Finding Social Value in Your Business: Tackling Economic Inequality


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Finding Social Value in Your Business: Tackling Economic Inequality

Did you know that many of your company’s “business as usual” activities are probably generating significant social value?

That’s because one of the five Themes set out in the Social Value Model is “Tackling Economic Inequality”. 

And as we’ll show in this blog (the third in our five-part series on finding social value in your business) companies that get involved in public procurement have loads of opportunities to address this goal – if they know what to look for. 

As we explore the Tacking Economic Inequality Theme, we’ll review:

  • The kinds of outcomes that can demonstrate social value in your work
  • How to collect that data
  • How to report on it


What does the Social Value Model say about Tackling Economic Inequality?


Social Value Model Tackling Economic Inequality - Policy_Objectives


The Social Value Model presents two Policy Outcomes under the Tackling Economic Inequality Theme:

  1. Create new businesses, new jobs and new skills:
    • By creating opportunities for entrepreneurship; helping new organisations to grow, supporting economic growth and business creation; and making supply chains more diverse
    • By creating employment and training opportunities for people who face barriers to employment or who live in deprived areas
    • By supporting educational attainment relevant to the contract
  2. Increase supply chain resilience and capacity:
    • By expanding the types of business in the supply chain
    • By treating suppliers fairly
    • By supporting the development of new technology and processes under the contract
    • By taking action to identify and manage cyber security risks

This is one of the most diverse Themes in the Model, covering 22 of the total 52 metrics.


Employment and Education: What can your business do?

We’ll look at the “create new businesses” part of the first outcome along with the question of supply chain resilience and capacity, as they have a lot in common. 

First, let’s look at ways of creating opportunities for employment, training, and education. There are a lot of very straightforward things you can measure and report on here:

  • Number of new jobs, apprenticeships, or other recognised training placements created and completed
  • Work experience hours provided and student placements offered

But the goal of tackling economic inequality also encourages businesses to:

  • Create employment and educational opportunities for people from backgrounds that typically find it hard to get employment (eg ex-prisoners, people who lack basic skills, etc)
  • Create opportunities for people living in particularly deprived areas
  • Provide “learning interventions” – such as mock interviews, mentoring, CV advice, careers talks, literacy support, etc) – aimed at helping people into work or education
  • Promote awareness around careers in areas of skill shortages relevant to the contract
  • Ensuring that work done under the contract fulfils the criteria of “good work” – as defined in the Good Work Plan (fair pay, participation and progression, voice and autonomy, etc)
  • Recruit and train people who were previously not in work or education

The Social Value Model puts forward a wide variety of metrics around these kinds of outcomes. So, when putting together a bid, it’s vital to think about the workforce you’ll need to deliver the contract and how you can benefit them when thinking about the social value you can offer. 

But don’t forget: social value outcomes have to be “extras” generated as a result of providing the core deliverables of the contract. If your business already employs a hundred people on a completely separate project, you can’t treat their jobs as part of the social value added!


Business Growth and Supply Chain: What can your business do?

As we’ve seen in the previous blogs, one of the goals of the social value system is to use public procurement as a driver for change throughout business. So, the more commitment to these principles you can demonstrate in your own procurement activities – that is, by insisting that suppliers and other businesses you work with adhere to the highest standards – the more social value you’ll create downwards through the supply chain. 


Social Value Model Tackling Economic Inequality in Supply Chain


A lot of what the Social Value Model says about this boils down to making sure that you’re doing everything you can do give every possible potential supplier a fair chance:

  • By consciously working to ensure that SMEs, startups, non-profits, etc have a chance to bid: for example, by advertising current and future contracts in accessible media
  • By helping a wider range of organisations work with you: hosting “meet the buyer” events, raising awareness about the needs of public sector procurement, etc
  • By co-designing services and collaborating fairly with suppliers
  • By adopting practices that prevent exclusion of certain potential partners: eg making payments promptly, ensuring disability access, etc
  • By giving a fair hearing to green, innovative, and other disruptive technologies and processes as an alternative to the conventional solutions

Of course, many of the activities above are about processes, so when it comes to presenting their results as social value outcomes, you might look at:

  • The number or value of contracts awarded to local businesses, SMEs, startups, etc
  • The percentage of total project spend going to these kinds of partner

Supply chain resilience also relates to cybersecurity, under MAC3.5. You can promote this objective by:


Data Capture and Reporting

You can’t just make promises about social value. You have to have clear plans with measurable outcomes, and then follow through on them. So data capture and reporting are vital in this area, and Thrive is the perfect partner to help you do these essential tasks. 

We use the Impact Evaluation Standard: a framework of 109 metrics that builds on the Social Value Model and ascribes proxy values in pound terms to all activities. 

The IES is simply the most comprehensive, best-aligned framework for businesses looking to capture the impact of the work. Using the IES as a basis, Thrive has built a social value software module designed to capture and communicate all of your data in a way that is simpler, easier to use, and more efficient than any available alternative. 

But there’s more to success with social value than just data, and at Thrive we can also help you with:

  • Communicating your social value messaging throughout your organisation, to ensure everyone is aware of what data needs to be collected 
  • Developing the narrative, qualitative side of your reporting – the “story” that your data tells

If you would like to see a demo of the Thrive platform in action, just click here!


ESG and Social Value: What’s the Difference?

In barely 20 years, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) has come to dominate financial thinking. This is clearly a cause for celebration: the fact that markets and investors favour responsible companies is hugely welcome.

But there is a growing sense that ESG fails to account for important parts of what the corporate world could be – and often is – doing to create positive benefits. It’s time to ask: could social value fill in those gaps?


ESG: Compliance and Preventing Negative Impacts

ESG has evolved from a finance and investment perspective, as a methodology for investors to identify businesses that take action to mitigate the negative effects of their activities. 

The huge popularity of ESG investing – ESG funds account for $30 trillion of assets under management worldwide – is not exclusively driven by the desire to “do good” in the world. There are many good reasons to expect firms with strong ESG propositions to outperform others financially, as this extract from a 2019 McKinsey report shows. 


ESG or Social Value


There are many different ESG frameworks in use around the world. This wide range of standards, inconsistent reporting, and a lack of transparent monitoring has led to concerns that some businesses see it as a way of “greenwashing” their activities for PR purposes rather than either creating real business value or making significant contributions to the environment or society. 

