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Social value – how to make it really matter and move beyond a tick box exercise


This week sees the Social Value Portal host their two day conference. Amanda Scott, our Talent, Learning and D&I Director explains why she believes Social Value has to be more than a tick box exercise, and why facilitating social mobility benefits everyone.

When companies make bold pledges or commitments there is often cynicism as to whether they deliver tangible results. In recent months “green washing” has been front and centre of the net zero debate. So how do you make sure that social value, is more than just a tick box exercise and really makes a difference?

For us social value is simple – it’s about the contribution we make in the local communities in which we work. This covers everything from employment – providing not only jobs but career opportunities, training and progression; supporting local community initiatives through charity partnerships and fundraising; using our scale to help smaller businesses through our supply chain; working to improve health and wellbeing and of course delivering environmentally sustainable services that are aligned with achieving net zero by 2030.

As a large employer of over 45,000 employees, that operates at over 6000 sites across the country, we know our footprint alone puts us in a unique position to be able to make a difference to people’s lives, whether that’s who we employ, or the communities our teams are working in. We were staggered to learn that due to the large numbers of our people working close to where they live, that through employment alone the Social Value Portal measured our social value at over £590m. A significant number – but what does it really mean?

Following the launch of “our Social Promise” – which aims to address the barriers and inequalities for under-represented groups and positively impact 1 million lives by 2030. We are actively working to identify and remove barriers people may face to progression – be that the circumstances in which they grew up, lack of formal educational qualifications or life challenges such as homelessness. We know that access to training and development is key to improving employment and earning potential.  With over 600 colleagues studying for an apprenticeship this year, and over 1000 colleagues working on our internal development programme - Compass Career Pathways – and several thousand colleagues securing promotions this year, we are well on the way to delivering our goal.

One of the most rewarding parts of our social value activity has been providing employment opportunities for those who traditionally struggle to secure jobs. Through a number of partnerships, with organisations including Springboard, West Lea, Care Leavers Covenant and Ambitious about Autism we have been able to support people who require additional support to get them into employment.

Through Our Social Promise we have published a clear roadmap with specific milestones to drive transparency and accountability.  Underpinning our Promise is the goal to be representative of the population from a gender, ethnicity and socio-economic perspective, not only at our frontline but at every level of management – where we have more to do.  In order to tackle social mobility head on, we need to know more about our workforce, and we have just issued our first socio-economic survey, to provide a baseline to work from.

We are fully committed to making a difference to people’s lives – it’s good for individuals, communities and the economy as a whole. There is no blueprint to follow, and we know that we will meet challenges on the way. But we believe by reporting and sharing our experiences, it will provide useful insights to many other organisations and together we can work to deliver more social value which supports a fairer and more equal society.

Amanda Scott - Talent, Learning and D&I Director