Climate change is the greatest challenge of our age. And while it may sometimes feel overwhelming in its scale, the fact is that every individual and every organisation can play a part in preventing it. By now, most businesses in the UK carry out some kind of environmental reporting and are working towards reducing their environmental impact.
But if you’re treating this as separate from the social value impact of your work, you could be missing out on valuable opportunities to do more good – and benefit your business as well. Because of the term ‘social value’, many people don’t realise you can include environmental activities and benefits in this definition too.
In this blog, we’ll look at the Social Value Model’s “Fighting Climate Change” Theme, and what you can do to maximise the social value your company’s work creates, as well as make sure that none of it goes unreported.
Where social value fits in to businesses’ climate change duties
Social value first and foremost concerns businesses involved in public procurement – although as a framework for reporting on the value that your work generates, it has some important benefits, even beyond conventional Corporate Social Responsibility or ESG reporting.
And businesses bidding for public contracts already have some important responsibilities in this area.
Since September 2021, companies bidding for central government projects worth more than £5 million have had to have published Carbon Reduction Plans, spelling out how they will achieve Net Zero emissions by 2050.
The rules (set out in PPN06/21) don’t yet affect local government procurement or smaller contracts, but with the government reiterating its strong commitment to Net Zero at the recent COP26 summit, it’s probably only a matter of time before that changes. So it makes sense to get ready now, rather than be caught on the hop later.
- Social value considerations must be given at least 10% weighting in procurement decisions, but are frequently given more
- As the Social Value Model says:
“Any social value benefit proposed by tenderers must relate to additional improvements in the economic, social and/or environmental wellbeing of the relevant area to be delivered through the contract, and not replace the assessment and management of the environmental impacts of the core contract elements (direct and through the supply chain) and how they can be reduced, which must instead form a part of the core tender (ie not the social value element).”
The UN Sustainable Development Goals
The fight against climate change is not just about carbon emissions. The Social Value Model states which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals each Theme supports, and for this Theme there are other environmental objectives that are just as important to pursue.
For example, reducing water use and improving sanitation, protecting life below water, conservation etc, are all areas where businesses can demonstrate social value.
“Effective Stewardship of the Environment”: What can businesses do?
The Fighting Climate Change Theme in the Social Value Model has only one Policy Outcome as its objective (the others all have two).
That’s “Effective Stewardship of the Environment” – and as we’ve seen in the previous blogs in this series (on Equal Opportunity , Wellbeing , and Tackling Economic Inequality ) the desired impacts fall into two categories:
- Environmental benefits achieved through delivering the contract
- Environmental benefits achieved by influencing suppliers and others involved in the work
So, activities that could generate social value gains might include:
- Enhancing of restoring the natural environment in the course of the contract through volunteer work
- Increasing opportunities for natural pollinators (for example, by planting rooftop gardens)
- Creating new green spaces (which can include “green walls” on buildings)
- Improving air quality by switching to electric vehicles or low-emissions fuels
- Reducing waste and increasing recycling
- Switching to green energy
- Offsetting unavoidable emissions, for example by planting trees
- Carrying our education or awareness-raising activities around environmental issues
- Helping people in affected communities to connect with nature
If you already have a Carbon Reduction Plan, you will no doubt have already thought of and be implementing a lot of these measures. But where the social value approach excels is in forcing businesses to pay attention to measurement and reporting.
How can my business measure and report on its work?
The outcomes of these activities and others like them can be turned into a wide variety of metrics:
- Number of hours dedicated to environmental improvement
- Reduction in carbon emissions as against a prior baseline
- Annual reduction in water use, waste send to landfill, etc
- Number of new green spaces created
The Social Value Model itself includes 52 metrics across the five Themes, but it can be difficult to translate them into actionable points: the data may not be easy to come by, or it may be recorded in diverse locations.
That’s where Thrive’s social value module really shows its value.
Using the Impact Evaluation Standard, we are able to break the Model’s metrics down even further – into 109 separate indicators, each of which is ascribed a carefully-calculated proxy value in pounds, so that you are able to put a robust monetary value on your efforts. This can make the story you tell around impact far more compelling.
Our module also gives you a central location for collecting and analysing data – which makes the process far more efficient, as VolkerWessels UK found when they started working with us.
Previously, they used a mix of spreadsheets, online tools, and emails to track impact. But across such a complex, diversified business it was hardly surprising that many activities were being under-reported or missed altogether.
Head of Sustainability Emma Ward said:
“Thrive has revolutionised the way we collect and demonstrate performance against key sustainability and social value metrics across our business… Thrive’s software … has helped us overcome data collection bottlenecks by automatically engaging staff throughout our whole group… Integrating all these facets together is hugely impactful for us.”
While Alex Mayes of our client Kenny Waste Management had this to say:
“For the first time we now have robust data to show exactly how our decisions around inclusive hiring, career training, school engagement and carbon emission reduction to name just a few can have a financial benefit to our community.”
If that sounds like something your business could benefit from, get in touch to arrange a free demo today.