One thing that all ESG approaches have in common is a tendency to view that harm-minimisation objective in terms of compliance, rules, and policies, rather than positive contributions made. And yet, businesses have the potential to do much more than just avoid harm. 

There is also a growing school of thought in ESG circles that the “S” social pillar has been neglected relative to the others. Social harm or wellbeing is far harder to define and quantify, and – unlike, say, reducing carbon emissions – it is almost always specific to time and place. 

For these reasons and more, ESG’s limitations are becoming harder and harder to ignore. 


Social Value: Creating Positive Value

Social value has a completely different starting point in the UK. Today’s concept has evolved out of efforts to improve public procurement that began with the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012. Under the most recent update to the law – PPN06/20 – a weighting of at least 10% must be applied to “social value” benefits in awarding large public contracts. 

This history means that social value thinking has historically differed from ESG thinking in two fundamental ways. Firstly, social value has often been focused on specific project outcomes. Secondly, it is concerned first and foremost with positive value creation: social value undertakings in project bids must always be additional to what would have been achieved anyway. 

There is, of course, a lot of crossover between ESG and social value. ESG has long been concerned with supply chain management, employee rights and working practices, stakeholder engagement etc – all of which are cited in the Social Value Model as important indicators of a project’s value-add. 

But it has long been far harder to ascribe clear values to “soft” targets like this than more obviously quantifiable ones. There has also been the matter of priorities: construction and real estate, for example, account for around 40% of global energy consumption. As such, the environmental pillar has been at the forefront of the ESG debate in the built environment sector. 

As attention turns to the “S” pillar and the debate moves on from reducing negatives to creating positive value, many eyes are looking to the model social value provides. 


Are ESG and Social Value Converging?

Just as ESG developed out of earlier understandings of Corporate Social Responsibility, I think we will see further evolution of the concept to better incorporate positive value creation and specific outcomes. 

Investors today are looking beyond compliance-based ESG, and social value offers a blueprint of how that could develop. To look at construction and infrastructure again, social value provides a framework for quantifying and ascribing a value to the positive effects that good design, reduced pollution, greater energy efficiency, etc have on the lives of individuals and communities. Rather than simply ticking the compliance boxes, practitioners can focus on both organisation-wide and project-specific improvements from their work. 

And this should appeal even to the most single-mindedly financially-driven investor, because markets have a long history of accounting for intangible “goodwill” in company valuations. The good a business does – the jobs it creates, the community projects it helps to fund, etc – do far more for goodwill than the harm it avoids. 

Find out more about how Thrive can help you capture and report on the social value your business creates. 

Finding Social Value in Your Business: Wellbeing

Welcome to the second of our series of blogs looking at the five social value Themes that the government set out in the Social Value Model

This time, we’re looking at Wellbeing.




Just as in the last blog (on Equal Opportunity), we’ll explore:

  • What kinds of outcomes you can report on to demonstrate social value in your work
  • How you can go about collecting that data
  • How you should be reporting on it 


The Social Value Landscape

But first, let’s recap some essential background:

  • Under PPN06/20, central government contracting authorities must ascribe a weighting of at least 10% to social value considerations in awarding contracts
  • Social value is to be measured in terms of outcomes, not policies or processes – and it has to be project-specific
  • Social value commitments can’t be among the “core deliverables” of a project. For example, in a contract for the supply of employment support for the public, the employment support itself can’t be treated as social value delivered through the contract
  • In submitting bids that include a social value element, contractors must supply a method statement – spelling out how they’ll achieve the promised outcomes and measure progress towards them – and a timed project plan

Check out the first blog in the series for more detail on these points. 


What does the Social Value Model say about Wellbeing?

Although the Social Value Model only presents two Policy Outcomes under the Wellbeing theme, these are very broad and allow for perhaps more innovation and variety in activities than any of the other themes. 

The two Policy Outcomes are:

  1. Improve health and wellbeing
    • By taking action that supports these goals within the contract workforce
    • By influencing suppliers, staff, customers, and communities to support health and wellbeing through delivery of the contract
  2. Improve community integration
    • By collaborating with users and communities in the co-design and delivery of the contract
    • By influencing suppliers etc through the delivery of the contract to support strong, integrated communities

As you can see these are pretty different, so let’s consider each one separately. 


“Improve Health and Wellbeing”: What can your business do?

This includes both physical and mental health, but with health and safety regulations governing risks around the former, a lot of the Social Value Model’s focus is – deservedly – on the latter. 

Public authorities are expected to track and report on:

  • The proportion of suppliers adhering to the 6 standards in the Mental Health At Work Commitment
  • The proportion of suppliers with 500 or more employees that adhere to the enhanced mental health standards set out in Thriving At Work – the Farmer/Stevenson review of 2017

This makes it a lot easier to define and measure social value under this criterion than most of the others. Your first move should be to read and sign up to the 6 standards, and – if appropriate – the Thriving At Work recommendations! There are plenty of other schemes you could look at signing up to in this space, such as the Time To Change employer pledge against mental health discrimination. But of course, social value is all about specific, measurable outcomes, plus how and when they’ll be delivered – so it’s not enough to just sign up to these schemes. 

Measurable outcomes in this space could include:

  • Increasing the number or percentage of suppliers you work with who adhere to those standards – by making it a requirement in your own procurement processes
  • Increasing the number of trained mental health first aiders in your organisation
  • Producing and communicating a mental health at work plan and developing mental health awareness among employees
  • Providing tools and opportunities that promote good physical and mental health – for example, mindfulness classes, work breaks for physical exercise, ensuring that staff can take full lunch breaks, running social activities, etc
  • Auditing and ensuring that recruitment, promotion, and other policies do not discriminate against people with mental health problems


“Improve Community Integration”: What can your business do?

This Policy Outcome is aimed at giving communities affected by the contract works a voice in creating a shared vision for the places where they live and work – as per the Civil Society Strategy of 2018. 




It’s here that most volunteering activities should be accounted for. As long as the activities benefit the affected community, the range is practically limitless:

  • Enabling social mixing between people of different backgrounds
  • Helping to reduce crime
  • Improving the local environment or transport links
  • Reducing loneliness
  • Helping to improve English language proficiency

But this Policy Outcome isn’t just about volunteering. It’s also about giving local people a say and a stake in work that affects them. So measurable outcomes here can also include:

  • Hours spent consulting on projects with local people
  • Hours spent in activities at local educational establishments
  • Hours spent raising awareness within the project supply chain around local issues

This will also usually be the most suitable Theme under which to include corporate donations and fundraising. 


