A Quick Introduction to Social Value

Social value has been a theme for governments and businesses for the last decade. As something that started life as a means of trying to assure positive local outcomes for projects where public money was being spent, for example for a construction company commissioned to build a school, it has evolved into a broader concept designed to ensure that all organisations are thinking about people, places, and communities in their work.

The story started in public sector procurement. Public sector bodies including Central Government departments, local authorities, and councils spend billions a year on local public goods and services in the UK. In 2012, the Social Value Act was introduced with a key aim to transform the way in which this public money was spent in England and Wales. What the Act requires is that commissioners, who procure public sector revenue contracts or capital projects, ‘consider’ how they could secure wider social, economic, and environmental benefits, named social value from these contracts. [1]

Similar legislation has also been published by the Welsh and Scottish Governments, including The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act in 2014 and The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act in 2015.

In January 2021, the Government launched the Social Value Model which requires departments to ‘explicitly evaluate’ social value in all central government contracts. [2] The Social Value Model followed from the detailed laid out in 2020’s PPN 06/20 which laid the groundwork for the Model and provided an overview of the Model’s focus. The Model sets out the Government’s goals for social value in the form of five strategic policy outcomes: COVID-19 recovery, economic inequality, climate change, equal opportunity, and wellbeing. The Government has been a key driving force for the social value movement changing the way social value is perceived within many sectors, including commercial real estate, trying to understand what social value means to them, and how the concept can be incorporated into their business activities.

A month later, UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) identified a need from the built environment to establish a definition of social value that focused on the impact that buildings, infrastructure and places have on people. The high-level definition states that “social value is created when buildings, places, and infrastructure support environmental, economic and social wellbeing, and in doing so improve the quality of life of people”. Exactly which environmental, economic and social outcomes create social value will depend on the best interests of the people most impacted by the project or built asset”. [3]

It is not surprising that, over the last few years, we have seen a rise in relevant and practical guidance documents not only from the UKGBC, but other organisations, such as Better Building Partnership (BBP), in an attempt to support businesses within the built environment with social value.

In 2018, UKGBC published an introductory guide to ‘Social value in new development’ designed to help development teams understand social value in relation to the built environment, and what they can do to improve societal outcomes from new developments [4]. The guide maps social value outcomes against several core themes, including jobs and economic growth, health, wellbeing, and the environment, and strength of community (See Table 1).

Jobs & Economic Growth Health, Wellbeing, & the Environment Strength of Community
Decent jobs for local people and hard to reach groupsGood accessibility and sustainable transportationStrong local ownership of the development
Local people with the right skills for long-term employmentResilient buildings and infrastructureExisting social fabric is protected from disruption
School leavers with aspirations of the industryHigh quality public and green spacesThe new community is well integrated into the surrounding area
The local supply chain is supported and grownGood mental healthThriving social networks
Residents have comfortable homes which are affordable to operateGood physical healthVibrant diversity of building uses and tenures
Thriving local businessesLimit resource use and wasteStrong local identity and distinctive character
Table 1: Summary of social value outcomes across new development

Questions about the incorporation of social value within property management activities has also become a popular topic of conversation amongst commercial real estate companies leading to the ‘Responsible Property Management Toolkit’ being produced by Better Buildings Partnership (BBP) in 2021.[5] The toolkit provides practical guidance for asset managers, property managers and facilities managers on embedding sustainability (incl. social value) within property management services. Guidance notes provide clarity on social value, including information on the following:

  • What is social value?
  • Social value opportunities
  • Incorporating social value within the supply chain

Many real estate companies have begun to lean on both pieces of guidance to stimulate ideas internally about how they incorporate social value within their day-to-day property management activities as well as new development projects. As ESG has leapt up the strategic agenda in the last five years, the organisations able to address each element comprehensively have positioned themselves as leaders within the ESG space. The value of building a comprehensive environmental, social and governance strategy has never been more obvious as boards and stakeholders alike demand more from those they do business with.

Typically, ESG strategies tend to focus more heavily on the ‘E’ but at EVORA our clients’ strategies contain a strong ‘S’ component which is wholly aligned to their business objectives, whilst being aligned to industry best practice, such as UKGBC and BBP amongst others. Our approach allows our clients to be confident with how they communicate social value to investors and other stakeholders allowing them to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to ESG.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you would like to start your social value journey with us today.


Sources

[1] Communities and Local Government. 2011. A plain English guide to the Localism Act. Department for Communities and Local Government. UK.

[2] Cabinet Office and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. 2020. Procurement Policy Note PPN 06/20 – taking account of social value in the award of central government contracts. Cabinet Office and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. UK.

[3] UKGBC. 2021. Framework for defining Social Value. UKGBC. London.

[4] UKGBC. 2018 Social Value in new development: An introductory guide for local authorities and development teams. UKGBC. London.

[5] Better Building Partnership. 2021. Responsible Property Management Toolkit. pp. 43-46.