‘Social Value’: Small Words with a Big Impact

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ANTZ CEO Jen Pemberton explains why Welsh businesses need to understand and integrate social value in every public procurement strategy.

I’ve heard the words ‘social value’ described as ‘fluffy’, ‘a tick-box exercise’, and ‘something we can sort out with the buying of a new kit for a local football team, painting the walls of a community hall, or collecting some litter along a river bank’.

It is now crucial that Welsh business fully understands what ‘social value’ actually means and looks like; how, when engaged properly, it delivers sustainable, tangible change to a community and is genuinely impactful. It doesn’t mean delivering something you think is needed, such as numerous soup kitchens because the media or a Local Authority mentioned homelessness in its region!

It is imperative for companies to understand the specific social issues within a particular area. 

Don’t take my word for it; if businesses want to continue winning work with the public sector, they need to take heed of the legislation that puts social value very prominently within the tender process. 

In Wales, the importance of social value is recognised through the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 which requires public bodies in Wales to think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change. This legislation will only get stronger and take on greater importance in how public sector tenders are analysed and scored.

In Scotland, the Sustainable Procurement Duty outlined in the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, requires that, before a contracting authority buys anything, it must think about how it can improve the social, environmental and economic wellbeing of the area in which it operates, with a particular focus on reducing inequality.

And importantly, from the 1st January this year, a new UK Government Procurement Policy Note (PPN), requires key environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) related themes to be evaluated expressly in all UK central government procurement, through the use of a social value model. A minimum weighting of 10% must be given to ESG objectives in each procurement.

“If Welsh companies want to win business with the public sector in the UK, they need to understand how to deliver tangible social value.

This applies to all contracts awarded by UK central government departments, their executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies that are regulated by the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

The ‘social value model’ is divided into five broad themes, each containing one or more policy outcome to achieve that must be evaluated expressly through specific ESG objectives: 

  • COVID-19 recovery – Help local communities to manage and recover from the impact of COVID 
  • Tackling economic inequality – Create new businesses, new jobs and new skills and increase supply chain resilience and capacity 
  • Fighting climate change – Effective stewardship of the environment
  • Equal opportunity – Reduce the disability employment gap and tackle workforce inequality
  • Wellbeing – Improve health and wellbeing and improve community integration

This Procurement Policy Note applying to England builds on the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012. 

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In other words, if Welsh companies want to win business with the public sector in the UK, they need to understand how to deliver tangible social value that is relevant to the communities they will be working in. By doing this, businesses can build stronger cross sector relationships, grow their business and give back to the community. 

Delivering social value within the communities in which a business operates should be as normal a part of the business strategy as health and safety and HR. 

“Key to executing a successful community programme that delivers true social value is taking a person-centred approach.

A company needs to bring its supply chain and partners along with them on the journey, delivering real, sustainable change in both the community and commercially, by aligning their social strategy to their commercial strategy. 

This approach is critical and means not only achieving business growth, but also giving a company’s staff and that of its partners the opportunity to be part of something powerful, helping boost their own confidence, morale, and sense of worth. It’s a win-win for any business engaged in delivering real social value. 

Key to executing a successful community programme that delivers true social value is taking a person-centred approach, with all community partners having a ‘seat around the table’ and an ‘equal voice’ when discussing how a programme of engagement should work, how best to reach out, what success looks like and how to deliver it. This reduces self-assessment and box ticking that has evolved in social value reporting.

Every programme of engagement is different and only by listening to the community itself and taking a person-centred approach can an organisation begin to understand how to bring about the right level of sustainable change.

This is even more important due to the effects of Covid on communities and the need to ‘Build Back Better’ now, addressing major weaknesses in the economy and the deep-seated inequalities in society that mean the most vulnerable people have been hit the hardest.

They may be two small words, but ‘social value’ really does have a huge part to play in the growth of business and communities in 2021 and beyond.


All articles published on the welsh agenda are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.

Jen Pemberton is the CEO of ANTZ, a social impact organisation who work with businesses to help them deliver and evaluate social value.

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