Recently, we have seen the cost of human life juxtaposed with the cost of consumer goods. Millions of people across the world work in dangerous and unhealthy conditions to produce the products we consume on a daily basis. With the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh this past April, over a thousand men, women, and children lost their lives. This tragedy was a disturbing wake-up call for many businesses that ignoring social sustainability is a liability they can no longer afford.

Over the past several years, many businesses have made an effort to make environmental sustainability a mission critical to their business plan. Now, the focus is shifting to the human side of our global supply chain- the people behind the products we consume. Social sustainability is key to good business in today’s society. Business leaders both small and large can protect the well-being of workers everywhere by keeping these tips in mind.

Long hours, below-living wages, and little job security make for an unstable supply chain. When tragedies such as the Bangladesh factories are in the eye of the media, brand integrity is certain to suffer. Food manufacturers also face high risks of food-borne illness when their farm workers are poorly trained and paid low wages. These outbreaks of food-borne illness could be prevented if farm workers were trained for food safety in the fields. In return, public health would not be at risk and food manufacturers could save millions of dollars in food recalls. When workers are not at risk each day, the integrity of the product is protected.

Today, there are many resources for business leaders to use in the shift to social sustainability and supply chain transparency. With businesses across every market shifting their practices, there are plenty of successful business models to follow and many partners who are willing to join and support your mission. Whether you are a consumer or a business leader, now is the perfect time to jump on the social sustainability bandwagon and start putting the people first.

If you need inspiration or more tips to make or keep your business socially sustainable, check out our friends at INDIGENOUS, they have been organic, eco-friendly, fair-trade certified since their inception and are ready to share their practices!