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  • 5 minutes
  • 19/06/2023

Solihull Council
Ebsford Environmental

How SMEs can deliver Social Value, no matter their size or service.

Solihull Council puts a lot of emphasis on the requirement to deliver Social Value in their contracts, and they work with many micro, small and medium sized organisations (SMEs) to do this. One small business environmental contractor, Ebsford Environmental, has been leading the charge to deliver more than what they promised to the region, successfully over-delivering on all their committed Social Value across their contracts.

We often hear that it’s more difficult for SMEs to deliver Social Value because they don’t have dedicated resources, and the time it takes is just not available to them. We’ve seen it can be done, and it’s about changing the organisation’s mindset.

Emma Tebbutt, Commercialisation Manager at Solihull Council

The Solihull projects

In 2017, Solihull Council identified an assortment of rivers and ponds under their jurisdiction that needed restoration and improvements. Soon enough, the Wildlife Ways project was born as a council initiative: a £16.8 million programme, with plans to open up and improve existing cycling routes, allowing wildlife to flourish, and to help people to walk and cycle across the borough. Through a robust tendering process, Solihull contracted four regeneration projects to Ebsford Environmental:

  • Solihull Brooks Improvements
  • Langley Hall Park Pond Restoration
  • ‘Newts and Shoots’ Programme at Elmdon Park
  • Tudor Grange and Hillfield Park

Ebsford Environmental was very keen to deliver on their Social Value commitments and so they set up an internal competition within the company to see who in their business could create the most Social Value on these projects. With the whole company focused on Social Value, they exceeded what they had initially promised to deliver, and Solihull Council was extremely pleased with the result.

£52k social value delivered

Emma Tebbutt, Commercialisation Manager at Solihull Council, said:

“We often hear that it’s more difficult for SMEs to deliver Social Value because they don’t have dedicated resources and the time it takes is just not available to them. We’ve seen it can be done, and it’s about changing the organisation’s mindset. In many cases, like Ebsford Environmental, it’s easier to deliver Social Value because you have your whole organisation thinking and working towards providing more; it’s not just isolated into a single role.

“Pivoting the whole organisation to think quickly about Social Value, is a really powerful way that SMEs can be more successful. I think Ebsford Environmental’s strong focus on Social Value delivery across the entire business helped them to deliver more for communities. It doesn’t take more effort, it just takes a change.”

Delivering Social Value in environmental contracts

The first project was Kingshurst Brook, where silt and poor water quality build-up had led to poor biodiversity. The project involved removing an existing weir and restoring the brook to its original shape, creating a meandering stream with new habitats for local wildlife. Alongside the core works, the company got involved with the council’s community day to educate the public on the project so that future generations would see the advantages of taking care of the environment.

Social Value delivered: They spent over £36k within the local community, 7.5 times the target they set in their tender, and added a total value of 16% to the local community.

The second project was Langley Hall Park Pond where pressures on the pond area were detrimental to the park’s ecology, recreation and aesthetics. They hired banksmen who lived locally to work on de-silting and dredging of the pond and staff held educational sessions within the community.

Social Value delivered: They spent 180% of their target of local spending within the community and added a total value of 25% to the local community.

The third project, ‘Newts and Shoots’ Wetland Improvements, involved improving ponds in Knowle and creating a new pond in Elmdon Nature Park. They restored three ponds and planted over 10,000 plants, giving opportunities for wildlife, improving water quality and increasing accessible local spaces. They engaged directly with the community, with local schools such as Bentley Heath Primary School visiting the ponds; staff also gave tours, teaching children about local wildlife and how to practice conservation. Through this, they encouraged local ownership and care of the ponds.

Social Value delivered: They provided 15 hours of educational sessions and delivered over 110% of their committed Social Value target.

Photo of an activity book created by Ebsford Environmental

The final project was Tudor Grange and Hillfield Park where they removed concrete and sediment to encourage the natural processes of the river and cut back trees and shrubs to rejuvenate the surrounding environment. The focus was again plain and simple: a better environment for locals and visitors to enjoy and ample opportunities for wildlife.

Social Value delivered: £64,871 worth of Social Value delivered, of which £54,708 was spent in the local supply chain.

The impact that delivers 10-fold

In the current economic climate, asking contractors to ensure Social Value is delivered on top of their core contract might seem tough; however, the impact this has on the local community is immense. All projects will obviously have a huge and lasting impact on both the local community, the environment, and the vegetation of the area. Emma Tebbutt at Solihull Council also mentioned that: “There is a misconception that we are asking contractors to deliver more. Social Value isn’t about ‘what’ you deliver, it’s about coming up with better ways as to ‘how’ you deliver your contract, so that you can actually maximise the value for your community.

Ebsford Environmental Project Manager Emily Farrell found that Social Value Portal was a great tool to monitor their progress:

Social Value Portal is very worthwhile, providing us with necessary and additional support to prove our Social Value. The team checked in on us throughout the reporting process, which helped to ensure we met our targets.