It is odd, during the keynote speech at a social sustainability event, to hear the phrase “CSR [corporate social responsibility] is dead”, but so began the FM Leader’s Forum on Social Value. It’s a valid point of view – the system has been modified and corrupted and abused to the point that CSR is now an almost meaningless term, aligned more with marketing. The original intention behind CSR was noble, but the outcomes less so. Social Value is now moving into the same sphere, but how will FM interact with this new term, and all the underlying complexities? What is Social Value to FM? And brutally, what do these industry leaders in city towers know about implementing positive social change on the ground?

Social value does not fit so neatly into the classic corporate paradigm of measurement and management, something the conversation seemed stuck on at various points throughout the session. I appreciate the issue, and sympathise, but they sometimes seemed to be missing the point a little – measurement comes during and after the fact, and FM as an industry has a way to go before reaching this point. The focus must now be engagement and building a strong social value foundation on which the future FMs can build.

There was a clear desire among industry leaders to take more than a ‘tick-box’ approach, and the ambition of both providers and clients on the positive social value FM could deliver was refreshing, but there was a distinct lack of knowledge of how to turn this ambition into industry-wide success. Although the motivations of the room were admirable there was a noted lack of motivation across the industry, and some key implementation concerns were unanswered, but this is the start of a process. Our industry is engaged and actively learning about how to do better by the communities they work in – and at every stage of the process that is to be celebrated.

The workshop overall had a challenged optimism – the industry is ready to get moving on Social Value but is under no illusions of the work the lies ahead. Noble ambitions can only take Social Value so far, and from this forum I came away with a cautious optimism. If we can get these good intentions out of the clouds and onto the ground in contracts, the industry is in for some impressive change.