Social Value refers to wider financial and non-financial impacts of programmes, organisations and interventions, including the wellbeing of individuals and communities, social capital and the environment.

From a business perspective it may be summarised as the net social and environmental benefits (and value) generated by an organisation to society through its corporate and community activities reported either as financial or non-financial (or both) performance.

How can Social Value be measured and reported?

Context is Everything!

There is no one way to measure and report social value, and measurement and reporting strategies should be tailored to your specific business and your reporting needs.  However, measures may be broadly broken down into two categories being financial and non-financial.

Key issues that need to be addressed in developing your measurement strategies include:-

  • Measuring what matters is fundamental to capturing social contribution
  • Understanding context and stakeholder needs through the mapping of your Social Impact Value Chain is central to impact analysis
  • Core inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts should be identified measured, monetised and valued across your services

In reporting your impact and the ‘value’ created it is important to understand context. Whilst it is in some cases possible to put a financial value to many social outcomes and impact, for example using UK Government Data sources, ultimately value is subjective.

For instance, whilst a job created may have value to the State, it plainly is worth more to an individual who has struggled with finding work for a long time or is an ex-offender, rather than a university graduate who has recently applied for a job.

What is social value?

Metrics and KPIs

There are over 1150 social and environmental impact metrics presently being used across the world. These include specific metrics such as ‘carbon emissions’ and ‘jobs created’, the happiness index, through to sentiment analysis. They all have value, and all of them have been developed for a specific purpose. It will take more than one metric to report your impact and in order to decide the most appropriate solution you will need to consider the following questions:
  • Is it objective and verifiable – will an independent audit arrive at the same answer?
  • Does it use financial proxies – is it reliant on attributed financial values and if so are they universally agreed?
  • Is it scaleable and is it feasible to use to measure say 50,000 organisations?
  • Is it sustainable or is it too costly to undertake?
  • Can it translate into other metrics for comparison purposes?
  • Can you benchmark with it in order to compare performance between organisations?
  • Is it compliant to legislative and industry frameworks?
  • Is it easy to communicate?
  • Does it cover all aspects relevant to your business for example, the environment, people, monetary value or hyperlocality?
  • Is it applicable across public, private, third and community sectors?
  • Is it equally valid regardless of the size of the industry?
  • Does it produce empirical results with absolute values so that decisions can be made for procurement?
  • Can it be backed up by evidence that may be independently assured?