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Unlocking the potential of social value. By Sunil Shah from BIFM's Sustainability Special Interest Group

03-05-17, 17:08

If the 1990s and 2000s saw the rise of environmental management, with engagement from organisations to understand their impacts on the planet, this decade has been defined by social progress.

The UK has been at the forefront, with the Minimum Wage enshrined in law supported by higher Living Wages in many regional centres to account for the higher costs of living. There has also been a greater focus on supply chains and in particular understanding who is employed.

Regulation such as the Modern Slavery Act places a particular burden on FM, which is identified as a high risk sector with its use of transient labour for cleaning, security, catering and other related operations.

Whilst the placement of the regulation is internal within FM, there has also been a move to better understand the community benefits that organisations provide and their place in local society. For FM, this is a critical piece - we employ some of the lowest paid staff members within an organisation, many of whom will live within the local community.

The Social Value Act came about in 2013, very much focussed upon the public sector to maximise value from public expenditure, but now increasingly being adopted in the private sector as well.

According to Chris White MP: "As a sector, facilities management represents an array of employees with different skill sets. With a coordinated approach to the creation of Social Value, the FM sector can lead by example."

There is still confusion, where social value is often confused with mainstream CSR, with a focus on processes rather than measurable benefits for the local community. There is also no common language to describe Social Value. The result is that social value creation is rarely tracked effectively and requirements remain vague.

Examples of social value being created by the FM sector exist, although are rarely communicated as such:

> Babcock, BAM, Kier, Skanska and Mace have joined the '5% Club', aiming for apprentices, graduates, and sponsored students to comprise 5% of their UK workforce within the next 5 years

> Engie is a founding member of Our Parklife Community Interest Company (CIC), a social enterprise on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which employs 50 previously unemployed people and has a target for offering jobs to local people

> ISS is part of the 'Movement to Work' collaborative employer scheme that targets vocational training and work experience to combat youth unemployment

> VINCI are working with the Peabody Trust to deliver reading programmes for the under-5s

> Skanska FS employees are encouraged to serve as STEM (Science Technology Engineering Maths) ambassadors in schools and colleges, in partnership with STEMNET and Inspiring the Future

For each of these areas, defining the social value is about understanding how the community and individuals have benefitted, rather than the organisation. It is not about asking the cost of senior managers to paint community centres, but instead whether the community wanted the building painted in the first instance.

To do this, there are two key steps:

1. Clear measurement criteria and a common language are needed to enable communication on social value

2. Stakeholder needs should be considered on a more local level, to provide specific context for identifying social value creation opportunities

The BIFM Sustainability SIG will be investigating this area further with the hope of providing some practical support for the sector. To be involved, please contact is by visiting our web page.

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