In spite of the widespread proliferation of sustainability metrics and reporting frameworks, these systems lack consistent definitions, processes and standards for assessing social sustainability impacts. This has made it difficult to benchmark progress on social sustainability issues, whether among companies or against global goals, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

To address this challenge, the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute embarked on a 2-year collaborative research project with Ford Motor Company.  Over this time period, the team developed a new “Model of Human Progress,” which defined four core social impacts as:

• Preserving human rights,
• Protecting human health, safety and well-being
• Increasing access to social good, and
• Enhancing societal economic prosperity.

The model also developed recommended metrics based on current social impact reporting practices to measure and quantify these social impacts. This model can be used across industries to encourage stronger harmonization within the social impact measurement field. These metrics also have the dual objective of tying impacts to the stated UN SDGs.

Defining Social Sustainability: The Ford Motor Company’s Model of Human Progress

An Erb Institute White Paper

“Quantifying performance in this way allows corporations to more readily integrate social sustainability considerations into their operational, strategic and product-level decisions. The objectives identified in this study and their associated metrics may be used in the future to develop different decision alternatives and then to assess how they perform.”

Dr. Merriam Haffar, Erb Institute Post-Doctoral Fellow and Research Lead