Social Value – Where we were:

Almost 9 years since the Public Services (Social Value) Act was introduced it has become widely discussed, however, there are still issues in implementation. Despite a number of updates, the Act remained underutilised as procurement and procuring organisations were confused about its scope and application. Some viewed it as a replacement for CSR; some as additional.

The term “Social Value” steered many people away from its application in environmental improvements, though these too have social impacts. As industry and public bodies alike have been building knowledge bases on social value the understanding of its benefits has grown – along with knowledge of its complexity.

The Act so far has been adopted both in the public and private sectors. The UK Government has put out to consultation a new model for Social Value in Procurement. Although focused on government procurement, this model, as the initial Act, could be utilised across industries to inform social value approaches.

Acclaro’s opinion on the consultation:

The consultation out now proposes a “light touch” approach using a new model. It also provides high level and detailed guidance and links to relevant policy information that can support social value efforts. The model is split out into 5 high-level themes, 2 relating specifically to supply chains (Diverse Supply Chains; Safe Supply Chains), 2 involving staff (Skills and Employment; Inclusion, Mental Health and Well-being) and 1 on environmental sustainability. There are suggestions for each theme, in varying detail, of award criteria and measurement metrics to guide increased reporting. This would have a significant positive impact, encouraging accountability and long-term monitoring.

The additional detail will go a long way to expanding uptake of social value beyond large public sector projects as the concept becomes easier to understand, implement and report on. With the concept and practical application of social value still a maze to many the direction from government to other specific policy documents (including: Post-16 Skills Strategy; Integrated Communities Green Paper; Greening Government Commitments) and external guidance (e.g. Business in the Community’s Race at Work Charter) will prove a welcome new structure.

What’s still missing:

The mandatory 10% social value weighting in contract tenders is good – though not a new or ambitious strategy. Other larger weightings for social value have already been implemented within some tenders. Issues with current social value measurement systems – their inconsistency, lack of accountability, and corruptibility – mean this would need to include both numbers and discussion for credibility. However, this takes time that many public sector teams do not have. Thus over-reliance on untrustworthy figures alone is likely to continue.

Though environmental improvements are explicitly mentioned and categorised in the model they are limited compared with others. Some of the additional detail will be effective, however, the policy outcome of “environmental impacts are reduced” is unlikely to provide much guidance to those looking to implement. They will need to rely heavily on the 25 Year Environmental Plan – which does not use the terms “social value” or “social impact” once. The connection between environmental and social value remains undefined in this guidance.

Although under consultation and therefore liable to change, this document provides a major improvement in structure and guidance for everyone implementing social value. It will be important to keep monitoring and improving on the process as it is implemented and continue to update the system as the landscape changes.

We welcome discussion

We will be writing to necessary consortiums and bodies to provide our opinion and discuss further. If you are interested in discussing the consultation with us, please do get in contacts. Cara.kennelly@acclaro-advisory.com