On the 31st January it will be seven years since The Public Services (Social Value) Act came into law. The Act requires commissioners of public goods and services to consider how they can also secure wider social, economic and environmental benefits, and capture this within the procurement process.

Whilst some commissioners were early adopters, it would be fair to say that it has taken others more time to work out what social value really means for them and their procurement strategies. Equally, many suppliers to the public sector have similarly struggled to identify and quantify the social value of their offer. This is partly due to there being no singular and commonly accepted definition of what social value means, as well as the fact that it is an inherently subjective thing to measure.

Social value is not the exclusive domain of markets which specifically trade in social and environmental services (e.g. renewable energy, social care, etc.). Every business already provides social value, even if they don’t immediately recognise it. Most have created local employment opportunities, and most transact in one way or another with other local businesses, helping their local economy. Most have done something to support a good cause, and most have some level of environmental consciousness, even if it is to only separate their recyclable rubbish or to turn the thermostat down a little. But how do we objectively decide which suppliers are offering meaningful social value, and which are not? Comparing apples with pears may be more straightforward.

There are a whole host of tools and calculators available to help you determine your social value, but these are often complex, and only as reliable as the selected formula which drive them. As Disraeli is famously quoted; “There are three types of lies – lies, damn lies, and statistics.” If you want a great statistic which shows that you deliver great social value, there is probably an app for that!

But social value is not going to go away. The roaring twenties will be a decade defined by policy themes such averting the climate emergency, improving mental health wellbeing, and championing diversity. Public sector suppliers will need to play ball, as tender questions relating to social value become more prevalent, and more decisive in determining bid competition outcomes. So, how can you be better prepared? Well here are a few practical suggestions:

  • Carry out an internal audit or review of how your organisation is currently delivering social value. Think laterally, in terms of how your business supports its local community in the day-to-day, as much as any showcase “big ticket” initiatives.
  • Talk to your public sector customers to better understand what social value means for their specific agency. What social value goals are they specifically looking to address, and how can you contribute to them achieving this?
  • Consider who in your organisation is (or should be) responsible for social value. How is it championed, embedded into your activities, internally reported on, and celebrated? How can you get staff at all levels more involved?
  • Think about how you can get your efforts recognised. There are various schemes offering quality accreditations for social value (e.g. Social Value UK), as well as business awards which recognise achievements in Corporate Social & Environmental Responsibility.
  • Do some research. What are your competitors doing in this area, and can you replicate (or even better) it? What else is going on in your sector more broadly?
  • Consider the tender questions you have already faced on social value. Can you draft a best-in-class model answer which really sells your capability in this area, and that can be readily updated and adapted for future bids?

This list is not intended to be exhaustive or prescriptive. The most important thing is to give social value the right level of priority, in recognising this as a key future competency for delivering public goods and services, and a central pillar of a winning bid strategy.


If you would like to speak to Carley Consult about social value  please register your name, company and email here, to receive a call back or call us direct on 01302 361630.


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