What is social sustainability?

Spaces for people and the planet

You’re hearing so much about sustainability now and trying to do all the right things, but where does social sustainability come into it? How do we embrace this concept, and why is it the foundation of long-term success when it comes to a positive future for people and the planet?
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In our latest blog, we wanted to communicate why social sustainability is so important to us and how we embody it in every single one of our projects.

What is social sustainability?

In its simplest terms, social sustainability is how sustainability relates to people.

It’s a vast topic, as it incorporates how we can create spaces that answer our evolving societal needs and consider the impact our surroundings have on individuals.

For us, social sustainability comes down to the idea of building lasting communities that nourish people and the planet and nurturing spaces that improve collaboration, connection, and wellbeing.

We design spaces that not only incorporate sustainable practices and elements but take it a step further by influencing behaviours that promote a socially and environmentally sustainable future landscape.

And while it’s a trend right now, social sustainability has long been a fundamental part of our approach to interior design and placemaking.

After all, linking the purpose and intentions for a space to the way it’s planned and realised is the foundation of great design.

Why should developers and business owners consider social sustainability?

Everyone is starting to up their game in the sustainability stakes, so we’re hearing all the right noises about materials, air quality, and building methodologies.

Yet, for us, the missing link is connecting those practical choices to the need for the spaces we inhabit to promote sustainable futures and lifestyles.

And that’s not just about making sure your end-users recycle.

Instead, it’s about shifting our priorities and behaviours to inspire naturally good choices that lead to heightened individual and environmental wellbeing.

So, if you’re a developer or business owner considering how to create a new space - whether it’s a workspace, hotel, apartment complex, leisure facility, or multi-use development, social sustainability elevates your project beyond the sum of its parts.

Why should your next development start with social sustainability?

·       You want to build communities that thrive and succeed

·       You want to be seen as progressive and innovative

·       You want your workplace, venue, or development to be noticed and held as a cutting-edge example

·       You want your impact to be measurable and far-reaching.

What does social sustainability look like in interior design?

The broader concept is clear, but how does that translate into a real-life space?

A space designed with social sustainability as its heart embraces the ways society is changing and meets the needs of the demographic it serves, both now and into the future.

As interior designers, the reason we’re able to achieve this is by forecasting societal shifts and immersing ourselves in culture, travel, politics, and activism to anticipate what your end-user will demand from a space in years to come.

Taking this approach feeds into the longevity and reputation of your development.

It won’t be dated in 12 months’ time: it will delight and inspire your client long into the future, positioning you as a forward-thinking industry visionary.

Features of a socially sustainable space


Socially sustainable spaces encourage interaction and connection. So, whether it’s a workspace that sparks collaboration and fresh thinking, or a residential development with communal spaces to connect socially isolated young professionals, the atmosphere is one of togetherness and positivity.

In a post-pandemic world, this takes your development far beyond aesthetics and creates transformative spaces that bring communities and teams back to life.


The world has changed immeasurably since the pandemic hit, and we’re acutely aware of the impact this has had on the spaces where we live, work, socialise, and escape.

'Pivot' became something of a pandemic buzzword as businesses and establishments flexed to cater for quarantined communities, and as we emerge into the new world, adaptability is paramount.

This flex is familiar to indie businesses, which are small and voracious enough to flip the script with speed. So, we’ve seen high street bakeries open up for evening cocktails and your local restaurant launch takeout services and at-home kits.

For larger corporations, flexing is a more significant challenge, but it’s vital to foster socially sustainable spaces and communities.

In this instance, social sustainability looks like a hotel lobby where freelancers can pitch up and co-work.

Or, a hybrid workspace that feels like a home away from home to tempt your team out of the spare room.


Social sustainability is so much more than being seen to make good choices.

We’re all familiar with the concept of greenwashing, and businesses and consumers are getting savvy to token gestures in the world of sustainability.

Therefore, you want to be leading with authenticity in your developments and weaving responsible choices into every decision, stage, and feature.

It’s about going deeper than surface level to explore what’s possible when you shift your mindset and see sustainability as a holistic approach and not limited to materials and certifications.


Social sustainability is a constantly evolving concept, and being transparent about your position, intentions, and motivations is key.

We’re all trying to do the right thing and want to make a difference, but nobody is doing it perfectly, and that’s important to note.

Social sustainability looks different for every organisation, and it’s how you approach this that counts. So, be open about your process, tell your customers what you’re doing and why, and invite them in to understand where you are on your sustainability journey.

Ultimately, this will develop a higher level of trust among your clients and end-users.

Social sustainability in interior design

Jolie is the interior design studio behind socially sustainable developments worldwide. Developers bring us onboard at the pre-planning stages to define and understand the demographic, forecast societal movements, and plan spaces that answer people and the planet’s changing needs.

In a commercial development, the kind of amenities you choose, what the purpose is and how the space is planned out can shape its future.

With Jolie, this becomes an intuitive process that consolidates the ultimate success of your project.

To speak to our team about your next development, contact the office on 0161 533 0366 or

written by
Franky Rousell

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