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Advancing social value through collaboration
Sarah Ottaway, Chair, ESA Social Value Working Group and Sustainability and Social Value Lead, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, Aug 2, 2022
ESA members are present in virtually every community up and down the UK, making us ideally placed to maximise the benefits of our activities for the good of our economy, our environment and society, increasingly referred to as social value.
ESA members are present in virtually every community up and down the UK, providing essential services to households and businesses. This unique combination of a national presence delivering local solutions tailored to the needs of individual areas and communities, makes us ideally placed to maximise the benefits of our activities for the good of our economy, our environment and society, increasingly referred to as social value.
A growing factor in public procurement, social value is also ever more relevant to our post-Brexit, post-Covid world of rising living costs and low unemployment. As we strive to achieve net zero, to level up, to create a circular economy and to attract and retain talent, it’s not just the services we provide that are important but also how we deliver those services and the impacts they have on local communities and wider society. All stakeholders from the board to the shop floor, customers, suppliers and local communities, have an interest in ensuring we maximise the benefits created by our activities.
In this context, in September 2021 the ESA established a social value working group, born out of members’ shared desire to create maximum benefit from our services for people and planet. When used effectively, social value can help us to understand how best to invest our time and resources to optimise the positive impacts of our activities to benefit the area we are working in and wider society.
ESA members’ activities have long created benefits for local communities and one of the working group’s founding aims was to promote a more consistent approach to social value across the membership in order to help us do even more for our local areas.
Social value as a discipline has evolved significantly over the last decade and our understanding of how to measure our impacts and create value continues to develop. Another of the group’s founding aims was therefore to create a forum to harness and share our collective knowledge, and to promote best practice amongst the ESA membership, helping all members keep up with developments in this space.
One of the working group’s first actions was to agree a mission statement to articulate what social value means:
“ESA members define social value as the social, environmental, and economic outcomes from our activities, and seek to maximise the benefits these bring to individuals, communities, and society. "
"We will do this by understanding the social value we create over time and using this to inform our decision making, in order to continually improve the impact we have both locally and nationally.”
Building on this, the group created a charter to enable all ESA members to progress their social value ambitions in a unified way. Structured around three core themes: being a desirable sector to work in; fighting climate change and protecting our natural environment; and being a good neighbour – it contains guiding principles supported by clear actions to drive progress, through both procurement and service delivery.
The group is currently looking at measurement and will continue to work with the ESA membership to develop social value practice.
As social value lead for SUEZ, I have seen first-hand the benefits that come from putting social value at the heart of our strategic thinking and day-to-day operations; through actions large and small we are making a difference every day. As chair of the ESA social value working group I’m excited by the potential to do even more by coming together on our social value journeys to share our knowledge, expertise and experience, and drive progress across the sector.
*This article was first published in the most recent edition of the CIWM Circular magazine and has been reproduced with kind permission.