*This article was originally published in Finance Derivative in November 2023.
With challenges such as rising energy costs, high inflation and the ongoing debate over hybrid working, business leaders could (almost) be forgiven for struggling to put sustainability or Social Value at the top of their list of priorities
The truth however, is that Social Value has the power and potential to address multiple challenges, from recruiting and retaining a talented workforce to building brand reputation and reducing an organisation’s emissions – all while helping grow the bottom line.
For the uninitiated, Social Value is the value an organisation contributes to society beyond a reported profit. It is often being delivered without the organisation realising that is what it is, particularly in the small business community.
Examples of Social Value initiatives include:
- Donating staff time for volunteering
- Committing to sustainable procurement practices
- Offering apprenticeships and training programmes
- Buying and employing locally
- Reducing carbon emissions
The business case for Social Value
In the UK, it has been a requirement for all public sector contracts to carry a Social Value weighting (usually 10%) for over 10 years – and the rest of the world appears to be gradually following suit.
Gross spending on public sector procurement in the UK stands at around £379 billion, which provides hugely significant opportunities for organisations of all shapes and sizes to win new contracts.
It stands to reason therefore that having a solid, well thought through Social Value plan which includes measuring and reporting outputs will naturally make the process of winning new work that much easier.
Using Social Value as a platform to tackle climate change
Without doubt, Social Value and reducing environmental impact go hand in hand. But this isn’t always widely understood.
It is essential that we put tackling the climate emergency into a social context (or vice versa). Trying to move to net zero without addressing climate injustice and inequality simply isn’t going to work.
Climate change is felt differently by different groups, with lower income and disadvantaged groups (i.e. those who are out of work, suffering from critical illness or experiencing fuel poverty), more likely to be affected, despite contributing the least to causes of climate change.
The role of business has advanced significantly since the days of simply turning a profit. It is now generally acknowledged that engaging with local communities to spearhead improvements leads to a flourishing local economy and a better performing workforce. This gives businesses a unique opportunity to support disadvantaged groups on the road to net zero.
Another key area where businesses can make a significant difference is through staff engagement. Thinking about how we look after them, upskill them, help them to lower their individual carbon footprint and adapt to net zero will also enable us to collectively make significant strides in the right direction.
Identifying, measuring, and reporting Social Value
The most effective way to capture and report Social Value is by using the Social Value TOM System™ – the most widely used measurement framework in the UK. It provides users with a minimum reporting standard that is recognised by both local and central government.
Based on non-financial data, the TOM System allows an organisation to measure the social, economic and environmental impact it has on society by providing an associated financial proxy to each measure, allowing users to calculate their Social Value achievements as a fiscal and economic saving to society.
It is fully transparent and the data is validated by a third party, which safeguards against accusations of greenwashing.
There is clearly so much to gain from getting on board with Social Value, both for supporting business growth and for contributing to building a fairer, greener society that it begs the question, why wouldn’t you embed Social Value into your organisation?
Ready to get started?
A robust Social Value strategy will help your organisation do more good and prove the good you do. Learn more by exploring our Social Value 101 Toolkit.