Why Social Value Benefits Us All
Social value is the means by which contractors deliver benefits to society and communities alongside the contracts we are paid to deliver. It’s something that many organisations have always sought to do (to varying degrees) through CSR initiatives, for example.
The Social Value Act placed responsibilities on public sector bodies to take social value into consideration when awarding contracts. For contractors this was a highly significant development. While the law doesn’t say that social value must be a criterion in the award of a contract, it does go some way to giving the activities we undertake in the community a commercial value.
The commercial and business benefits of delivering social value go beyond just the ability to compete for contracts, and we’ll come to this shortly.
First, let’s look at another consequence of there being a commercial value in these activities. It means that they need to be measured and quantified. We can then start to understand what we – as individual contractors and as an industry – are contributing to our communities. It also means we are more focused about what we do and start to question the long-term value and impact of our activities.
What Social Value Looks Like
Social value can take many forms. It can be local recruitment of disadvantaged people, training, work experience and employability programmes, creating or repairing community facilities and much else besides. The best value comes through engagement with local communities and authorities so that we are complementing other initiatives and meeting real needs. We are always looking for a positive legacy from every project.
The wins for the industry are significant. Engagement in community activities is highly motivating. It helps people feel good about working for us, which makes them more engaged and productive. When we reach out to communities we also reach potential employees who might not have considered construction as a career or may not have thought of the industry as accessible. And this is huge! We have a worsening skills shortage and need to recruit from the widest possible pool of talent.
Social value also has an economic benefit. Every day our people spend working on community activities they are doing things that might otherwise need to be publicly funded. Our work with charities enables them to make better use of the resources they have. And the training and supply chain development work we support contributes to a more productive local workforce, where people in communities ultimately do higher value and better paid work than they might otherwise have done.
Are We Doing Enough?
There is always more that can be done. The challenge is as much about improving the way we measure impact so that we can direct resources more effectively, as it is about carrying out more activity. We need to implement consistent KPIs across all projects and throughout our supply chains so that we truly can see how much the industry contributes.
As we get better at doing this the picture that emerges is one where everyone wins. Social value is good for communities, good for the economy and good for our bottom line and future prosperity.
Mike Todd, Lead Business Development Manager, Osborne Infrastructure