How should you collect and report on Wellbeing Social Value data?

With maximum care and attention to detail! That’s why at Thrive, we use The Impact Evaluation Standard as the underpinning of our social value software module. 


Impact Evaluation Standard


While the Social Value Model is a very high level tool, the IES really breaks social value down:

  • It includes predetermined metrics for 109 different activities 
  • These are closely aligned with but elaborate upon the 52 metrics referred to in the Social Value Model
  • The IES assigns Proxy Values to all of its metrics, enabling companies to ascribe pound values to outcomes
  • Proxy Values are UK-specific, updated annually, and overseen by an independent steering committee, which uses a vast range of authoritative sources

Using a framework like the IES for measuring and assessing your social value work can make a significant difference to how your bids are received. 

But there’s more to success with social value than just metrics, and at Thrive we can also help you with:

  • Communicating your social value messaging throughout your organisation
  • Collating and analysing that data efficiently in one place, making it accessible to all
  • Tailoring metrics and software to your business’s specific needs
  • Presenting data in the form of a compelling narrative, to convey the qualitative aspects of your work just as clearly as the quantitative

Interested to find out more? To arrange a demo of the Thrive platform in action, just click here!


Finding Social Value in Your Business: Equal Opportunities

The government’s Social Value Model has brought much-needed clarity to the questions of “what counts as social value?” and “how should it be dealt with in public procurement?”

It explores in detail how procuring bodies and businesses looking to submit bids can adhere to the rules stated in PPN06/20 – which specifies that a minimum of 10% weighting be given to social value in decisions to award central government contracts.

In this and four future blogs, we’ll take a deep dive into one of the five “Themes” that the Model breaks social value down into.




Today, we’re looking at Equal Opportunity: more specifically:

  • What kinds of outcomes you can report on to demonstrate social value in your work
  • How you can go about collecting that data
  • How you should be reporting on it


The Social Value Model:  Equal Opportunities and Social Value –  CSR is not enough

Most people reading this will be working for businesses that are already strongly committed to equality of opportunity, via their Corporate Social Responsibility policies. However, the Social Value Model is very clear that you can’t simply submit your CSR policies as evidence of social value. The Guide to Using the Social Value Model makes this explicit:



So, social value deliverables must be contract-specific and based on outcomes.


What does the Social Value Model say about Equal Opportunities?

As the table above shows, the Equal Opportunity Theme aims to promote two Policy Outcomes:

1. Reduce the disability employment gap:

  • By increasing representation of people with disabilities in the contract workforce
  • By helping people with disabilities to develop skills relevant to the contract

2. Tackle workforce inequality:

  • By taking action to address inequalities in employment, skills and pay in the contract workforce
  • By helping members of disadvantaged groups develop relevant skills
  • By demonstrating measures to tackle modern slavery risks in the delivery of the contract and the associated supply chain


The Social Value Model


When they bid for relevant projects, companies are expected to produce a “Method Statement” saying how they will meet the specified goals, plus:

“A timed project plan and process, including how you will implement your commitment and by when. Also, how you will monitor, measure and report on your commitments/the impact of your proposals”. 

So, the guidance is clear: if you plan on making your bids stand out by focusing on social value objectives, you need to be able to show:

  • What you’re going to measure
  • How you’re going to capture the data to measure it
  • How you’re going to report on progress achieved


Let’s take a look at the first of these considerations before turning to the latter two.

How can you measure Equal Opportunity outcomes?

The Social Value Model itself provides various suggested metrics and ways of promoting them. For example, if women are under-represented in your sector, your bid might set a target for increasing the number of percentage of women employed (at all levels) in the contract workforce, relative to the sector norm. Or you could list measures that will be taken to achieve that target. This could be offering flexible working to all staff; collecting retention data on female employees; ensuring that female candidates feature on all recruitment shortlists and for training opportunities; clamping down on workplace practices and culture that discourage women from working the sector; and so on

But it does leave a lot of the details down to the authorities involved and the companies bidding on particular contracts. And that’s where it can become tricky to know exactly what you can offer up as social value deliverables.

So it can be helpful to start with ideas for metrics and work back to strategies for improving performance against them:

  • Could you increase the number or percentage of people with disabilities (or other protected characteristics) in the contract workforce? If so, how?
  • Are members of those disadvantaged groups fairly represented at all levels? Or are they concentrated in junior or worse-paid positions? How could this be redressed?
  • Could more people from disadvantaged groups be offered recognised training opportunities related to the contract? Are they under-represented relative to the total numbers you are training? How could that be changed?
  • What work is being done within your business and its partners to combat modern slavery and support its victims?

It’s important not to forget that social value encompasses outcomes across your supply chain. So you might also include:

  • Targets and plans for increasing the number of suppliers with accreditations relating to disabilities, disadvantaged groups, fair pay etc
  • Targets and plans for increasing the number of suppliers committed to the principles set out in the Good Work Plan
  • Measures for increasing the percentage of your supply chain that can be shown to comply with modern slavery requirements


The Impact Evaluation Standard

Of course, any metric has to be rigorous to be convincing. And as social value matures as a concept, norms around “what counts” (and how it should be counted) are developing. The Social Value Model moved the conversation forwards a long way, but it still operates at a very high level and is aimed – first and foremost – at setting rules for contracting authorities. The Impact Evaluation Standard (IES) is the most comprehensive and rigorous framework for bidders to evaluate social value:

  • It includes predetermined metrics for 109 different activities
  • These are closely aligned with but elaborate upon the 52 metrics referred to in the Social Value Model
  • The IES assigns Proxy Values to all of its metrics, enabling companies to ascribe pound values to their social value outcomes
  • Those Proxy Values are UK-specific, updated annually, and overseen by an independent steering committee, using a vast range of authoritative sources

Adopting a consistent, clear, and credible framework like The IES for measuring and assessing your social value work can make a significant difference to how your bids are received.


How should you collect and report on Social Value data?

