Adding Social Value – an opportunity for small businesses and community organisations.
One of my friends is a senior procurement officer with a local council. I asked her recently how her department were implementing the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 in their contracts. I was disappointed, but really not surprised, when she said she hadn’t heard of the Act.
Chapter 3 of the Act became law on 8th March 2012. It is “An Act to require public authorities to have regards to economic, social and environmental well-being in connection with public services contracts; and for connected purposes.”
The Act states that an authority must consider-
- How what is proposed to be procured might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the relevant area, and
- How, in conducting the process of procurement, it might act with a view to securing that improvement.
This Act was introduced by Chris White MP as a Private Members Bill on 30th June 2010 and had cross party support. The original intention was to create an obligation on authorities to support social enterprises but the term was removed from the Act as there is no clear definition as to what constitutes a social enterprise. I was personally pleased to see this amendment. There are many great social enterprises providing superb services to the community; but there are also many excellent small businesses that equally provide social value to the communities in which they work.
The Act is in complete alignment with the Best Value Statutory Guidance paper issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government in September 2011. This also states that councils should consider overall value – including social value – when considering service provision. It adds “so it plays to the long-term strengths of voluntary and community groups and small businesses. “ adding that “local councils have been freed from excessive and prescriptive guidance and duties in return for a “social responsibility” deal which asks that they continue to give support to local voluntary and community groups and small businesses.”
This is all excellent news for any organisation that is genuinely working to strong social and environmental principles. But make no mistake; it is still essential for those organisations, even charities and community groups, to demonstrate that they do indeed operate efficiently and that they do meet a wide range of social and environmental expectations. The specific service the organisation provides, however good or needed, must be backed up by robust and ethical operating systems across the whole of the business.
Attaining The Responsible Business Standard is an ideal route therefore for small businesses, social enterprises and charities alike. The Standard covers legislation and best practice in the areas of the workplace; environment; community; marketplace; ethics, values and transparency; and also includes business continuity and processes. Achieving The Standard will provide that robust evidence awarding bodies need to meet the economic, social and environmental criteria.
And if the authority is not aware of the Act or the Best Value Statutory Guidance? Then quite simply we must quote the Act to them and ensure they act in accordance with it!