Social value job roles are at the heart of commercial success for companies

Social value as an umbrella concept for social, environmental, and economic value is currently one of the biggest forces changing the private sector. The fast-escalating climate crisis and wide range of poverty and inequality-related challenges are touching us all on a global level. In the quest to tackle these challenges, the public sector has put in place voluntary and mandatory policies to change the course of our future through both legislation and purchasing power. Other private sector stakeholders, like investors, consumers, employees, and governing industry bodies are also demanding more sustainable business practices and transparency around them. These requirements both force and allow companies to play a key role in harnessing economic, human, and knowledge resources to change the course of sustainability challenges in our society. 


Positive change requires companies to develop new skills and knowledge, integrating social value requirements into business operations strategically. This has led to a dramatic increase in sustainability and social value-related job roles within the private sector. We at work closely with these social value professionals each week. Thus, we put together a research project that engaged with 150 professionals and organisations. There was a quest to deliver a white paper about these new jobs roles, their challenges and desires. Please download the full white paper HERE


Key findings in our research were partly obvious, but also surprising. Social value being relatively new demands proactive attitudes from professionals, given its rapidly evolving nature. This applies to measuring, reporting, technology, frameworks, legislation, accreditations, certifications, and methods for creating change across various aspects. Unfortunately, they’re often seen as doing ‘fluffy stuff’, lacking adequate mandate or budget to perform their roles effectively. All of us working in the ‘social value’ industry at large know that this must change.

whatimpact wishes to pinpoint four action points for the social value industry to tackle. These steps are crucial in order harness the resources and talents within the companies for the benefit of our society: 

Recognition & respect for social value professionals

The dedicated professionals in these fields deserve to have a say in their specific industries. They deserve to be recognised as a new group of professionals in the talent acquisition market. They need to have access to boardrooms, where they have an influence over business strategy decisions related to social value. 

Board-level commitments & budgets

57% of the interviewees stated lack of mandate, budget and board room commitment being the biggest obstacle in their work. As companies hire them for better social and environmental value, they expect them to work without authority and resources. This is paradoxical. Company leadership must understand the huge business risk to mitigate social value delivery, ESG, and mandatory sustainability reporting standards. 

Wild market of frameworks & standards 

 The so-called ‘wild’ nature of the social value market means things are evolving rapidly. There are new frameworks, standards, and tools are constantly popping up. There is no simple answer to define who should be in charge of defining and auditing local, national, and international frameworks and reporting requirements within. However, one thing should be kept at the centre of things – Social Value Is About ‘Doing’! No framework, planning, or measurement method, nor tool built to manage it should encourage a ‘tick the box’ mentality. 

Digital tools & internal manpower for coordination

Social value professionals are hugely under-equipped when it comes to management tools and resources, in comparison to other organisation departments eg. finance, HR, marketing and sales. Ultimately, it is important that any digital tool supporting social value management should not override innovation, efficiency, and flexible delivery of social value. The balance of manpower and tools is not only the matter of budget, it is also about making sure the internal investment in coordination and administration are not overriding the real value provided on the ground. 


For more content on social value planning, delivery and reporting, access our social value resource centre here.

Check out a highlight video from our launch event here.

You can also sign up for our FREE membership to get access to even more content and our Social Value Planning Tool BASIC to start your journey towards a more sustainable and successful business. 

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