At Thrive, we use The IES as the underpinning of our social value software module. Indeed, we founded it and we’re involved in their benchmarking activities. But there’s more to success with social value than just metrics, and at Thrive we can also help you with:

  • Communicating your social value messaging throughout your organisation, to ensure everyone is aware of what data needs to be collected
  • Collating and analysing that data in one place, making it far more efficient and accessible than has traditionally been the case
  • Tailoring metrics and software to your business’s specific needs

But data is only half of the story. While it supplies the quantitative side of your social value work, it’s important not to ignore the qualitative, narrative side.That data needs to be presented in the form of a story, which the data validates – and that’s another area where Thrive’s wraparound consultancy expertise can prove invaluable.

If you would like to see a demo of the Thrive platform in action, just click here!

COP26: What It Means for Construction

The built environment and construction accounts for 38% of total global carbon emissions. So it may surprise you to learn that:

  • The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s COP summits have only had a day specifically dedicated to buildings since 2015
  • This year’s COP26 event was the first to commit a day to the wider question of “Cities, Regions and the Built Environment” (November 11)

It’s no wonder then that Roland Hunziker, director of sustainable buildings and cities at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, has called built environment emissions “the sleeping giant”.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at the agreements coming out of Built Environment Day and the rest of COP26 and what it all means for business in and around the construction sector.


Reducing Embodied Carbon

A huge part of the construction sector’s carbon footprint comes from “embodied carbon” – 25% of the total in the UK, according to the UK Green Building Council.


What is embodied carbon?

It’s the sum total of emissions generated across its lifetime via:

  • Construction materials used
  • The building process and transport
  • Demolition and disposal at end-of-life

The WBCSD warned recently that less than 1% of building projects worldwide account for it in full.

As the projections in the newly-published UKGBC’s Net Zero Whole Life Roadmap make clear, most of the gains made to date by the construction industry have been in operational carbon – that is, the obvious running costs of buildings.




The UKGBC’s Roadmap lays a heavy emphasis on reducing embodied carbon in building processes by:

  • Calling for Whole Life Carbon measurement to be made mandatory in Building Regulations by 2025
  • Changing planning and VAT rules to promote reuse of old buildings
  • Urging constructors to shift to alternative building materials (traditional concrete alone is responsible for 8% of all UK emissions)
  • In the longer term (from the mid 2030s) introducing carbon pricing and anti-carbon leakage policies at the national level

As well as these proposals, the Roadmap puts forward proposals on the operational side:

  • Ending the sale of gas and oil boilers by 2030, with a timeline for phasing them out thereafter
  • Introducing a mandatory minimum EPC “C” required at point-of-sale for owner-occupied homes and the domestic rented sector by 2027-2028
  • Introducing a mandatory domestic retrofit strategy, led by a Central Retrofit Agency
  • Removing VAT removed from energy efficiency retrofit works and tying stamp duty rates to energy efficiency

The Roadmap includes 14 stakeholder action plans for different sectors (including developers, landlords, investor, etc), explaining how they can play their part in this effort.

This promises to be a major landmark in UK construction’s journey to Net Zero.


What Should Construction Companies Do?

Construction Leadership Council Andy Mitchell was absolutely right when he told the CLC’s COP26 event that the sector’s efforts on decarbonisation during the pandemic period show “quite how much can change if we really want it to change”.

But he was also right – as the UKGBC’s data shows – that there’s still a lot to do.

The call to look at embodied carbon just as carefully as operational carbon that came out of Glasgow could lead to some quick wins.


COP26 Construction


Businesses should work towards:
  • Switching to zero-emissions vehicles and plant on-site and for transport purposes (indeed, one of the government’s other commitments was to ensure that all newly-sold HGVs be zero-emissions by 2040)
  • Adopting Modern Methods of Construction and alternatives to concrete and steel wherever possible
  • Reconsidering embodied carbon in materials used for aesthetic purposes (for example, aluminium cladding)
  • Offsetting to compensate for “sunk” carbon in infrastructure and buildings until replacement (the UK government has committed to planting 30,000 hectares of trees per year by 2025)
  • Planning to retrofit and reuse existing buildings rather than constructing new ones
  • Minimising waste and maximising recycling and reuse of materials (eg bricks, metals, concrete) in construction activities
  • Planning transport activities: from using open vehicles where possible rather than containers (to reduce weight) to sourcing materials locally
  • Training workforces in Net Zero Carbon (NZC) skills to achieve a common level of “carbon literacy”
  • Adapting supply chains to put pressure on suppliers to move to lower emissions practices


Where does Social Value fit in?

Businesses that don’t keep up with the push towards Net Zero are likely to find themselves at a growing disadvantage and need to start taking action now.

But Net Zero isn’t the only goal that responsible businesses need to be pursuing.

Take social value, for example. The construction sector has been working hard in recent years to promote this in its work. Already, a minimum of 10% of the weight in public procurement decisions has to be given over to social value considerations.

Are these priorities competing with one another?


One of the five themes in the Social Value Model is “Fighting Climate Change” so your efforts in decarbonising can actually help you to win new business.

Some of the biggest and most successful construction groups are already working hard to get ahead in this space by partnering with Thrive: take a look at the work we have recently undertaken with Kier Group.


If you’d like to find out more about how Thrive could help your business, please get in touch.



COP26: What Can Businesses Do To Help Achieve Net Zero?

450 of the world’s biggest financial companies – controlling 40% of total global assets, worth $130 trillion – pledged to achieve Net Zero by 2050 at the COP26 summit.  But what does that mean in practice? What lessons are there for other businesses to learn from this? 

And what practical actions can you take now to make sure that your business is making a contribution to achieving net zero?

That’s what we’re going to explore in this blog. 


What have they pledged to do?

The list of businesses making the pledge includes banks, insurers, pension funds, asset managers, stock exchanges, credit rating agencies, index providers, and audit firms, through a high-level initiative called the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), which brings together multiple sector-specific groups under a single umbrella. 

What they have agreed to is:

  1. Use science-based guidelines to reach Net Zero emissions across all emissions “scopes” by 2050
  2. Set interim targets aiming for 50% decarbonisation by 2030, which experts argue is essential for hitting the 2050 goal
  3. Publish Net Zero transition strategies, explaining how it will be achieved
  4. Commit to transparent reporting and accounting on progress against those targets
  5. Adhere to “strict restrictions” on carbon offsetting

Many of the companies are massive global businesses, including Morgan Stanley, AXA, Swiss Re, Nationwide, HSBC, PWC, Deloitte, and more. 

