By Sarah Stone, March 2022
Social Value is the public sector’s way of ensuring its suppliers are companies who behave responsibly and sustainably.
The UK Government wants to make sure public money is spent with companies who deliver their products and services without damaging the environment; exploiting or treating their staff badly; or damaging the communities they are operate in. It does this by including social value questions in tenders.
The Social Value Model is the framework which helps public sector buyers choose which questions to ask to help differentiate between suppliers based on how they behave towards society.
The model came into force on 1st Jan 2021 and contains 5 themes, 8 outcomes and 27 different criteria (these are the social value ‘questions’ which procurers can ask). All UK central government procurers should use it. If you’ve ever wondered why you’re seeing lots of the same questions in different tenders, the Social Value Model is why.
We’re a bit geeky about the model. We use it all the time so we’ve produced this handy 'social value model one page' reference guide to help us. If you’d like a copy please email us and we’ll send it to you.
That’s what the social value model is but what does it mean? And what kinds of things are procurers looking to see in your answers?
The key is understanding how your business delivers its products or services. How do you, as a company impact people and planet and what do you do to mitigate any negative effects of your activities?
To score full marks you need to show not only what you will do to achieve the outcomes they’re looking for, but also that you understand the challenges (i.e. what the outcomes mean). This a key step that a lot of suppliers miss. They fill the first half page of their answer talking about what a socially responsible company they are when in fact a much better use would be to show that you understand the issue you’re being asked about.
In order to help you we’re going to explore each of the 8 outcomes. It does very much depend on the context – i.e. what the contract or services they’re procuring for are - so this is just a guide. It’s also quite top level – it drills down much more detail when you get to the 27 different criteria but feel free to get in touch if you want help interpreting anything for a specific contract.
Social value is all about humans. The only way to understand it is by using a bit of imagination and more than a sprinkling of empathy. Put yourself in the mind of the people impacted by the issue and then look at it through the lens of your delivery of the contract.
1. Help the economy, individuals and communities recover from Covid-19
This means what do you/what will you do if you are awarded the contract to help people who have been impacted by covid-19? Your first reaction might be to think ‘that’s got nothing to do with us’. You would be wrong. Covid-19 has impacted EVERYONE. We’ve all been affected in lots of different ways and the key to successful answering of this question is to think about how people who interact with your business might have been affected. Questions you might want to ask yourself include:
Think about things like:
3. Increase supply chain resilience and capacity
This one is all about the supply chain you will use to deliver the contract so you need to know what the supply chain looks like, and who those companies are. You need to show that you understand the market and you also need to talk about how you will open up opportunities and make the supply chain accessible to new suppliers.
They also want to know how you treat your suppliers and just saying ‘we’re Prompt Payment Code signatories’ won't be enough.
They want to see how diverse the supply chain is – you will score points for having variety in there; smaller firms, social enterprises and third sector organisations. Also companies who can help deliver the products and services in new and innovative ways.
A quick point about cyber security: they’ve put it in here (it had to go somewhere) so this is where you’re likely to see questions about cyber security if that’s a key issue for the contract.
4. Effective stewardship of the environment
5. Reduce disability employment gap
The UK Government’s goal is to see one million more disabled people in work between 2017 and 2027, and it has committed to reducing the gap between the employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people (known as the disability employment gap).
According to the latest figures 1 in 5 of the UK population is classed as disabled and the disabled employment rate was 52.7%, compared to 81.0% for non-disabled people.
Disabled workers move out of work at nearly twice the rate (8.8%) of non-disabled workers (4.9%) and workless disabled people move into work at nearly one-third of the rate (11.0%) of workless non-disabled people (26.9%)
The disability employment gap is wider for disabled men; older (aged 50 to 64) disabled people; disabled people with no qualifications; disabled people of White ethnicity; and disabled people living in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, North West, and North East.
The Government wants to know what you will do to help address that. It’s not just about being disability confident either: you need to show how that impacts the contract. Things to ask yourself include:
Think about how you ensure about equality of opportunity and ensuring everybody has the same chance to not only get a job at your company, but also to progress. This is where you talk about diversity and inclusion; fair pay, and how you help people in your workforce progress, especially those who come from the most disadvantaged or minority groups. It’s also about whether you only recruit graduates, put salaries on your job adverts and how and were you advertise your roles (hint: LinkedIn won’t cut it).
7. Improve health & wellbeing
This one is about what you do to look after your staff and customers. If you want to know more about how to do that we've written an article to help you.
The State knows there is a clear link between work and public health and so it doesn’t want to spend money with companies who don’t look after their staff. The Government defines ‘Good work’ as “having a safe and secure job with good working hours and conditions, supportive management and opportunities for training and development.” So this is where you need to think about how you will look after the contract workforce. What will you do to create a positive organisational culture and make staff feel physically and psychologically safe?
You won’t see this one asked in all tenders but it is definitely likely to be important in contracts where staff are likely to be low paid and experience stress and difficult working conditions in order to deliver the services: think call centres, care services and other similar contracts.
Hint: Employee Assistance Programmes and Wellbeing Champions aren’t going to differentiate you. What will; is showing that you really care about your staff and put their needs front and centre of your business.
What they are asking here is:
This is where school talks, volunteering and any other kind of community engagement comes in. It's also about design of the products or services and how you involve key stakeholders in that.
It’s highly unlikely you’re going to be asked to deliver all these outcomes at the same time. It's about picking and choosing the ones most appropriate to your business and focusing on those. We hope this overview has been useful. If you’d like help thinking about shaping an individual bid please get in touch.
How we can help
Smaller companies might not have as many policies and wellbeing initiatives as larger companies do, but they often find it easier to answer social value questions because they have more visibility over how their organisations operate. For large companies, with thousands of employees it’s a lot more difficult to join the dots. Finding the right people to answer all these questions, having conversations with them and then working out what systems and processes to put in place to apply them to a particular contract, is what we specialise in at Samtaler.
We call it ‘making companies work better’ and it’s why we LOVE Social Value. Happier staff and customers; reduced costs; improved retention; less mistakes. It’s like watching magic happen. and it's why making money and doing the right thing aren’t mutually exclusive.
If you would like us to put the pieces together and help you can answer social value tender questions on wellbeing or any theme email firstname.lastname@example.org.