Building true value

Lancashires construction sector is no stranger to social responsibility. For many years companies have had to consider skills development within contract delivery.

Most organisations have some form of corporate responsibility programme, even if it is informal, says social value expert Claire Chapman.

However, on New Years Day last year, social value became something specific, measurable and of high relevance for any organisation working within government supply chain, she explains.

Claire is managing director of Lancaster based The Shared Value Business. It helps organisations understand and apply social value. She says: Tenders will now include a social value question carrying at least 10 per cent of total evaluation weighting.

As far as central government is concerned, social value is now about clear, deliverable commitments which can be measured and reported against.

This means that companies looking to deliver publicly funded construction projects need to create a Social Value Action Plan. And this isn’t just for the big companies. A key element of social value is inclusion of supply chain, so SMEs will start to see this filtering down.

Claire adds: Fundamentally, social value needs to be ‘relevant and proportionate’ to your contract type and value - and this means that any business of any size can deliver high quality social value.

Commissioners are usually looking for actions which will benefit communities local to your development and are likely to be focusing on employment, skills and supply chain engagement.

Social value is more about the actions you embed within your working practices, and less about the money you give away.

Jeremy Hartley, Eric Wright Group managing director, says delivering lasting social value is at the heart of the Preston based construction, development and property companys principals.

He says: If businesses can develop their thinking and recognise what they are potentially capable of in the long-term, they can create the wider impact that is needed by many of our communities, not least now as we face the additional challenges left as a legacy of the pandemic.

A business that has strong governance, puts sustainability and responsibility first, and which has the right culture and leadership can be a really powerful catalyst for supporting both economic and social recovery. 

He adds: Our teams start a project by asking,Do we understand the long-term needs of the community, the vision of the local stakeholders and are we delivering the greatest potential? What can our role be in supporting the communities that live and work in the locality around our project?’

For me, the ‘what’ is about improving communities and lives through provision of more than just a building, it’s about the creation of sustainable or affordable homes, community spaces and improved infrastructure, a change that brings in further investment, retains or draws in skills and creates a legacy from which future generations will benefit.

We also recognise the need to reduce our impact on the environment before, during and after a project or development and we’re working hard with our supply chain to do that.

The ‘how’ is equally important.  There is a real opportunity to impact social value around core activities such as engagement with local schools and community groups, creating jobs and careers in the industry, delivering apprenticeship programmes and recognising the wider community benefits from drawing hard-to-reach people into employment. 

As Lancashire Business View reported last summer, embedding ‘social value’ into capital projects and housing schemes across Lancashire’s Growth and City Deal programmes is having a major impact.

Figures at that time revealed that maximising social value had unlocked £31.1m of extra benefits for Lancashire's communities.

Through a combination of funding agreements, contractual clauses and planning conditions, the aim is to ensure that a significant part of public sector investment is retained within the county’s economy.

The approach looks to maximise the economic benefits of capital programmes for local people, communities and business.

Contractors are also encouraged to sign up to the Lancashire Skills Pledge to recognise their contribution in inspiring, recruiting and developing people in the county.

Construction company Wilmott Dixon and developer L&Q/Trafford Housing Trust have been working to develop an ambitious social value programme for the D'Urton Grange housing scheme it is delivering in north Preston.

Wilmott Dixon has signed the skills pledge and is currently working with a range of local partners, including colleges, schools and community organisations to deliver a focused local social value offering.

Beth Modder, social value manager at Wilmott Dixon, says the business looks to concentrate on long-term actions that will benefit the communities it is working in. She says: Over time we have learned that we need these projects to have a long-term impact.

In Preston it has set up a group made up of a range of local organisations, to get their input on the initiatives that will have the most impact in the community. Its role is also to monitor and ensure the business delivers on them.

As a result, Wilmott Dixon is working with disengaged young boys in one Preston high school. Beth says: We are trying to bridge that gap between school and employment. In a separate project with another local school, it is introducing girls from ethnic backgrounds to the construction industry and the opportunities it can offer.

The company has also taken up the governments Kickstart scheme to create job opportunities for young people in the area.

Beth says: Social value is about making a real difference in the community. We are helping ourselves as well as the community. Our aim is to promote our industry to a much wider and more diverse group of people.

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