And these commitments apply not just to direct emissions from their own activities: they will also filter down to their supply chains and the companies they invest in. 

That’s why – in spite of the criticisms already voiced – this is such an important announcement. Change in the financial sector will make change across the whole global economy far easier to bring about. 


What can my business learn from this?

Perhaps all this discussion of trillions of dollars, global financial brands, and international summits makes Net Zero sound like a very distant, abstract prospect, with little relevance to the vast majority of businesses?

But if you think that, you’d be very wrong:

  • Also speaking at COP26, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced plans for all financial institutions and listed companies to be required to publish their Net Zero transition plans by 2023
  • Since September this year, bidders for all public procurement projects worth more than £5 million have been required to have Carbon Reduction Plans committing them to reach Net Zero by 2050 in place

Govt guidelines net zero

A recent survey found that 72% of British people believe businesses have “a legal responsibility to the planet and people”. 

Carbon reduction is a priority that’s not going away. Smart businesses will be doing what they can now to ensure their place in the low-carbon future is secure. 


So, taking what these 450 corporate giants are promising to do as a model, let’s look at what your business can do today.

#1 Use science-based guidelines to set targets across emissions scope

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol divides emissions into three scopes:

  • Scope 1 – direct emissions from a company’s activities or property
  • Scope 2 – indirect emissions from the generation of energy used by a company
  • Scope 3 – indirect upstream and downstream emissions across a company’s value chain

Scope Emissions net zero

Scope 3 emissions are particularly tricky to benchmark and measure, as they often concern other businesses. But there are lots of free tools that can help your business assess what your emissions across these categories are. For example:

While there is still debate about the extent to which Scope 3 emissions can or should be included in official definitions of Net Zero, earlier this month the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) launched a process for testing, validating, and certifying commitments and targets, designed explicitly for businesses.


#2. Aim for 50% decarbonisation by 2030

In practice, that means prioritise the quick wins:

  • Switch to a green or renewable energy provider
  • Look at improving building insulation and energy efficiency
  • Move your fleet to electric vehicles
  • Minimise business travel, especially air travel
  • Stop using disposable items, like paper cups and plastic bags
  • Keep printing to a minimum or move to a paper-free office
  • Set up recycling bins around your premises
  • Make sure your suppliers are committed to Net Zero too
  • Engage your employees and get them contributing
  • Review lighting and HVAC systems, as these are massive energy users

All small things, but over the course of the 29 years left until 2050 their impact will add up!


#3 Publish Net Zero transition Strategies

Be open about what you’re doing and you’ll find others are willing to help. Celebrate your wins and publicise what you’re doing in your annual report and CSR reports. 

Not only is this required for a growing number of public procurement projects, but it’s great PR when you show that you take Net Zero just as seriously as other business goals. 


#4 Commit to transparent reporting

It’s also vital to keep proper track of what you’re doing, so you and your stakeholders can assess the progress that’s being made. 

And that’s where Thrive comes in. Not only can we provide consultancy to help you develop your targets and processes, but our software platform helps you to capture, analyse and showcase the impact your efforts are having. 

Our methodology is based on the Impact Evaluation Standard, a framework that includes combating climate change as one of its five central pillars – which makes it ideal for integrating with Net Zero planning and tracking. 


#5 Minimise offsetting

Of course, Net Zero isn’t the same as absolute zero. That’s where offsetting comes in. 



Offsetting activities can include:

  • Tree planting, reforestation, and conversation
  • Converting waste to energy
  • Investing in community energy efficient projects, beyond the scope of your own direct impact
  • Trading in emissions credits (effectively, paying for the carbon removal carried out by others)

However, offsetting should be seen as a last resort – as a way to compensate for unavoidable emissions that can’t be eliminated. 

Do you have a carbon reduction or net zero plan in place? We would love to hear what you are doing and share your story with others. You can contact us at

Read more about how BBI use their Green Thursday initiative to help the environment.



Giving Tuesday: What’s Your Business Doing?

Now in its tenth year, Giving Tuesday is a global campaign that encourages individuals and businesses alike to act to support good causes. 

This year’s event is set to take place on November 30th, so now is the perfect time to start planning how Giving Tuesday can play a part in your Corporate Social Responsibility programme. 

What is Giving Tuesday?

Giving Tuesday began in the USA in 2012 and takes place each year on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. That means it comes right after the unbridled consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which are now as much a part of British life as they are American.

The first UK Giving Tuesday took place in 2014, and since then it has grown and grown. Last year was the campaign’s most successful ever, with $2.47 billion raised in the US and £20.2 million in the UK. 

This year’s theme is “BounceBack for #GivingTuesday”, as the movement looks to help get charities, voluntary organisations and the people they serve back on their feet after more than 18 hard months of Covid-19. 

Businesses and charities alike are encouraged to become official partners of the campaign – and more than 3,900 have done so already. 

How to integrate Giving Tuesday into your CSR and Social Value Strategies

With events happening in more than 60 countries worldwide, and over 360 million impressions on Twitter #GivingTuesday last year, Giving Tuesday is a fantastic opportunity to highlight corporate volunteering, charity, CSR and Social Value achievements and initiatives. 

It’s a chance to let the world know what your business is doing and to thank your employees for their efforts in a context of global celebration. 

Indeed, Giving Tuesday’s ethos dovetails precisely with the spirit that drives CSR. It advocates “radical generosity”: 

Generosity not as a benevolence that the haves show to the have-nots but rather an expression of mutuality, solidarity, and reciprocity.”

To make the most of this opportunity:

It’s free, your logo will be backlinked from their website and you’ll be sent materials and campaign updates as the big day approaches. 

Take a look at partner stories on their site for inspiration, like this one from Natwest


  • Partner with causes that reflect your values and what you have to offer

Assess where you want to make a difference and what your people can contribute – whether it’s money, time, expertise or even just publicity. 




  • Communicate internally, to boost employee engagement

Your employees are your best advocates, so make sure they are bought into spreading the word. As the world begins to get back to normal after Covid-19, Giving Tuesday 2021 is a chance to reinforce the employee engagement agenda of your CSR programme by celebrating and thanking them for their efforts. 


