The future of work includes sustainability and social value but is facing challenges as professionals highlight – from budget constraints to a lack of internal interest and support. The commercial viability of private sector companies hinges on understanding and prioritising social value, yet recent findings indicate a significant lag in boardroom interest, adequate budget allocation, and training in these crucial sectors.
The latest industry research underscores the growing importance of social value in the success of private sector organisations across diverse industries such as IT, construction, facilities management, healthcare, defence, education, legal, and consultancy. However, not all boardrooms are recognising its significance, often perceiving it as peripheral. This outlook is in stark contrast to the UK government’s stance, which mandates that all tenders must allocate a minimum of 10% of their scores to social value. This affects a broad spectrum of businesses vying for a slice of the annual £380 billion government expenditure.
Rise of Social Value Roles and Challenges Encountered
As roles centred around social value and sustainability gain traction in the private sector, professionals occupying these positions encounter numerous challenges. From the absence of formal training to grappling with diverse social value frameworks and reporting systems, the journey is far from smooth. The prevailing ‘tick-box’ attitude towards social value management has also been spotlighted, prompting a deeper examination of ethics and operational management in this burgeoning sector.
In an effort to delve deeper into these concerns, the UK’s foremost social value management company, whatimpact.com, undertook comprehensive research culminating in a white paper titled ‘Social Value Manager 1.0’. This research engaged over 150 organisations and professionals specialising in social value to gain insights into the evolving role of social value managers in reshaping private sector interactions with communities.
The CEO of whatimpact, Tiia Sammallahti, reflecting on the research, conveyed a pressing message: “It is both astonishing and sad that not a single social value or sustainability professional we interviewed had access to a dedicated budget for crucial resources. They are left to seek funds and support from other departments to uphold their sustainability obligations. Companies that fail to recognise the centrality of social value to their success risk becoming obsolete.”
Navigating the Rapidly Evolving Social Value Landscape
The research paints a picture of a field still in its infancy but evolving at a rapid pace. Professionals in this sector are called upon to adopt a proactive approach, staying abreast of a range of components: from technology and legislation to certifications, accreditations, and, fundamentally, methods to effect genuine change via social value initiatives.
A significant takeaway from the research is the pivotal role technology plays in enabling professionals to achieve their objectives in the social value domain. Amidst a deluge of measurement and reporting tools, the onus is on choosing the right instruments. The emphasis should shift from merely showcasing impressive figures to genuinely illustrating a proven impact. This sentiment is echoed by Michael McLoughlin, head of social value at HACT, a whatimpact partner organisation. He emphasised, “We must ensure that our calculation of social value mirrors tangible outcomes and benefits for individuals and communities.”
The landscape of the future of work in the social value and sustainability sectors is undeniably complex. However, with increased awareness, technological innovation, and a shift in focus towards genuine impact, there’s hope for a more integrated and impactful future.
Download the “Social Value Manager” white paper free here.