‘Social Value’… Small Words With Big Importance (SEWSCAP Article) (Published: 09 Aug 2022)
‘Social Value’… Small Words With Big Importance (SEWSCAP Article)

ANTZ Founder and CEO, Jen Gillies Pemberton, explains why the construction industry needs to understand the words ‘Social Value’ as clearly as ‘mortar, aggregate and insulation’.

It is now crucial that the UK construction industry fully understands what ‘Social Value’ actually means and looks like; how when engaged properly, it delivers sustainable, tangible change to a community and is genuinely impactful. It doesn’t mean delivering something you think is needed, such as numerous soup kitchens because the media or a Local Authority mentioned homelessness in its region! It is imperative for construction companies to understand the specific social issues within the tendering area.

Don’t take my word for it; if construction companies want to continue winning work with the public sector, which accounts for approximately a quarter of construction output in the UK, they need to take heed of the legislation that puts Social Value very prominently within the tender process.

In Wales, the importance of Social Value is recognised through the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 which requires public bodies in Wales to think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change.

It sets out five ways of working that public bodies need to achieve if they are to reach the well-being goals set out in the Act.

These are:

  • Long-term: The importance of balancing short-term needs with the needs to safeguard the ability to also meet long-term needs
  • Integration: Considering how the public body’s well-being objectives may impact upon each of the well-being goals, on their objectives, or on the objectives of other public bodies
  • Involvement: The importance of involving people with an interest in achieving the well-being goals, and ensuring that those people reflect the diversity of the area which the body serves
  • Collaboration: Acting in collaboration with any other person (or different parts of the body itself) that could help the body to meet its well-being objectives
  • Prevention: How acting to prevent problems occurring or getting worse may help public bodies meet their objectives

The Act is reinforced by Procurement Policy Note WPPN 01/20 which provides public sector bodies in Wales with advice on the Welsh Government’s overarching policy objectives and the reporting of outcomes in relation to Social Value clauses/community benefits.

The Policy Note is for the attention of all contracting authorities in Wales, including, Welsh Government departments, NHS Wales Bodies, Welsh Government Sponsored Bodies, Local Authorities and the wider public sector and became effective from November 2020.

In other words, if construction companies want to win business with the public sector in Wales, they need to understand how to deliver tangible Social Value that is relevant to the communities they will be working in. By doing this, businesses can build stronger cross sector relationships, grow their business and give back to the community.

Delivering Social Value within the communities in which a business operates should be as normal a part of the business strategy as health and safety and HR.

A construction company needs to bring its supply chain and partners along with them on the journey, delivering real, sustainable change in both the community and commercially, by aligning their social strategy to their commercial strategy.

This approach is critical and means not only business growth can be achieved, but a company’s staff and that of its partners get to be part of something powerful, helping boost their own confidence, morale and sense of worth. For any business engaged in delivering real Social Value it’s a win-win.

Key to executing a successful community programme that delivers true Social Value is ensuring a person-centred approach is taken with all community partners having a ‘seat around the table’ and an ‘equal voice’ when discussing how a programme of engagement should work, how best to reach out, what success looks like and how to deliver it. This reduces self-assessment and box ticking that has evolved in Social Value reporting.

Every programme of engagement is different and only by listening to the community itself and taking a person-centred approach can an organisation begin to understand how to bring about the right level of sustainable change.

This is even more important due to the effects of Covid on communities and the need to now ‘Build Back Better’, addressing major weaknesses in the economy and the deep-seated inequalities in society that mean the most vulnerable people have been hit the hardest.

They may be two small words, but ‘Social Value’ really does have a huge part to play in the growth of business and communities in 2022 and beyond.