The European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) has requested a study on the subject of “Social Sustainability – Concepts and Benchmarks”.

This study looks at definitions and ways to measure and benchmark social sustainability, then explores how the concept can be integrated into EU policy-making processes, giving concrete
examples of how it is already used in policies and projects at national, regional and local level.

Despite its long history, social sustainability remains a fuzzy concept with no universal definition and might justifiably be seen as playing catch up to environmental sustainability in the popular
imagination. Core themes concern human well-being and equity, access to basic needs, fair distribution of income, good working conditions and decent wages, equality of rights, inter-and
intragenerational justice, access to social and health services and to education, social cohesion and inclusion, empowerment, and participation in policy-making.

The fundamental challenge of designing social sustainability indicators is that social sustainability is a multidimensional concept whose core substance and added value is only fully revealed in its interrelationships with other sustainable development pillars and dimensions. A key lesson is that multidimensional benchmarking in the form of composite indicators is required, as well as targets to be reached within an overall EU strategic approach to sustainability.