Social Value for Tech: 5 things you need to know

The importance of creating a positive social impact is becoming a major focus for many organisations and the tech industry is no different.

As well as being a priority for investors, customers and staff, it now forms an essential part of public sector bids.

But implementing social value at a strategic level is a step up from simply wanting to “do good” in the business. In this article we show you how tech companies can deliver social value through their work as well as delivering what procurers are looking for.

What is social value and why do we need it?

Putting social value requirements in place helps the government invest public money with private companies who commit to creating additional value with the public purse.

Since 2021, all private companies bidding for work with the public sector have been required to demonstrate their capacity to deliver social value, with a minimum of 10% weighting given to social value in bid responses. Potentially, providing a strong social value offer can now be the difference between winning and losing a contract.

And while the government has created the Social Value Model to help procurers more clearly define the social value requirements of a particular contract, for tech companies it can be more difficult to see clear ways to fulfil those requirements than in sectors like construction where work is often site and project based.

Thus, presenting a strong, clear response to tenders isn’t always straightforward.

The good news is there are measures tech companies can take to present a robust social value offer – and these can work for start-ups, SMEs and multinationals alike.

1. Maximise social value with relevant tech skills and resources

Social value needs a clear approach that makes sense for a company’s purpose and the resources it has. Gone are the days when a few charity initiatives and sponsored bike rides would cut it! These days a good social value strategy means thinking creatively about the potential value that exists within the business, and how best to channel it for maximum impact.

Traditional social value initiatives like local employment drives and apprenticeships don’t always work well for the tech sector, where the workforce tends to be smaller, more specialised and likely to be spread out across multiple sites. But the sector still has much to offer, with access to valuable knowledge and resources that could deliver real benefit to society.

For example, IT solutions provider Stone has a ‘zero to landfill’ commitment for hardware and contributes to the circular economy by recycling and refurbishing devices.

Meanwhile, digital services provider Hippo works with its partners and supply chain to reduce energy usage with serverless computing and smart caching.

Both of these fit easily under Theme 3 of the Social Value Model: Fighting climate change

PPN 0620 Themes Thrive Social Value

Hippo also promote their work to improve diversity and inclusivity of the sector via the Tech Talent Charter. This fits well under both MAC 2.1 and MAC 2.2 of the Theme 2: Tackling economic inequality

Other social value initiatives specific to the tech sector might include:

  • Digital skills training to help those from disadvantaged or underrepresented groups to break into the sector.
  • Digital inclusion initiatives to improve access and digital literacy for those who need it, for example recycling and redistributing devices or offering workshops in the community.
  • Creating or repurposing existing digital products or services for use by charities or other public services.

2. Manage social value data within a single platform

As a tech company, maintaining efficient operations is vital for reputation with partners, clients and customers. But measuring and monitoring social value can be anything but efficient when there are multiple initiatives running across the business.

The simplest way to manage this without juggling endless ever-growing spreadsheets is to have a single platform where social value can be tracked, measured and metrics continually updated. As well as saving time and effort, a good social value measurement platform can help tech businesses articulate their social value to clients, improve stakeholder communications, give insights to support long-term improvements and guide the social value delivery process.

Thrive’s customers often come to us because they have plenty of social value-related initiatives going on in the business, but are struggling to collate, monitor or evidence this good work credibly. Using the Thrive platform allows them to organise their social value data not only as evidence in public sector bids, but also to show their staff, customers how well they’re doing.

3. Use a social value measurement tool

Research tells us that tech companies aren’t always confident when it comes to addressing social value questions in tenders. TechUK’s report Improving Social Value in Technology Procurement surveyed 100 tech firms active in the UK public procurement sector market. They found that many were tackling social value on a bid-by-bid basis, often reshuffling their company’s CSR policy to fit in with procurer questions each time.

A solution to this is to use a recognised social value measurement tool like the Impact Evaluation Standard (IES). This is the only social value measurement tool developed to support the government’s Social Value Model – the same model the procurers work from to develop tender requirements.

Using a measurement tool means all your social value reporting is consistent across the business, its accurate and can be audited and updated. It also makes it much easier to match a company’s good work with what procurers are looking for.

The alternative is to collate your own metrics from sources such as the ONS and make sure you continually update them. This is both arduous and risky when so much relies on delivering the numbers you promise in a contract.

The Impact Evaluation Standard is commonplace across large organisations and government departments like HMRC, who recently started using it to ensure consistency across their social value measurement.

4. Make social value part of the business

Tech companies are used to leading the way when it comes to making a difference – firms like Apple and Microsoft are known for being purpose-driven. But you don’t need to be a tech giant to make social impact a driving force in your business.

Tech companies of all sizes can benefit from getting strategic about social value. A clear, well-executed social value strategy is much more likely to create a positive, long-lasting impact than running ad hoc charity initiatives.

Having a clear social value strategy that connects with company purpose also gives businesses a compelling story to tell the world. This is a real asset when it comes to attracting and retaining customers, partners, investors and talent.

With a clear strategy in place, it’s also easier to get employees involved. Tech companies have a huge potential asset in their workforce when it comes to finding more ways to do good with existing resources – a culture of problem-solving and innovation is tailor-made for social value thinking.

Engaging with staff and getting them more involved could be as simple as:

  • Starting up a social value newsletter.
  • Putting together a social value working group so people can feed in from different areas of the business.
  • Using existing communication channels to let employees know about social value goals.

Getting employees engaged and on board with your mission can help with staff wellbeing too – knowing you’re part of something bigger is a huge driver of job satisfaction.

5. Develop your understanding of social value

The term “social value” was brought into procurement in 2012, but its roots go back hundreds of years. Learning about the context of social value makes it easier to view the world through a social value lens– identifying where value can be added at every level of the business. Make sure you know the terminology, the context, the future plans and the legislative landscape which surrounds social value, as then you can more effectively implement it, but also more easily explain it to those around you who need to come on the journey too.

To learn more about why we need social value and how it fits in with ESG requirements and your other sustainability obligations, we have plenty of resources to get you started:

Regardless of how big or small your tech company is, social value requirements shouldn’t be a barrier to winning work in the public sector. There is so much opportunity for tech firms to use their products, services, people and resources to address a world of social challenges. The trick is in delivering, capturing and evidencing this work effectively.

By putting together a clear social value strategy and implementing tools and processes to deliver and capture everything good going on in the business, companies have a great opportunity to not only win contracts – but also make a real difference in the world.