Case study: Nuneaton Signs

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Nuneaton Sign staff photo outside their warehouse

Case study: Nuneaton Signs

Nuneaton Signs is a not-for-profit organisation with social value at its heart. It was created in 1982 by the local authority as two needs coincided. Nuneaton needed road signs as well as meaningful employment for people with disabilities.  

Calculate and report successes

While social value has always been a driver at Nuneaton Signs, pressure from its customer base has made it more important for the team to measure and analyse it. The organisation joined Social Value Portal in 2021 and has been using the National TOMs to calculate and report successes. Overall, Nuneaton Signs’ aim is to understand how to take social value further. 

“Our customer base has been asking us for the next stage of our story. They say our ethos is fantastic but there’s been a push as to what’s the next chapter, what’s the next part of the journey because they’ve wanted to get involved with it. So the natural progression for us has been taking on the social value part and really embracing it and analysing everything that we do.” Michelle York, Commercial Director at Nuneaton Signs.

Getting into the supply chain 

Before working with us, Nuneaton Signs didn’t measure social value in a monetary way. Rather, it focused on the number of people with a disability that the company could employ. Additionally, the cost to the local authority if these people were unable to find suitable employment. While a useful measure, this didn’t reflect the full social value the business generated.  

Using the National TOMs made sense, Michelle said. It means they can measure how customer spend allows the team to do something for good, rather than focusing on the financial outcome of that spend. For example, it has allowed Nuneaton Signs to provide additional opportunities in the workplace. This includes apprenticeships or work placements. An added benefit, Michelle said, is that the TOMs provide a framework that everyone in the business can understand. Such as, someone who has been long-term unemployed, a single mum, or someone with a disability.  

For business improvement, the TOMs framework has allowed the team to look at every stage of each process. As a result, to see where there are opportunities to increase social value. This has meant looking far more closely at the supply chain. The company has always looked at its supply chain in terms of capability and capacity. However, there is now a greater emphasis on whether a supplier is giving the best value.    

“We have a new buyer and part of their role is to ask our supply chain: ‘How are you producing social value, what is its format and how are you measuring it?” Michelle explained. “Because we don’t want fictitious figures. This is very important to us. It’s very, very close to our heart. And we want to make sure that it’s been taken seriously at every stage of the sign-making process.” 

Aspirations and growth 

Creating a benchmark for this year allows the team to quantify where they are. Also, what their target should be next year. As Nuneaton Signs is expanding – the team took on four new members of staff in the summer and is advertising for two more – getting the measures right today will be extremely valuable.  

The team now has a benchmark against which to set goals for the next year. As well as a bold ambition to generate £3 million of social value, pledges include creating six new apprentice positions, for 80% of staff to participate in annual learning on key subjects, to plant 3,000 trees and that 80% of people empowered by the firm’s social education initiatives will be from under-represented groups.  

“All of the items on our pledge are measurable within the TOMs framework,” Michelle said. “Our ethos has always been at the very heart of everything that we do, and every sign that a customer decides to buy from us genuinely helps us change lives. Being able to measure our social value is incredibly important to us, as business is more than just the bottom line. We want to do business for good, and by measuring what we are doing allows us to set goals and look at different aspects of the business going forward.” 

Want to find out more about our work with Nuneaton Signs? Listen to our Portcast episode ‘Embracing the social enterprise movement’ with Nuneaton Signs.