What is social value and what does it mean to your organisation?


The origins of the phrase ‘Social Value’ date back to the late 1800s but has come into everyday use only more recently. So, what is Social Value and what do we mean by it? That really depends on what perspective you are looking at it from.

If we take the definitions of the two words individually, ‘social’ commonly relates to the interaction between people and society, whilst ‘value’ is often related to worth, usefulness or importance. It should come as no surprise that a definition is often given as:

‘Social value is the quantification of the relative importance that people place on the changes they experience in their lives’

These changes are often grouped into economic, environmental, or social conditions with the quantification relating to levels of comfort, happiness or health often collectively referred to as wellbeing.

With everyone being unique, our perception of importance and our experience of change will all be different.

So why are we talking about it now and why is it important?

Since the Public Services (Social Value) Act came into force on 31 January 2013, everyone who commissions public services must consider how they can also secure wider economic, environmental, and social benefits from the procurement process.

Not only was the goal of the Act to leverage more value from the £300bn annual public procurement budget, but it also encourages buyers to engage their supply chain and the community to design better services often leading to new and innovative solutions of service delivery.

The Social Value Model sets out the government’s social value priorities for procurement and includes objectives for central government departments to select from and include in their procurement. This provides a guide to implementing the Act and sets out the Government’s priorities which Social Value seeks to address. These are grouped into five themes:

  • COVID19 recovery – helping communities recover from the impact of the pandemic
  • Tackling economic inequality – creating new jobs business and skills
  • Fighting climate change – effective stewardship of the planet
  • Equal Opportunity – reducing disability employment gap and workforce inequality
  • Wellbeing – Improve health, wellbeing, and community cohesion

The Social Value Act is also seen as a major contributor in supporting national initiatives such as ‘Building Back Better’ and the ‘Levelling Up Agenda’.

How is social value measured and how to get the best from the procurement process?

The definition creates several issues in measuring value, including that it is:

  • Subjective – it depends upon what is important to you
  • Relational – it depends upon what you are comparing it to
  • Contingent – it depends upon what else happens
  • Contested – open to challenge

Some organisations have taken the approach to create a set of ‘proxy values’ where the benefit of the social value is measured in pounds sterling.

Although this may solve the procurer’s challenge to assess and compare social value offers and produce an objective comparison, it misses the sentiment of social value in not measuring the change in people’s experience or wellbeing i.e., it is measuring social value input and not output.

The buyer may see having a long list of ‘social value’ activities with their associated proxy benefits as offering choice to the supplier in the tender process but is often counterproductive. Many suppliers would prefer a more limited amount of options focusing on a set of suggestions which are truly seen as important as determined by the communities and individuals that are going to receive the benefit.

So, what is Inspired doing about Social Value?

Inspired Energy has always recognised our responsibility to our staff, customers, communities and to the planet. Initiatives such as being carbon neutral, engaging in staff wellbeing and providing energy awareness and carbon literacy training all contribute to being recognised by the London Stock Exchange with their Green Economy Mark.

As one of the country’s leading energy, environmental and sustainability consultancies, we are in a privileged position to share that experience with you, your staff, customers and the communities where you operate through.

We have a range of educational, training and awareness programmes across energy, carbon, the environment, and sustainability aimed at staff, customers, and wider stakeholders. For example, our fantastic app SDGMe, records daily activities and groups them against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

If you are an organisation that is looking to achieve more, we would be happy to support you to deliver economic, environmental and social benefits to you stakeholders, whilst reducing your costs and reducing your impact on the planet.

Get in touch with our experts today to discuss how we can help your organisation on 01772 689 250 or email hello@inspiredenergy.co.uk.