  • Plan your media outreach to raise public awareness

Giving Tuesday UK has made it easy for you to tap into the movement’s massive reach – #GivingTuesday trended on Twitter all day last year and is likely to do so again – with plenty of resources, including:

  • Model press releases
  • Social media post templates
  • Hashtags to use 
  • Ideas for activities

This has been an exceptional year, with many organisations going above and beyond to help their communities and good causes under very trying circumstances. Giving Tuesday is an ideal opportunity to celebrate everything your business and your staff have done since the start of the crisis. But remember: keep the focus on the impact, the cause, and your employees. The story is not about you!


  • Numbers speak louder than words

If there’s one thing any PR person will tell you, it’s that numbers make a bigger impression than words. So quantify your activities for maximum impact:

  • # of pounds raised or value of services given
  • # of hours donated
  • # of people helped
  • Etc

This is also the language that shareholders and directors will want to hear when you report back on your accomplishments as part of your annual report process. So turning those stories into figures is a double win!

If collecting and interpreting the data from your CSR and volunteering activities is proving a challenge, drop us a line to find out how Thrive can help

Tools to help your Giving Tuesday succeed

Giving Tuesday UK has made lots of materials available, but if you’re looking for more inspiration check out some of the American resources we’ve selected for you – along with some other helpful tools and organisations. 


We’d love to hear what you’ve got in store for Giving Tuesday this year, so if you’ve got something special planned please follow Thrive on LinkedIn and tell us about it!


What Housing Associations Need To Do About Social Value

The social benefits generated by providing safe, affordable housing for those in need have always been a priority for housing associations.

And the revolution in social value requirements that began with PPN06/20 and which will take a big leap forwards with the upcoming Public Procurement Bill, poses a lot of challenges for the ways that the social housing sector has traditionally measured and reported its impact.

But as organisations that are already very attuned to the ideas that underpin social value, these changes also represent opportunities that housing associations are well-positioned to take advantage of.


How Do Social Value Rules Affect Housing Associations?

The concept first entered law in the Social Value Act 2013, which required all public sector commissioning bodies to “consider” the “economic, environmental and social wellbeing of their population through their procurement activities”.

PPN/06 20 and the accompanying Social Value Model – published in September 2020 – brought about a key change. From then on, rather than simply “considering” it, central government bodies were obliged to give at least 10% weighting to social value considerations in awarding contracts.

The Social Value Model goes a long way to making this a far more measurable set of criteria, detailing policy outcomes under five themes:



While this requirement hasn’t become law for local authority commissioning bodies, it’s highly likely to include them in the near future:

  • Many suppliers and local bodies are adopting the required standards or higher voluntarily
  • The National Procurement Policy Statement, published in the summer, is clear that all commissioning bodies (including housing associations) will be expected to take the three social value national core priorities plus any specific local priorities into account
  • The Public Procurement Bill announced in May’s Queen’s Speech is expected to take the NPPS forward
  • PPN06/21 is clear that housing associations are expected to produce Carbon Reduction Plans when bidding on public contracts worth more than £5m – there’s no distinction between central and local tenders
  • The government’s Clean Growth Strategy has challenged the sector to get all social housing stock – new and old – to EPC C rating by 2035

The direction of travel is clear. Social value is here to stay, and housing associations need to prepare themselves.


The Challenge Facing Social Housing

Housing associations provide homes and support for nearly 6 million people nationwide – but according to the National Housing Federation’s 2020 “People in Housing Need” report, a further 3.8 million are on waiting lists in England alone.



As the long-run economic effects of Covid-19 make themselves felt, that number is likely to grow, as people lose their jobs and eviction bans end.

And yet social housing construction is at an all-time low due to budget pressures. In 2019, only 6,338 new social housing units were built. How can the sector be expected to take on all these new social value responsibilities when it’s already so stretched?

Is Social Value Actually The Solution?

In fact – as we mentioned at the very start of this blog – housing associations are already highly aligned with the emerging social value agenda.

Had you realised, for example, that better social housing provision contributes to the majority of UN Sustainable Development Goals (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 16)?

The challenge housing associations face lies less in ensuring that their work hits the social value thresholds, and more in capturing and reporting the full extent of their impact under the new framework. Especially when budgets are tight, accurate measurement becomes critical.

And yet a recent Social Housing survey found that 80% of senior people in the housing sector believe that financial measures are given too much prominence in reporting and social value too little.

The same research found that a high proportion of housing associations depend on their own systems for measuring social value:


Methods to measure Social Value


These in-house systems may no longer be up to scratch as requirements continue to evolve, and could be missing important aspects of what today’s social value regime is looking for.

The new social value landscape calls for a new approach to capturing, analysing and reporting the impact of housing associations’ work. That was something that Lewisham Homes – a major social housing provider in south-east London – came to realise.




The social value of their work is spread across a huge range of initiatives, including community investment activities, financial management support, welfare calls to residents, and apprenticeships – not all of which can easily be ascribed a financial value.

As a partner in the multi-agency “Lewisham Deal”, Lewisham Homes needed to come up with a system for quantifying those outcomes that made it easy to collect data from initiatives and assess them for impact – to hold itself accountable for what it achieved.

Using Thrive’s social value module, Lewisham Homes was able to develop a set of bespoke metrics that reflects the full value of their work. Due weight can be given to the inclusion of local voices, to community-level improvements, to decarbonisation, and more.

Over the last two years, Lewisham Homes has been able to demonstrate £8 million in social value generated within the communities where it works.

That proof makes a big difference when it comes to bidding for public contracts and securing funding.


What Should Housing Associations Be Measuring?

Social value is a broad topic, as the five themes presented in the 2020 Model show. Organisations that have become used to financially-focused reporting may need to rethink how they present their work:

  • Are jobs being created for local people?
  • Are residents’ voices being heard? Are they involved in decision-making?
  • How is your work contributing towards carbon reduction goals?
  • Are you creating opportunities for disadvantaged groups?
  • Does your work take note of the need for green spaces and places to exercise?
  • What contribution is it making towards Covid-19 recovery?
  • Are you sourcing from local businesses? Do your suppliers deliver social value?

All these factors increase the social value your work delivers, but they need to be quantified in meaningful ways.

