Measuring Social Value Matters for So Many Reasons

Delivering social value is now firmly established in the procurement landscape for construction projects. But its importance extends far beyond commercial considerations. Social value goes to the heart of the role that construction firms and the built environment play in our society.

Social value has many facets and isn’t always easy to define and evaluate in a consistent way. This can be a problem for procurement teams if they have to score different initiatives and outcomes in rival bids. It can’t really be as simple as comparing the monetary value of the proposed activities.

For Osborne, social value is about improving people’s lives through our work. This encompasses our customers, local communities, supply chain and our people. Like many companies we quantify and report on social value in financial terms in their annual reports.

But much of the value is more qualitative. How, for example, do you put a monetary value on an individual that you have helped to gain the skills and confidence to enter the labour market and secure stable employment? How do you put a value on the difference that an improved leisure facility will make to the wellbeing of the community?

Measuring Value

The metrics that guide decision making in our industry are evolving. This process must include work to assess the whole-life value of buildings and infrastructure, not just whole-life costs. This more sophisticated value analysis is set to become increasingly important as environmental concerns become more prominent.

No unified best-practice framework has yet emerged, but the construction sector seems to be maturing in its understanding of social value. The next steps will be to focus on how to capture the impact of social value and the tools we could use to do this in real time. It would also help to have greater consistency over how financial values attached to initiatives are calculated.

For a family-owned business like Osborne, the significance of social value is about more than winning contracts and meeting the requirements of the Social Value Act. It’s in our DNA that we recognise the importance of helping shape places and spaces to improve people’s lives.

We have always aimed to give something back to local communities on every project, even before it was labelled social value. And we never forget that the stories are often just as important as the data.

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