The eagerly anticipated outcome from the government consultation on changes to the Social Value Act of 2012 was launched last week and the message is clear, the £4 billion of annual government spend at all levels will be evaluated and monitored in order to maximise the social, economic and environmental benefits it creates.
At SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK, social value is nothing new to us, we’ve been talking about it since the Social Value Act originally entered the statute books in 2013 when we released our report Creating Social Value: The role of the waste and resource management industry which highlighted the potential for our sector to really lead the way when it comes to creating social value through public sector procurement. Since then, we’ve been working hard to deliver meaningful social and environmental benefits through our services. When we receive public sector tender specifications which really emphasise the need for tangible social value to be delivered through their services, such as those in recent times for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Somerset Waste Partnership, we jump at the chance to bring our experiences and desire to innovate to the fore so we can really drive positive local benefits for the communities we serve.
However, the social value agenda has also been held back by weaknesses in the act itself, is seen as a ‘nice to have’ especially against the backdrop of austerity and an inconsistent approach to both its interpretation and its evaluation; all of which the new measures aim to address.
Evaluation rather than consideration
A key weakness of the original 2012 act was the need for procuring bodies to merely “consider” social value in their procurement, which has led to widespread interpretation and an inconsistent method of application by procuring bodies. From 01 January 2021, any government procurement where the requirements of the measures are proportionate to the service being contracted will be expected to evaluate the social value being proposed. Not only that, but the government will in due course be providing a set of standardised metrics which awarding bodies will be able to use measure and monitor commitments and delivery from bidders over the lifetime of contracts.
Raising social value up the agenda
Included in the announcement was the need for a minimum of 10% of the total score of procurement to be applied to social value, sending a clear signal that this will be – where it wasn’t already – a significant consideration in public procurement from 2021. This gives a prospective bidder a clear steer on the emphasis and investment in time, resource and the need for delivery throughout the contract term, something that hasn’t always been the case in the past.
Setting the foundations for a green and just recovery
The priority themes set out in the accompanying model outline the high priority areas for action as we continue to deal with and recover from the unusual times we find ourselves in, these are:
- COVID recovery: by focusing on employment, training and mental health, particularly for those directly affected by the economic repercussions of the pandemic;
- Tackling economic inequality: through developing a more resilient and diverse supply chain, which encourages entrepreneurship and innovation;
- Fighting climate change: by working towards net-zero and influencing behavioural change;
Equal opportunity: to create more diverse workforces and reduce the risk of modern slavery and
- Wellbeing: through taking action to support the physical and mental health of staff, customers and communities.
Each one provides a clear steer on the focus for public spending and all underpin the need for a recovery based on creating greater social equality while protecting and rejuvenating the environment, something our sector has plenty of experience in delivering with the potential to do much more.
We’re looking forward to sharing our experiences of tendering for and delivering services with embedded social value with our customers present and future, it’s something that’s not just a reaction to a procurement specification for us, it’s a part of who we are.