Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 12:59
Social value – an approach for our times

By

Ray Georgeson

The term ‘social value’ is rising up the policy agenda at the minute, thanks certainly in part to the forthcoming Public Services (Social Value) Act which from January 2013 requires public bodies (including local councils and the NHS) to consider social value in the procurement of public services.  In Scotland similar measures may come forward through the Procurement Reform Bill currently being consulted upon by the Scottish Government.

While it is early days, it could have a real impact on the waste and resources sector, and I had the opportunity to explore this in a research report for SITA UK launched in October.  Creating Social Value explores the potential for the third sector in waste and resources to work in partnership with contractors and deliver greater social value.  This can come in many ways, but is primarily focused on the training and employment opportunities for those disadvantaged in the employment market through a range of prevention, reuse, repair and recycling projects – work that the third sector has a great track record in delivering.

Partnership will be the key, often with the private sector – and a good example has been set by SITA UK in signing a collaboration agreement with REalliance CIC (of which I am a non-executive director) to actively look for partnership opportunities in bidding for local authority resources collection contracts where social value has been recognised by the council.  Partnerships will be important, but this will work better with a forward thinking approach from local authorities to new ways of delivering services, and understanding properly how additional social value can be generated locally through driving waste up the hierarchy.  It will also need urgent work from Government to guide councils on how to measure social value, and wide stakeholder agreement on those metrics in order to give this valuable Act of Parliament a fighting chance of success.

While much of this may not be new, there is a pressing need as well as a great opportunity.  The scourge of youth unemployment, and the deeper structural issue in society of underemployment have been well documented by my colleague Colin Crooks in his excellent recent book How to make a million jobs – a Charter for social enterprise.  He proposes some interesting interventionist measures such as Social Enterprise Zones and even a Redundancy Levy (in a similar model to the old Landfill Tax Credits Scheme) to fund training and employment projects and investments in social enterprises.  While some of this may never darken the door of HM Treasury, it should – as even Michael Heseltine’s recent report for Government indicates areas where intelligent economic intervention by Government can be effective and is needed.

Let’s hope that the mood is changing.  Goodness knows we have banged on about it for enough years, but the opportunity to link the environmental benefits from waste prevention, reuse, repair and recycling to the social benefits from reduced unemployment, improved health outcomes, reduced crime and disorder and many other social benefits that come from valued employment is now stronger than ever.  The pressures of recession make that link even more relevant, and intelligent tying together of waste policy and social policy to boost the green economy could make the social value approach the approach for our times.

Creating Social Value – the potential for the waste and resources management industry was written by RGR for SITA UK and is available at  http://www.sita.co.uk/downloads/CreatingSocialValue-1210-web.pdf

How to make a million jobs  - a Charter for social enterprise by Colin Crooks is available from http://www.treeshepherd.org.uk/contact-colin-crooks-tree-shepherd/