Making 2021 the year of Social Value

Do you know what social value is and how to embed it into your procurement process? If not, then you only have a few months to get up-to-speed. Sarah Stone, associate of Ethical Commercial Services and director at Social Value agency Samtaler, tells us why.

From January 2021, the application of social value will be mandatory in central government procurement contracts; a transformational change that will reverberate throughout the public sector.

The change stems from a Cabinet Office Procurement Policy Note which was issued in September and moves Social Value from something that organisations should ‘consider’ in contracts to a requirement that needs to be explicitly evaluated in all central government procurement. It applies to procurements covered by the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 and all Central Government Departments, their Executive Agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies and procurers are being instructed to ensure it carries a heavy enough score to be a differentiating factor in bid evaluation.

If your organisation doesn’t already have a Social Value strategy in place then this is a good place to start. A good Social Value strategy considers three things.

1. Your communities, service users and the people you buy products and services for. Talk to them and identify what they need.

2. Your suppliers. Find out what are they already doing to support the economy. What ideas do they have to support people living in the community where the contract is being delivered?

3. Your strategic priorities. Pinpoint areas that overlap with your organisational objectives and identify procurement opportunities that could be matched with Social Value initiatives. For example, housing contracts could support initiatives that tackle homelessness, while heating system suppliers could work with programmes addressing fuel poverty.

It’s important to remember that Social Value should be about working in collaboration. Focus on how your suppliers can add value for your communities rather than just asking them to give you things for free. Done badly, social value costs money and drives prices up. Done well it creates value for everyone.

If you need inspiration, look at what Local Government has been doing. Many have been successfully implementing Social Value since the Social Value Act came into effect in 2012 and there is a lot of great practice out there. Liverpool City Council is a great example.

To broaden your understanding of what social value is and how to create it, sign-up to Samtaler’s monthly Social Value Files newsletter.