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, as well as a wide range of poverty and inequality related challenges are touching us all on a global and national 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 their 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.
This positive change has created a need for new kinds of knowledge and skills in companies to be able to innovatively create new strategies and to embed social value requirements at the centre of business operations. This has lead to dramatic increase in sustainability and social value related job roles within the private sector. We at whatimpact.com work closely with these social value professionals each week, and find them without a exception dedicated and passionate for societal change. Thus, we put together a research project what engaged with 150 professionals and organisations, with 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. As social value is still a relatively ‘new topic’, it requires an extremely proactive mentality from these professionals due to the fast-evolving nature of the social value world. This applies across various aspects: measuring, reporting, technology, frameworks, legislation and policies, accreditations, certifications – and of course methods to create change. Yet, unfortunately it seems that they are still often considered to be doing ‘the fluffy stuff’, as only rarely do they have enough mandate or a budget to do their jobs properly. 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 and 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 strategy and business 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. This is paradoxical, as companies hire them for better social and environmental value, but expect them to work without authority and resources. Boards and company leadership must understand the huge business risk to mitigate when it comes to 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; 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, but 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 underequipped 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.