How do you add social value to your construction projects?

24 October 2014

8 ideas for adding social value to your project and one no-fuss quick win.


Procurement processes are more frequently requiring contractors to illustrate where they can bring added value to their tender package. Gone are the days when contracts were awarded purely on cost; those tendering for contracts (of varying values) are now scored on a variety of topics including health and safety, working methodologies and social value.

Health and safety and other more practical elements are often straightforward for contractors to answer, but how to add social value?

This is often the tricky part, but it’s becoming more and more important.  Since the Social Value Act was introduced in 2013, public sector organisations now have to consider what social, economic and environmental value could be added to a project.  This includes local authorities, housing associations and NHS organisations – who are often the source of some of the bigger contracts put out to tender.  But the private sector is no different, with many large companies now developing policies for sustainable procurement, Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability.

So, how can you create added social value?

Well, there are a variety of different ways that social value can be increased, depending on the size of the contract and scope of the works. Taking a relatively small landscaping contract as an example, one straightforward solution could be to get the community involved.  You could contact the local council, locate the nearest community group or parish council (who often relish the opportunity to get their hands dirty) and get them involved in some planting.  All the contractor needs to do is provide the plants and a few extra pairs of gloves and ensure the Risk Assessment covers the exercise.  Good council officers will often be supportive of such events and lend their advice and support.  Involvement from local residents also leads to community buy-in which has been shown to reduce incidents of graffiti, vandalism and misuse of new landscapes.  At Newground, we’ve seen firsthand the difference this can make, and there are plenty of case studies on the internet to back this up.

Other ways of adding social value.

Here’s some other ways to add value that we’ve used in the past:  

  1. Hire construction apprentices.
  2. Use recycled or environmentally friendly raw materials and products.
  3. Have a plan to minimise the amount of energy and water used or waste produced. 
  4. Use local suppliers. 
  5. Carry out community consultation to ensure the project meets local needs.
  6. Involve local people in the delivery of the project. 
  7. Increase local biodiversity with planting and wildlife areas.
  8. Organise a community event to celebrate the project completion.

Adding social value in larger projects – one no-fuss quick win.

For large contracts (particularly within the construction sector where Principal Contractors are submitting the overall bid), trying to pull together a package of added value is more complex, more time consuming and often lacks substance. This is where a social enterprise can be of huge help.

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Social enterprises are already geared up to tick many ‘added value’ boxes. This is because of what they do with their profits.  Any surplus they make is used to fund their social mission and is often reinvested in the local communities in which they operate.  At Newground, we distribute our profits in the form of community grants to tackle issues such as youth engagement, unemployment, supporting vulnerable people or smaller scale community regeneration projects.

So just by building a social enterprise into their delivery team, a contractor can immediately generate social value.

But it doesn’t stop there.  A good social enterprise will be delivering services to high levels of quality and professionalism, but they’ll also be adding additional social and/or environmental outcomes. These may include training or work experience opportunities for unemployed people, employing apprentices or engaging with local schools and community groups.  They may also highlight sustainability improvements or ways in which projects can bring broader environmental benefits.

So, the answer to adding social value may not be as difficult as it first appears. It could be as simple as engaging with a good social enterprise, involving them in your tender submission and getting them to tailor a project delivery package that meets both your practical and social requirements.

To find a social enterprise supplier you can head to Social Enterprise UK, which has got some great resources to help organisations buy social, including their online directory of social enterprises.  


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