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  • Emily Binning
  • 3 minutes
  • 02/06/2023

Six things I’ve learned about measuring corporate social value

Responsible businesses have a fantastic opportunity to help both local communities and society as a whole. Emily Binning, WSP's Director of Corporate ESG, shares her insights and what lessons other private sector organisations can learn to maximise their delivery of social value.

WSP is a leading engineering and environmental professional services consulting firm. We’re determined to make a real, sustainable and positive difference to the world around us. And that means we must put social value at the heart of everything we do – in three ways:

  1. Achieving social value outcomes through our projects – whether transport, buildings, energy, environment, water, waste or any other part of the built environment – our bread and butter
  2. Advising clients about ways they can maximise their own social value – another type of project delivery
  3. Additionality – the corporate social value we create over and above anything above – the ways we choose to work and how we engage in our communities

We aim to generate £120 million in additional social value by the end of 2024. As Director of Corporate ESG it’s my job to help us get there, and I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learned so far about measuring corporate social value.

  1. You only know what you know. And you can’t do it alone. If your business is anything like ours, there’s probably a lot of social value being generated already. But you’ll need help to find it, understand it and work out how best to measure it. Partner with different stakeholder functions. Brief them thoroughly and clearly. Give them enough time to gather the data. And celebrate their contribution.
  2. The land of proxy values is complicated, and challenging. When looking at proxy values, be curious, ask questions and challenge. WSP has fostered a collaborative partnership with Social Value Portal – with both sides learning about measuring corporate social value for a large organisation like ourselves. This means we’ve challenged proxies and methodology sets when we’ve found they don’t fit our organisation. Which brings me to my next point…
  3. One size does not fit all. With the social value measurement movement evolving rapidly, for us a blended approach is key. We curate the frameworks and platforms for corporate measurement that suit our needs best. This means we can choose those that enable, rather than restrict, what we can evidence and measure.
  4. What are the numbers (and the gaps) telling you? My team now has enough experience and knowledge to ‘dig into’ what the data is telling us. We use it to inform our next steps, to adjust our plan and to create more, and better, social value outcomes. Most importantly, we can see opportunities. These could be things we’re doing but not measuring. Or they could be things we’re not doing, leading us to develop new programmes to tackle key themes.
  5. Be credible and authentic, always. From the outset we’ve been clear that our measurement must stand up to scrutiny: auditable evidence is non-negotiable. It’s the right thing to do and we want to embed the behaviours, mindset and processes to keep us honest.
  6. Remember why you’re doing this. Fundamentally, social value is about improving people’s lives by asking them what they need and making it happen. It requires – as Social Value Portal CEO Guy Battle said to me recently – a mindset shift from doing less bad to doing more good. And measuring corporate social value is an important part of driving that shift.

WSP are one of our headline sponsors for the Social Value Conference 2023, and their team of experts will be speaking on a variety of panel sessions and webinars across both days. Find out more and reserve your spot today.

Emily Binning

Director, Corporate ESG - WSP

As UK Director of Corporate ESG at global engineering and advisory professional services company WSP, Emily works across the business – and its partner organisations – to enable, co-ordinate and amplify Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) activity. It’s this activity, mapped against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which she strongly believes will help WSP achieve their ambitious targets, one of which is to generate £120 million in additional Social Value by 2024.