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 over 120 different activities
  • These are closely aligned with but elaborate upon the 52 metrics referred to in the Social Value Model
  • The Impact Evaluation Standard 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 Impact Evaluation Standard 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 Impact Evaluation Standard 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!