Embracing Social Value in the Public Sector
Social Value has become a hot topic for the UK public sector and its suppliers.
With Social Value now mandated for central government procurements from January 2021, businesses that seek to win government work must set out how they will also deliver on the Government’s social value priorities (which account for a minimum of 10% of the overall evaluation score).
To truly address Social Value, there must be a comprehensive consideration of all aspects of society – from the economy and the environment to health, COVID recovery, education and skills.
Ask yourself, what are you actively doing to better develop, sustain and stimulate a prosperous society, be that globally, or locally?
What is ‘Social Value’?
As Social Value becomes a more important topic, one which can often seem ambiguous at first, defining what is now being asked of your organisation is of paramount importance.
Social Value is not a commodity, and it’s certainly not just a ‘tick in the box’, there actually needs to be a plan for a company-wide philosophy which drives your organisation to deliver, not only good service and low prices, but wider valuable social actions as part of your value proposition.
We put the question “What does Social Value mean to you?” to our expert panellists in our recent Social Value webinar, which you can watch on-demand now, and this is what they said it meant to them:
The place where most organisations trip up is understanding how Social Value differs from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Whereas CSR is a passive, secondary ‘afterthought’ which often ticks along in the background – understanding an organisation’s responsibility to address issues and initiatives in society – Social Value is more about taking accountability for making these changes happen. Delivering Social Value requires a more radical, choice-led philosophy – a culture that places social action and delivering better outcomes and stakeholder priorities, as a core business activity.
How can SMEs leverage advantages over larger organisations?
There is definitely a quiet grumble about these public procurement changes, especially from some SMEs feeling unable to compete with the behemoths chucking money at the ‘Social Value’ tick box.
It’s important to understand that in these instances, the social actions undertaken by a company are proportionate, and there’s so much an SME can do to stand out against the crowd – many of which involve leveraging the advantages of being an SME.
An example is the very location of your business – perhaps you’re bidding for work in your area. The prospect of your localised impact being much broader than simply the work you are providing, but more focussed and direct on social actions and wider local benefit, can give you an edge. This could be through employing local people, or holding careers fairs or workshops to develop skills in the local area.
And perhaps the most prominent example is the ability to leverage localised social action is much more suited towards smaller to medium enterprises – making a difference where you live and work is easier when you understand the social trends and issues of your area. This social development will indirectly benefit your business, as well as contribute to the governments social value priorities, but most importantly it will improve the lives of local citizens.
Further, the proportionality of implementing Social Value means that SMEs will likely see a greater return on investment, versus large companies which will have to invest huge wads of cash into lots of areas which are less relevant to their day-to-day, and future operations.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for larger businesses. There’s just as much opportunity for large-scale companies to create a social value action plan and invest in local and wider initiatives too. The winners will be the ones who really appreciate the focus that must be placed on being more socially aware, and delivering greater social value in the years to come.
What are the steps to delivering Social Value?
This quote, adapted from the Mahatma Gandhi, was brought up by Natalie Wadley, Director of Social Value Quality Mark in our Social Value webinar, and sums up the beginning of the process of embracing social value.
You see, your organisation will start with only one foot out of the door if your motivation for delivering better social value is to win contracts, or to satisfy the buyer. In fact, many suppliers are already focussing on delivering social value as a company-wide culture. A poll of our webinar attendees put that figure at over 80%, so investing with the wrong motivations will mean you’ll always be one step behind.
This push to address government social value priorities in procurement is part of a much longer-term government plan – one which the current government is pushing as ‘building back better’. Delivering social value is likely to come to the forefront – especially as the world becomes more socially aware, and citizens become more concerned about how organisations are giving back to communities, the environment, public health etc. This is true within Manchester City Council, where Social Value is weighted at up to 30% of the score of a contract.
It may not be long before the rest of the country follows suit.
Your organisation must adopt a greater focus on social value – not to just win government work, but to stay at pace with the industry.
This means getting clear on your company’s definition of social value – what do you need to deliver, but more importantly what change should you be accountable for? Then, use that accountability as motivation to consider the best avenues for driving social growth. Remember, it’s not just a plan, not just a strategy, but a culture. Take time to really think about the impact you can have, and how you can drive big change with a synthesis of many small efforts. Lastly, commit to your plan – really embrace ‘being the change you want to see’.
In recognising your social value focus, the Social Value Quality Mark – an accreditation which UKCloud was awarded Level 1 in January 2021, demonstrates the commitment of an organisation to deliver social value on a comprehensive level. Earning this accreditation benefits your organisation’s ability to show your social value priorities, and benefits your partners too, demonstrating the social awareness of their supply chain.
Maintain a narrow focus (motivated by ‘doing the right thing’) on delivering significant social value benefits, and you will not have to worry when asked to show how your organisation delivered that 10%, or even up to 30% of the overall score. Pro-activity will pay dividends.