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  • 4 minutes
  • 05/05/2022

Services Design Solution: winner of the SME Organisational Leadership Award 2022

Read about Services Design Solution's bottom up approach to ensuring they maximise social value and build stronger communities.

Services Design Solution (SDS) are Building Services consulting engineers. They strive for sustainable design, and therefore are constantly evolving their practices, both to meet changes in legislation and adopt technical advances.

They want to maximise their contribution across their regions, whether that is by supporting local charities and employment initiatives, engaging with schools and universities, and advising on zero-carbon solutions. They set their annual targets against the UK government’s Social Value Model, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the five themes sent out by the National TOMS Framework.

This isn’t a top-down company. Their employees are encouraged to make social value suggestions and most staff are actively involved with the community outside of work, examples being school governors, sports and social club members, and voluntary supporters. Beyond this, every member of the SDS team has Social Value targets set within their appraisals. They are a carbon-neutral business who donate 1% of turnover to support well-being projects in our local communities.

A social value commitment has been embedded in the organisation since they began trading in 2004. They appoint social value champions with extensive experience translating strategy into delivery. Through resources, experience, and commitment, they aim to deliver genuine benefits to the local economy.

SDS’s business plan sets out the annual goals for the company. The program includes social value ambitions and targets, presented to all employees at a staff meeting. The directors encourage comments and contributions from everyone.

Last year, a new social value focused business plan introduced non-financial reporting, which has been applied to social matters, including growth, volunteer hours, charitable giving, training, and carbon elimination.

Investing in social value early on in the company’s history has paid dividends, as social value weighting has risen from as little as 5% to up to 40% in some tenders. This has meant companies like SDS, who have a long history of prioritising sustainability, have a growing competitive advantage.

This has meant companies like SDS, who have a long history of prioritising sustainability, have a growing competitive advantage.

For SDS, social value runs throughout the company. It’s driven by the Managing Director, supported by the Management Board. The Operations Director ensures the business approaches a sustainable and ethical procurement of goods and services, and the Finance Director is committed to making fair payments to our supply chain, monitoring our compliance against key performance indicators. Furthermore three Regional Directors are responsible for driving Social Value within their office branches, encouraging team participation, and identifying opportunities to support our local communities.

Since using the National TOMS framework, they’ve a consistent approach to measuring and reporting social value across businesses, sectors and localities. They can make continuous improvements throughout their maturity journey, and compare their business performance to sector and industry benchmarks. Crucially, they’ve now got a solid understanding of what ‘good’ looks like.

Using these benchmarks they have reached net zero in operational Carbon, adopting the ‘be lean, clean, green’ principles.

SDS are committed to sustainable and ethical procurement within their supply chain. In 2021, they achieved recognition under the ‘Fair Payment Charter’ in support of the Government’s aim of delivering a fairer industry, with stronger relationships between the industry and its clients, fewer disputes, and more equitable contractual terms.

In the last financial year, SDS donated 1% of their turnover to local wellbeing and community groups – equating to £900 per staff member.  This was a 148% increase in charitable giving compared to the previous year. We have already seen a 60% increase in volunteering hours this year.

As an SME, this is a significant amount, and a real marker of the priority SDS place on social value in their community.