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  • Guy Battle
  • 4 minutes
  • 11/10/2022

How we can supercharge social value during a national crisis

CEO Guy Battle shares thoughts on why organisations must focus on social value delivery during these challenging economic times.

Just over a year ago, G7 leaders met at a sun-drenched Cornish hotel to discuss how to create a more prosperous future – tucking into crab claws and smoked sirloin with lobster.

A fews weeks ago, we heard how people using a UK foodbank are asking for more instant mash – because they can’t afford to cook fresh vegetables anymore.

This is the face of inequality, and the cost of living crisis now sweeping across the UK. And it’s going to get worse.

In our recent webinar, Lucy Daniels, Outreach and Communications Manager for East Lothian Foodbank, said it is “terrifying” what the next few months, covering winter and Christmas, will bring. A ‘perfect storm’ of the pandemic, inflation, and raised energy prices is having a “devastating” impact on communities. And it’s creating a surge in demand for support from food banks – including calls for instant food, she said.

You can only manage what you can measure

The time for navel-gazing and rhetoric is over. We need strategy, action, and data-led responses.

Our work at Social Value Portal is underpinned by the National TOMS – because we believe that organisations can only manage what they can measure and no organisation is the same.

But we know that some people have found the scale of these metrics to be overwhelming, and so in response, we have created two standard versions to help businesses of all sizes to get started:

  • For larger organisations, we’ve created an official list of 40 recommended measures to use as a starting point
  • For smaller and voluntary organisations or individual project or tenders, we’ve created an even shorter list of just 18 priority measures

This is our way of stopping ‘the perfect’ from being the enemy of ‘the good’. At a time of national crisis, we want to make it as easy as possible for organisations of all types and sizes to get involved – because it will all make a huge cumulative difference.

And there are three other steps organisations can take to rapidly accelerate their social value.

3 ways to accelerate social value

1. Culture – Now is the time to really ‘get your own house in order’ on social value.

Make sure you practice what you preach on fairness by paying your people the Real Living Wage and considering more diverse recruitment, including people who are at risk of social deprivation.

Organisations also need to get full buy-in on social value. We know that after COVID, those which had policies and processes in place responded more quickly and effectively.

And be aware, and sensitive to the fact that some of your own people may well be struggling through this crisis, as gas and electricity bills are expected to rise again. That’s after a rise of £700 per year which plunged five million households into fuel poverty –  despite measures introduced by the government to ease the strain.

And so it’s important you create an open and supportive culture where none of your people feel shame in asking for help, if they need to.

2. Work with your supply chain – We know that many organisations have a vast network of subcontractors, which means policy changes at the top have massive impact as they cascade down through the supply chain.

Take Essex County Council as an example. The authority changed its procurement methodology for all procurements over £100,000 (which make up the bulk of its £1.2bn gross commissioned budget) to include a social value weighting of 15%.

As a result, it achieved pledges from subcontractors to deliver social value totalling £42 million in the winning bids. In less than 18 months, 98 suppliers with 17 contracts (worth a combined £447million), pledged in winning bids to create 981 jobs – including roles for care leavers, the long term unemployed, NEETs, rehabilitating young offenders, and for people with disabilities.

3. Listen to communities – Don’t assume you know what support charities need – talk to stakeholders and form genuine partnerships to maximise impact. For example, East Lothian Food Bank told us that they value support with labour such as heavy lifting, on a par with donations of produce or cash.

To achieve this at scale, many organisations work with third parties like Neighbourly – which help businesses make a positive impact in communities by donating volunteer time, money and surplus products, all in one place.

We are entering uniquely challenging times, where the whole concept of social value has never been more relevant. We hope that by providing streamlined measures, Social Value Portal will help even more people to accelerate social value.

Will you get on board?

Guy Battle headshot

Guy Battle


Guy Battle is the Chief Executive of Social Value Portal – an online solution that allows organisations to measure and manage the contribution that their organisation and supply chain makes to society.