employer
11 December, 14:00 – 15:00 GMT

A living wage is an income that enables workers and their families to meet their basic needs, and it drives business success through productivity gains generated by the recruitment and retention of talent and enhanced employee satisfaction. In this session, participants will learn about the business and social value of paying living wages within their operations and supply chains. Participants will learn how to become living wage accredited in the UK and hear from an SME living wage employer on the benefits they have experienced from becoming accredited.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
22 January, 14:00 – 15:00 GMT

Fostering and implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace is crucial for SMEs to ensure they attract the best people to support their long-term resilience and growth. In practice, this entails cultivating workplace environments that prioritise safety and a genuine sense of belonging for every individual. This session will introduce the DEI agenda and explore how SMEs can meet their legal requirements and drive business growth through actions such as inclusive hiring and recruitment practices, workplace adjustments, accessibility policies, and identifying unequal pay gaps.

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)
12 February, 14:00 – 15:00 GMT

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is concerned with the safety, health, welfare, and wellbeing of people when they are at work. Fostering OSH is good for people and the organisation. It can help prevent stress and illness whilst creating positive working environments where individuals and organisations can thrive. This session will discuss the steps SMEs can take to build a holistic health and wellbeing strategy that supports the needs of their employees and complies with relevant legislation. It will explore what baseline policies should be in place, including policies for adequate physical and mental health welfare provisions, in addition to, highlighting company examples of ‘wellness’ benefits and perks.

Reporting on the ‘S’ in ESG
12 March, 14:00 – 15:00 GMT

Amongst SMEs, the practice of sustainability reporting is not widespread. This is understandable, given the complexity of reporting frameworks and the data-gathering efforts required. Despite these challenges, the importance of reporting is gathering pace and there is a growing expectation by stakeholders including investors, commercial partners, and governments for companies of all sizes to disclose their impacts. This should also be considered a business opportunity for leading smaller companies as larger companies increasingly seek sustainability transparency from business partners and suppliers. During this session, participants will gain insight into how to approach communicating about the ‘S’ in annual sustainability reports, as well as how to complete the social components of the UN Global Compact’s Communication on Progress.

Building Good Governance Practices
16 April, 14:00 – 15:00 BST

The principles of good governance are just as relevant for SMEs as they are for larger companies and although they are not subject to the same prescriptive requirements, SMEs can be just as vulnerable to risks. This session will explore how SMEs can implement processes for effective business management, risk mitigation, transparency, and accountability. It will also touch on how different business functions, ranging from procurement to marketing, can work to support good governance on social sustainability to ensure company-wide alignment and resource efficiency.

Contact

For more information, please contact Isabella Garcia, Project Manager, Social Sustainability.