At Thrive, we use the Impact Evaluation Standard, a measurement tool that uses 52 metrics aligned with the Social Value Model, plus a further 50 important indicators.

Not only that, our framework can be customised to include your own KPIs – just like Lewisham Homes did – giving you robust, recognised measurements that capture every nuance of your community’s particular needs.

Social Value UK defines social value as “the quantification of the relative importance that people place on the changes they experience in their lives”.

As social value becomes embedded more and more deeply into every aspect of the social housing environment, the importance of measurement and quantification is going to become crucial to every housing association’s work.

Is CSR dead? 3 Key questions to ask when evaluating your CSR strategy

I was recently invited to join a panel discussion at a thought provoking seminar at the Leeds Digital Festival led by the fantastic Rob Wolfe of CHY Consultancy, during which I got to both talk to and learn from a group of innovative CSR and Impact Managers. Rob gave us a really strong overview of how CSR has evolved over the years and where it sits today. And while my initial remit on the webinar was to talk about the changes I have seen in the CSR industry over the years, it quickly became evident that there are myths to be addressed in CSR and advice needed on the direction the industry is heading in. So, I thought I would share with you 3 of the key questions that Rob, myself and the other panelists tackled and explore how you can use this information to drive your own CSR or Social Value strategy.

Did you miss this webinar? Make sure you follow us on LinkedIn or subscribe to our newsletter and we will always let you know what is happening in the industry.


  1. Is CSR Dead…?

Well that is a direct question, isn’t it? CSR, being the term Corporate Social Responsibility, is being used less and less amongst corporate teams and vested stakeholders. The meaning of giving back to society is changing. It has, in the past, often been a corporate box ticking exercise. As Rob Wolfe put it:

“CSR at its worst is a PR campaign led exercise that is more bothered about looking good rather than making genuine impact”

And, as Rob explained to us all,  no where was this more evident than at VW back in 2013. Rob took us through the astounding example of how VW were given an award by the World Forum for Ethics in Business for being an “Outstanding Corporation” due to  “the leadership of Volkswagen in the assumption of corporate social responsibility and the implementation of outstanding and innovative projects”. Unfortunately, in 2015 it became clear that VW had designed a system to deliberately circumnavigate the emissions testing of their dirty engines while at the same time becoming the number one car manufacturer in large part because of their presumed environmentally friendly cars. Corporate and social responsibility was clearly a PR exercise for them and nothing else. You can read more about it here.

So, thinking of CSR as a PR campaign or showing the community how well you are supporting them is outdated and could even be bad business. Instead, again in the words of Rob Wolfe;

“CSR at its best is social value”.

For us at Thrive, Social Value is the value created by an organisation beyond its revenue and profits. And organisations are in a prime position to deliver highly on the value scale. There is a ‘virtuous circle’ that can occur when businesses invest in social issues and sustainability strategies –numerous studies show that businesses with a purpose beyond profits are outperforming their peers in many ways, not least because they attract and retain better talent and more committed employees. When a business can create both increased profits and an increased social return,  that organisation will be more invested in investing more – into the environmental agenda, social aspects, whatever it might be for them – that then feeds back to an even better bottom line which creates this ‘virtuous circle’ which is good for business and good for society.

Thus is CSR itself dead? The overall sentiment of people and businesses doing good is not dead! It underpins everything we are trying to do in this industry.  But the way we look at it has changed and businesses can no longer be judged on the outward appearance of what they are giving back. We are now at that tipping point where the business case is clear to build it into your structure. And it’s not just about giving. There needs to be a deeper purpose, a broader vision of what a company is trying to achieve and how they operate internally, for the social ‘good’ they are delivering to be really effective.

Unfortunately, there will only ever be a certain number of people or businesses who are truly philanthropic enough to want to ‘give’, but yes there is still a place for corporate philanthropy as part of the mix. And the thing that is very encouraging is the progression of the CSR agenda – or ESG or Sustainability, whatever acronym you put on it – there is now a clear business case for it. If we can articulate this, then even those most hardnosed business execs can find a reason to invest!


  1. How do I start a new CSR – or Social Value – strategy and what do I incorporate into it from the start?

The first thing to do is to look at the broad definitions of social value that are out there. We work with a number of organisations who are doing something with CSR or social value but want to take the next step on that maturity level. Irrespective of the definitions you see, looking at social value goes beyond the traditional thought of CSR being a philanthropic or community investment type of thing. Now it is a holistic view of environmental concerns, sustainability, local economic spend, diversity and inclusion and many more aspects looking broadly across the board. When organisations come to us at the beginning of their social value journey we look at the metrics that come built into our software. We look down the list together and ask them to find the quick wins -what are you doing already where you can craft that social value strategy and social value story – you don’t need to be revolutionary from day one – often organisations are doing a lot already and they don’t realise it is actually social value – it could be training programs that they are delivering, employment options, sustainability programs they have in place – so look broadly at what you are doing. Social value is the future of CSR and it very much encompasses those community aspects but it also goes way beyond that.

Another aspect to review is once you have started looking at what you already do, look at where your ambitions lie for the future – which of these themes are most aligned with your businesses purpose and where can you have the most influence – you may want to impact food poverty around the world but actually where does your business have that influence? This is where you need to start.


  1. Why bother?

I love the way Rob Wolfe summed this up to the audience by using the African philosophy of Ubuntu – “I am because we are”. Or as Desmond Tutu says:

“we measure the success of who we are by our impact on other people”.

It is about having a purpose within your business, a purpose beyond making money and that is really at the heart of social value.

But also… It improves talent, diverse thinking and creativity within your business. In 2015 there was a research project that highlighted 42% of staff are looking to work for businesses that have a positive impact on society and 44% of those in the survey said having a positive impact on society was more important than money in a job. People are asking about social and environmental impact. It is important to your future workforce and so it helps improve the talent within your business.

It improves growth. 60% of consumers are now more mindful about where they buy their products and services from, they want to buy those products and services from socially and environmentally beneficial businesses and not those that are simply seen to be ‘green washing’ or worse; actually harming the environment or community. The pandemic has really focused the view of the general population, honing in on community, wellbeing and impact in a way unseen prior to 2021.

If you would like to take your CSR strategy to the next level, please get in touch. And a huge thanks to CHY Consultancy for running this seminar and giving me the opportunity to talk to others in the industry about what is an ever evolving topic.



