Social Value in Infrastructure Projects – Part of the Solution, Not Part of the Challenge

“Social value is too often seen as an added extra in infrastructure projects. In other words, an added complication that isn’t core to project delivery, but which has to be included to satisfy the contract award criteria.

That attitude isn’t just misguided, it’s also missing an opportunity to help solve some of the major issues the industry faces.

Infrastructure is there to serve communities. The works we carry out inevitably affect communities and local economies. And, in the meantime, the industry has pressing issues with skills shortages and productivity that we need to resolve.

Infrastructure projects and contractors cannot stand in isolation from communities and society at large. Our fates, issues, and our future prosperity are inextricably linked.

Time to Embed Social Value
So we believe the time has come to embed social value at the core of all infrastructure projects. This means there must be more than a requirement for public sector contracting bodies to just ‘consider’ social value when awarding contracts.

To make this meaningful we need clearer and consistent expectations and scoring for social value in infrastructure tenders. There can be no clearer way to signal that token commitments and box ticking are inadequate responses. Social value should be no different from any other value-based criteria in evaluating bids.

As contractors we need to ensure that social value initiatives are fully integrated with our objectives for recruitment, skills development and CSR. If it needs to be central to procurement it should also become central to our business strategy and planning. Working with communities to design social value programmes is critical.

The commitment (and practice) regarding social value must also extend to how we work with our supply chains, many of which have roots into the communities affected by our projects.
When social value becomes universally embedded into procurement, project lifecycles and business operations, we will see the full benefits for the industry and society. The time to make that happen has surely come.”

Mike Todd is the Lead Business Development Manager for  Infrastructure at Osborne.