Social Value has become 2021’s hot topic in tenders – in fact in public sector tenders, at least 10% of the marks will now be allocated to social value, so getting this right will not only create long-term positive impacts for local communities, the environment and other external third parties – it will also help you to generate more profitable business!
So what’s the difference between social value and corporate social responsibility?
We’ve been writing about corporate social responsibility in tenders for years! CSR is a strategy that is designed to benefit people and the environment at the same time as supporting a business from the perspective of reputation, profitability and business success.
The intention behind social value is slightly different. It marks a genuine and ongoing commitment to making a difference to society and is embedded at the heart of a company’s business operation. It’s not just a list of initiatives, but more about the ambition to “give back” being driven by ethics rather than profits. It’s not just about what you do, but how you do it, particularly in relation to:
- Improving wellbeing of people.
- Reducing inequality.
- Increasing environmental sustainability.
Government Social Value Themes
COVID-19 RECOVERY – with a view to helping communities to manage and recover from the impact of Covid-19. Areas for consideration include:
- Supporting employment, retraining and return to work for people left unemployed by Covid-19.
- Supporting people, communities and businesses to recover.
- Improving health and reducing demands on public services.
- Workplace conditions (specifically in relation to Covid-19 recovery).
TACKLING ECONOMIC INEQUALITY – with a view to creating new businesses, new jobs and new skills. Areas for consideration include:
- Creating opportunities for entrepreneurship, growth and business creation.
- Creating employment opportunities (particularly for those who face barriers to employment or live in deprived areas).
- Providing education and training (particularly schemes that address skills gaps and could result in recognised qualifications).
TACLING ECONOMIC INEQUALITY – with a view to increasing supply chain resilience and capacity. Areas for consideration include:
- Having a diverse supply chain that includes new businesses, entrepreneurs, start-ups, SMES and VCSEs.
- Demonstrating collaboration through the supply chain and promoting a fair and responsible approach to working with supply chain partners.
- Demonstrating actions to identify and manage cyber security risks.
FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE – with a view to effective stewardship of the environment. Areas for consideration include:
- Working towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
- Influencing staff, suppliers, customers and communities through supporting environmental protection and improvement.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY – particularly in relation to workforce inequality and reducing the disability employment gap. Areas for consideration include:
- Methods used to attract people from disadvantaged backgrounds and support them to engage in training or work.
- Methods used to identify and manage the risks of modern slavery in the supply chain.
- Demonstrating actions to increase the representation of disadvantaged or disabled people in the workforce.
- Supporting disadvantaged or disabled people in developing new skills through training schemes (ideally that result in recognised qualifications).
Writing about Social Value in Tenders
The key point to emphasise here is that when you’re writing about your approach to social value, you need to provide ILLUSTRATIVE EXAMPLES covering the specific areas you do or will support.
In some tenders this may be providing details of what you have done in the past in alignment with other contracts or geographies. Other bids may require you to make specific and tangible commitments which will be monitored and reported on throughout the life of the contract.
Whatever social value plans your business has, you want to ensure that you have a joined-up strategy that aligns with:
- One or more of the Government’s themes.
- The client’s social value strategy (you should research this in terms of their local and regional policies, organisations that they work with, toolkits and plans etc).
- Your own social aims and objectives. When developing these, you should ensure that your team/workforce has had a chance to influence and buy into your approach and that your strategy is clearly communicated throughout the business.
Illustrative examples for recruitment agencies may include (but are certainly not limited to) things like:
- Understanding local demographics such as sectors with high job losses, local growth sectors, skills shortages and how you help create relevant, sustainable employment opportunities, particularly for people who face barriers (e.g. prison leavers, homeless people, disabled people etc). Specific actions might include things like providing career advice, job search support, CV writing training, mock interviews, work placements/internships, apprenticeships and training schemes to address skills gaps. Reporting might cover specifics such as numbers of people trained, number of job outcomes, number of apprenticeships, number of hours your team have spent delivering training/volunteering etc over a set period).
- Helping small new organisations to grow through providing learning and development or support for start-ups. This may be through providing free advice and guidance, running workshops for entrepreneurs, running webinars or workshops in schools, allowing such businesses to tender for work with you etc. Specific examples of what you have done, how you have done it and the feedback you have received/outcomes achieved will also form part of this.
- Investing in the physical and mental health/wellbeing of your workforce (including contractors). This might include awareness initiatives and clear processes that you put in place to help identify the most important wellbeing issues for your workforce and how you act on issues identified with groups of people or individuals concerned.
- Understanding the need for improvements to work conditions to enable the workforce (including contractors) to thrive during and post Covid-19 by providing and promoting methods to facilitate social distancing, support remote working, implement sustainable travel solutions, provide health & safety training, introduce accessible help for workers who feel lonely or isolated etc. Specific examples of actions and outcomes would be needed to support this.
- Understanding and implementing procedures to remove barriers from the recruitment process for specific groups (e.g. people from disadvantaged backgrounds or disabled people), including specifically what you do to attract them, identify barriers and enable them to participate fully in the process, and specific positive actions you have implemented to support recruitment and development of people within such groups. Specific examples may include facts and figures around numbers of disadvantaged/disabled people engaged/employed as a % of the FTE, disadvantaged/disabled people participating in apprenticeship schemes etc.
- Detailing actions that your business takes to raise awareness of the risks of modern slavery and how you mitigate these risks. Specific examples may include your process for mapping and auditing suppliers.
- Actively working towards environmental improvements and net zero greenhouse gas emissions. This might include volunteer hours to support local projects which improve habitats or increase biodiversity – perhaps by supporting local community schemes that have a direct positive impact on the environment. Alternatively it may be contributing to increasing green spaces in and around buildings (e.g. planting to encourage the number of pollinators or specific actions to improve air quality). This may also include links with local organisations and how you collaborate with them to achieve measurable improvements.
- Understanding and managing cyber security risks by implementing measures to manage such risks within the supply chain and building resilience and acting to raise cyber security awareness. This may include things like obtaining accreditations such as Cyber Essentials.
Social value can be hard to write tangibly about, and you may find that you do a lot within your business without realising it because it’s just not collated centrally. Why not identify one or more Social Value Champions within your team who can be responsible for community engagement, and monitor and report on activity so that you have a more joined-up, cohesive and relevant approach to delivering social value?