The Covid-19 pandemic brought with it a myriad of changes to our lives and society, from the way we shop to how we travel. A more unexpected change, however, is the implementation of much more concrete requirements for company social responsibility via the Social Value Act Enhancement.
Arnab Dutt explains how the pandemic caused a real shift in what we expect from companies, and how this became the catalyst for all sorts of positive changes in regards to social value requirements.
Arnab Dutt is an expert on all things social value: he is an entrepreneur, a Chair of the SME panel working group on the Social Value Act in the Cabinet Office and a Chair of the Social Value Policy Unit as part of the Federation of Small Businesses. On our podcast Impact on the Ground, Arnab offered some valuable insights into how the Social Value Act as we know it today came into being.
The beginnings of the Social Value Act
The Social Value Act was first launched in 2012, however it was very different from the comprehensive mandate we have today. In 2012, social value and CSR were considered a ‘nice to have’ part of a company, however not one that should necessarily be at the heart of the businesses.
The Social Value Act encouraged UK government officials who were buying services to favour organisations that could prove that they deliver meaningful social value to the environment or community outside of their contracts. However, as this was not mandated and comprehensive impact reports were not asked for, very little change was achieved overall.
Nonetheless, it must be noted that many local governments foresaw the impact that the Social Value Act could have on their communities, with companies being suddenly involved in supporting education, community and the local environment.
They began to apply the Social Value Act themselves and thus were able to see the impact the Act had on their communities. It was these local governments who were used as examples of best practise when the enhancements to the Social Value Act were brought in.
How Covid-19 showed the need for change
2020 exposed the inequality of our society and, crucially, the importance of community for our collectival survival. Whether it was food banks providing vital support to families who had suddenly lost their jobs or small grocery shops delivering to the elderly, it became clear that we can no longer ignore the importance of social value.
It was then when the central government brought in the Social Value Act Enhancement (Procurement Policy Note 06/20), which made it compulsory for companies bidding for public contracts to demonstrate and report on their social impact for each individual contract.
This brought about real behavioural change – companies could no longer get away with ‘tinkering on the edges’ but were forced to put social value at the heart of their organisations in order to win business.
Arnab Dutt believes that this is just the start of a movement towards a society where social value is embedded throughout all government and company practices.
Listen to the podcast here to learn more about what this might look like.