On the 1st of January 2021, the new Social Value Model was implemented. The Procurement Policy Note, which set out a framework for evaluating social value when awarding government contracts (PPN 06/20), was seen as an opportunity for social enterprises to win contracts and create social value from the almost £300 billion spent annually by the government. We asked leaders from organisations affected by PPN 06/20 about the impact of the policy and what further actions they would like to see.
The full scale of the opportunity is not yet fully understood
Lee Cole is Managing Director of Paint 360, a social enterprise reengineering waste paint for further use and a Supply Change Trusted Supplier. Cole told Supply Change that the contractors they supplied benefitted from the changes before they even understood them; “We have taken full advantage by advising clients about PPN and how this will impact them. Some clients had started to see increased scoring within tenders for working with a social enterprise but hadn’t necessarily heard of PPN and why the new scoring had taken effect.”
Alistair Wilson, CEO of the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE), realised the opportunity that the PPN would create for social enterprises. SSE, along with Supply Change and Brewin Dolphin, responded by creating a programme to teach social businesses how to take advantage of the change in policy; “Social businesses should look at this as a green light for change. We’ve recently launched a Procurement Readiness programme specifically supporting social entrepreneurs to win public and private sector contracts.”
The construction sector is leading on social value
Cole also said that understanding of the PPN varied depending on the sector and tier of supplier, with Tier 1 suppliers in the built environment tending to be the most engaged; “There is a good appetite for supporting social enterprise in the construction and facility management industry already which is filtering down from some of our clients.”
Sheryl Moore, Group social sustainability at Kier, a leading provider of construction and infrastructure services and one of the strategic suppliers to UK government, also explained that Kier was already active on social value before the PPN but has expanded its work in this area in response to the Social Value Model; “The immediate impact of the PPN to our work was to align our existing legacy activities to the new model. We are investing in a new social value platform that embraces all the themes in the Social Value Model.”
Constructionline, an extensive network of construction buyers and suppliers, has been addressing desire within the industry to understand and prioritise social value when choosing suppliers. Robert Walton of Constructionline told Supply Change, “At the beginning of 2021, we proposed a new Social Value question set that would allow suppliers to showcase their Social Value attributes and give main contractors the ability to make informed decisions about which suppliers they work with.”
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Rachel Woolliscroft, from sustainability consultants Baynel Advisory, also noted that many businesses were already engaged with social value. For others that weren’t, the PPN acted as an introduction to how to approach it; “For many companies, the creation of social value is an integral part of the way they do business, however for others, the Government's Social Value Model has provided explanation to the subject and a level of consistency across public sector procurement.”
What more needs to happen
As well as more widespread understanding, Lee Cole pointed to the need for reporting that ensures the desired social value is being delivered; “For me the biggest elephant in the room is greenwashing, or the potential for social washing. I would like to understand how the government is going to audit social value spending using frameworks such as TOMS. Without the correct reporting infrastructure I can see the PPN being abused.”
Similarly, Rachel Woolliscroft would like to see policy that ensures the promised social value is achieved and for this to be extended to local spending; “In terms of next steps, a shift in focus from procurement to contract management would ensure the promises made at tender stage are delivered. Consistent and standardised frameworks for impact measurement and the integration of the Social Value Model across Local Government would really drive that consistency message across all public procurement.”
Alistair Wilson also highlighted the further opportunity held in local authority spend. He also wants to see a more diverse pool of suppliers winning contracts. Kevin Armstrong, Policy Lead at UnLtd, a charity who support social entrepreneurs, sees government initiatives as being key in achieving this; “The UK Government’s commitment to create a ‘Disability Commissioning Taskforce’ is welcome, but this and other important groups – such as the ‘BAME Commissioning Taskforce’ and ‘Women’s Roundtable’ – must be truly empowered by the Government to tackle procurement inequities before the next election.”
Collaboration is key
All the organisations we spoke to championed collaboration as a way to best deliver social value, whether that be with buyers, suppliers or intermediaries. Lee Cole highlighted how Paint 360 reports its impact up the supply chain and works with Tier 1 suppliers to develop plans and specifications that will achieve social value.
SSE and UnLtd both collaborate with their partners to better tailor their support to social entrepreneurs. Alastair Wilson also noted that collaboration between social suppliers means that smaller businesses can win contracts that otherwise may be too large for them.
Constructionline is collaborating with Supply Change to give Supply Change’s community of Trusted Suppliers free ‘Gold Membership’ so that more social suppliers can access their network of buyers.
Kier has been working with Supply Change to engage more social enterprises in its supply chain to create social value. With Kier, Supply Change will deliver the Social Procurement Festival in March this year, where the theme of collaboration will be explored to help more organisations achieve greater social value.
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