5 simple ways to deliver social value

Tom Wilde, Social Value Advisor

I recently spoke at a Supply Chain Sustainability School event, to a room of construction industry SMEs, about how all businesses can deliver greater social value, and can respond to social value procurement questions.

A quick survey of the room showed that:

65% have been asked about social value in tender questions. – This means there is now a direct business benefit from delivering greater social value.

65% identified cost or resource constraints as the greatest barrier to social value activity.

Whatever sector you operate in, and whatever the business driver is, I believe there are 5 simple ways that all businesses could increase their social value activity. It doesn’t have to be difficult, and any associated costs would be easily outweighed by the business benefits, such as staff morale, competitive-edge, and more importantly doing the right thing!

  1. Buy Social – think about the impact of your supply chain spend. Try to identify social enterprises who could provide the products or services you require and invite them to quote for contracts.  If you can pay the same price, receive the same service, but know that the profits are being re-invested for social good – why wouldn’t you?  www.buysocialdirectory.org.uk
  2. Pay the Living Wage – not the ‘National Living Wage’ (NLW) of £7.20/hour set by Government, but the Living Wage Foundation wage of £8.25/hour, which is calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK.  I am proud to work for an accredited Living Wage Employer, and believe that paying a fair wage should be a moral obligation of all employers: www.livingwage.org.uk
  3. Support long-term unemployed people – The idea of local employment is a valuable one, and is often requested in social value tenders.  However, the area where I think employers can offer the greatest value is in supporting long-term unemployed people, or those who face barriers to employment.  There are fantastic programmes (supported by local and national government) across the whole country which are crying out for employers to offer a range of support to people who face long-term barriers to employment. It’s not necessarily about jobs at this stage, but might be about work experience, or interview skills, or mentoring.  Examples of programmes in Greater Manchester include: GM TalentMatch (www.gmtalentmatch.org.uk) and; Working Well (www.thebiglifegroup.com/big-life-enterprises/)
  4. Support local charities and Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) organisations – A good starting point is to offer your staff a volunteering day or to fund-raise for local charities.  Even better, think about what services or products you provide that could be of greater value to these organisations?  Rather than volunteering to paint a wall or litter-pick, could you offer some pro-bono skills such as IT, Marketing, Finance, Construction, etc?  Or maybe you could donate some of your products or materials to VCSE organisations who would otherwise need to pay full market price?
  5. Embed social value and do it as a matter of course –  Don’t look at social value simply as a business cost – instead look at it as an essential component of your business model, driving value whilst operating responsibly.  If you embed these practices into your everyday business operations, it will not only bring the cost of delivery down, but will massively increase your impact – therefore benefitting your business, your staff, and wider society.  There are loads of great examples of successful businesses who do these things as a matter of course (e.g. Timpsons have employed ex-offenders for over 12 years. As do Pret a Manger who set up the Pret Foundation Trust in 1995 which aims to help break the cycle of homelessness. This includes helping vulnerable people into work and donating unsold food to homeless charities).    If they can do it, why can’t you?