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Like a baby, born with no teeth, the attributes of Social Value

Social Value was first described as CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and then ESG (Environmental Social Governance) and were a “nice to have”

It provided companies with the framework to describe their actions that supported others, driven by good will, philanthropy, and a desire to expand both leader’s egos and marketing footprints

Then came the Social Value Act amendments of January 2021, that enshrined a minimum of 10% of the awarding marks in a public sector tender, to the stated Social Value that a business returns to its community

There was recognition that a company who supported the planet and community, was in some way a “good business” to work for, buy and sell from, and maybe invest in

Then the baby grew a bit, and gained teeth

Local government led the way in the spring of 2021, expanding the 10% requirement of the Social Value Act, to a level of 25% and 30% of the awarding marks in a tender submission

So, if you want to win work from local government, you need your good news stories laid out to showcase your social value. The huge push by the environmental lobbies provided a backdrop to look at carbon footprint, and all its vague emerging measures.

However, the general thrust of Social Value from a business although not fully defined, is a good one. Nobody can argue that protecting the planet, the people, resources, and communities is a bad thing.

So, the term Social Value (generic umbrella for CSR and ESG) has grown up to become an adolescent.

Legal teeth have become evident, to start to combat the problem of “greenwashing” This term describes the situation if a firm can derive the benefits of ESG without implementing the changes required, they will do so, if it’s easier than meeting the standards. In other words, the outcome or impact is extrapolated, glossed up a bit, made to be more than reality.

The reason businesses can and do this is simple, there are no defined and measured standards in place, that bind them to the truth, or the accurate impact outcomes.

All of that is about to change.

As Social Value reaches metaphorical adulthood, a few changes are afoot.

The question of measurement is still to be fully solved, and is being addressed as this blog is written, by a myriad of “accreditation” agencies. These organisations use best efforts to define standards, derived from academic feedback, hypothesis, and some anecdotal evidence of causal outcomes in a small number of companies who presently engage. They undertake audits, test business claims, guide companies towards a more structured approach, making Social Value a business driver, no longer a “nice to have”, but a “must have”

The Accreditation Marks have a valuable place in the market, as they all add a layer of credibility, above the basement position of alleged greenwashing.

In Community terms, there should be a new term, perhaps called “Community Washing” The lack of verification of claims to have supported community organisations, charities, and schools, makes this the next ground to be tested.

If you need support to devise an actionable plan, install Social Value as a profit driver, find and deploy proper auditable measurement systems, and want to engage your team, I’m here to help. Contact me direct on philip.webb@citercom.uk

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