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  • 4 minutes
  • 24/12/2021

The changing attitude towards social value in real estate

We examine the changing attitude towards social value in our response to Savills' 'Spotlight: Social Value in Real Estate'.

The changing attitude towards social value in real estate by Social Value Portal Director of Consultancy Anna McChesney-Gordon.

We have seen a significant and very welcome shift towards the adoption of social value initiatives in this country since the Social Value Act was passed 10 years ago. Although the movement took a while to get under way, it has steadily risen-up the priority list, with the property world becoming heavily involved.

In the past decade, businesses and public sector organisations have shifted from shuffling a few ‘tick-box’ CSR initiatives towards the bottom of the agenda to actively seeking opportunities to generate tangible, measurable actions. Ones that will have a positive impact on communities.

Despite the many challenges the world faces thanks to the COVID-19, the pandemic has also highlighted the importance of social value. The remote workforce has had an unprecedented opportunity to engage with the communities in which they live, experiencing the feeling of making a positive difference. As a result, filtering back into the business community. Consequently, the social value movement has experienced a welcome boost.

Real estate

As one of the largest, therefore more influential business communities in the UK, the real estate sector has the potential to generate more social value than many others. This now seems to have been recognised by business leaders. In fact, world renowned property agent, Savills’, has recently published a paper ‘Spotlight: Social Value in Real Estate’ which states –

“There has been a marked shift in investor mindset, with an expectation that businesses and investors will make a positive contribution to society…”

10 years on from the Act being passed, and it is gratifying to see social value being driven from the top. Therefore, communicating an expectation that all developments will generate place based social value as a matter of course.

However, there is always more that can be done. We want to empower organisations in the real estate sector to delve deeper, ensuring that every opportunity is realised, becoming social value creators – in their own right.

How to maximise social value in design

Whilst the impact will not be fully measured until completion of a project, embedding social value right at the start of the design process is the key to generating maximum social value for years to come.

In 2021, we worked with The National Social Value in Design Taskforce to identify key challenges faced by design teams when it comes to implementing social value. The challenges highlighted included a lack of:

  • Buy-in from clients
  • Industry-wide best practice guidance
  • Clarity on how to measure and report social value creation

Along with the perception that including social value will increase costs.

You need only to look at the case studies in Savills‘ report to see that this is slowly changing. Indeed, as more social value is generated and the positive outcomes publicised, a deeper understanding of the social value movement and its infinite potential to improve lives evolves.

The planning process

We have also worked with the National Social Value Taskforce to find the best way to embed social value into the planning process. Between us, we estimate that around £30bn of social value remains unfulfilled. This is due to planning authorities and developers failing to grasp the opportunities to incorporate social value.

Therefore, we also wrote a guidance paper to show a clear path for developers and planners to follow to build social value into the planning process. Developers are shown how to use the National Planning Policy Framework to submit a Social Value Statement as part of a planning submission. Additionally, planning departments can find out how to embed social value into a planning policy.

By showing the way for those involved in the planning process, we hope to see social value included in all planning applications as a matter of course.

Without a doubt, the past decade has seen us make a huge leap in terms of generating social value. There is a deeper understanding and appreciation for how social value works. Yet, more will always be possible. Thus, the next decade should see a much faster and more automatic adoption of social value in the real estate world.

As a community thrives, so too does the workforce, which in turn helps businesses thrive. In the next decade, business leaders will see that implementing social value initiatives in all new developments will come full circle to boost their bottom line.

The key right now lies in maintaining this momentum, encouraging all businesses to become social value creators as we work to build a fairer, greener, and better society.