How BBI Group are tackling the climate crisis one Thursday at a time

Here at Thrive we have been talking a lot about climate change and the drive to net zero. I cannot stress enough what an important topic I feel this is. So many of the other social and community endeavours our clients undertake will become harder, more expensive and less effective if we are also suffering from major climate break down.

While I feel strongly that we need societal change to lift us from the environmental doldrums it is however, important not to lose sight of what businesses and individuals can do immediately, on a daily basis to make a change. Many companies, large and small, can often struggle with what steps they can take right now to make a difference and so today we are giving you some inspiration, some hope that you too can be a part of the change – now.

Read more about what you as a company can do to help achieve the net zero goal here.

One company who has taken on the challenge to do more is the Bbi Group. They are tracking all of their social and environmental activities with the Thrive software and the ImpactUK metrics which means not only can they see the impacts of their commercial decisions, they can also look at where they can make further change and where it will have the biggest impact.

But not only that, they have decided to bring their environmental ambitions in house with an initiative called Green Thursday.

Bbi Group are a design led commercial fit out company operating throughout the UK. They specialize in commercial and industrial business interiors, from conceptual design and feasibility studies through to full interior construction and client migration. This puts them in the prime position to influence and inspire clients to adopt lower carbon processes. With many touch points with other companies, the team at Bbi have decided to ‘walk the walk’. Not only do they seek out sustainable materials in their refits and interior design briefs, they are active recyclers when it comes to dismantling existing premises and operating with the ‘reduce reuse’ mantra wherever possible. It is important for a company with so much visibility across a large portfolio of clients to show that it is possible to operate sustainably and implement a successful carbon reduction plan.

To take this further, Bbi recently decided to get the employees further involved. With many of us spending 40 hours or more a week in our jobs, they spotted a real opportunity to educate both staff and families in the need to act more consciously. If they could change the habits in the workplace, those habits could be taken home and suddenly a whole family can implement change. This is what is needed if we are to change the mindset of a generation, to act more responsibly and to take care of our planet.

So what is Green Thursday?

Green Thursday is a day a week that everyone is encouraged to make a change – from adopting a new habit, to ditching an old one. The company acknowledged that they had corporate processes in place to operate sustainably, but at a personal level they knew they could do more. A recent drive to learn about World Earth Day left some team members so disheartened by the shocking facts that they felt compelled to act immediately and to rally the staff to get involved.

Choosing one day a week for a ‘green’ activity gives it more chance of working. They fully acknowledged that asking everyone to cycle to work 5 days a week for example, was both unachievable and could possibly dent morale as it became another lofty goal not reached. So, making it one day a week, and giving staff plenty of options on what they could choose to do, meant that everyone had the chance to both make a difference but also learn a new behaviour that might stick beyond the office.

Green Thursday has only been running for 3 months so far, and yet so much has already been achieved. BBI Group Managing Director Adrian Bateman says

“I have been very impressed with the energy and enthusiasm that the staff have demonstrated in supporting Green Thursday. Every staff member has become involved in making changes on a personal level and we are keen to build on the momentum of the first 3 months to see how much we can achieve in 12 months.

To have top down support in an initiative like this is important. Staff need to feel both empowered to make a change and given the support required to make those changes practical.

capture your activities - win business - Thrive Social Value

So what has Green Thursday achieved?

Some of the more permanent, ongoing initiatives are:

Reducing shop bought lunches – by bringing your own lunch you reduce unnecessary packaging, especially plastic bottles and wraps. While seemingly a small change, this is in fact a very important one as it not only changes a ‘convenience’ mindset, it also addresses the huge waste problem we contribute to daily. According to environmental charity Hubbub, British workers’ ‘lunch on the go’ habit is generating 10.7 billion items of packaging waste annually – 276 items per person. You can change this. Learn more at Food Savvy.

A meat free day each week – there are many reasons why reducing our meat consumption is good for the environment but one fun fact is this – By having one meat free day per week for a year, you save the equivalent amount of greenhouse gases as driving from London to Edinburgh. Calculate how much CO2 you could save and learn how to get more involved with Meat Free Mondays, the brainchild of Paul McCartney.

Walking to work – where possible employees now walk to work, at least on Thursdays. Naturally this cuts down CO2 emissions but also has endless health and wellbeing benefits. And where employees cannot walk to work, they can…

Cycle to work – This may seem obvious, but in fact Bbi Group are trying to make this as easy as possible for staff by organizing a Cycle To Work Scheme. With this scheme, employees can purchase a bike and pay via salary sacrifice deductions over a year. This works out cheaper for them, as the money isn’t subject to tax or national insurance, so it makes the bike significantly cheaper than if they purchase it themselves from their take home wages.

Cycling the last 10km to a meeting – one staff member took the cycling initiative one step further and decided to cycle the last 10km to an appointment in Cardiff. Well done Simon Jones – my only question is – did you cycle back again?

And for those who still drive, the office encourages the practice of driving more fuel efficiently – this means driving a little slower than normal to minimise unnecessary fuel emissions. Employees are given the time needed to drive more slowly to meetings or sites, and not just on Thursdays!

Recycling – Waste bins have been removed from the general office areas and more recycling bins have been provided to make employees think before throwing it in the rubbish. This has seen a significant increase in the amount of recycling created from the office.

And to continue the recycling theme, confidential papers which are shredded are now being taken home by employees and used as pet bedding.

No strim June – During the month of June, it was decided to abandon strimming of the verge outside the office which allowed local wildlife to return in abundance. They often have bunnies, squirrels and birds outside the office window, so the no strimming policy has been extended.

On this note, there has been an extensive wild flower planting session outside the office, which began of course – on a Thursday.

Fallen trees around the office have been cut into logs and used to create a Bug Hotel, supporting local insects in an urban area. Many insects are responsible for the pollination of flowers and providing them a home to shelter from the weather, or predators is essential in maintaining biodiversity. Read more about why you might want to build a bug hotel.

Do you have your own equivalent of Green Thursday? We would love to hear what you and your staff are doing internally to lower your carbon footprint and make sustainable changes in the workplace. And if you are struggling for ideas, check out our top 5 ways a business can reduce their CO2 emissions for some inspiration you can act on today.


A visiting squirrel

A visiting squirrel at the BBI Group offices