Can social value change the landscape of UK construction?

Social value Ellis Fox Blog

In a move that has been celebrated by many, the UK government recently announced a new approach to public procurement for construction and infrastructure. The social value model will be used to assess tender applications with the view that it’ll create opportunities for many smaller players in the supply chain to benefit. But what is really interesting about the social value model is the shift in thinking that it proposes.

Community focus

2020 has been a tough year for everyone and a key element of the social value model is to ensure that new projects support the economic and social recovery of communities. Especially communities that have been hardest hit by the effects of the pandemic. The idea is to invest in small business to boost the supply chain by creating jobs and contract opportunities. It is hoped that this focus will help drive equal opportunity and community integration. Despite economic contractions there is still a need for skills, especially if construction and infrastructure is to play such a key role in rebuilding the economy.

Environmental focus

A second positive that the social value model focuses on is environmental factors. We all know about the climate crisis, yet translating that into street level action has been difficult. Old habits are just too firmly entrenched. However, by a creating a condition for waste reduction in construction, sites will need to include effective waste management measures and reconsider materials and the supply chain. The need to understand environmental factors may create opportunities for people with specific knowledge and expertise to add value to the construction process.

Too good to be true?

The social value model may appear to be quite idealistic, but at least it is a starting point to changing the values of the construction industry. The industry has a poor scorecard for health and safety and employee wellbeing, and an even worse track record when it comes to construction waste and emissions. Adding these important elements to tender scorecards is a way to drive change within the industry. Construction needs to become more efficient and it has a vital role to play in reducing emissions and waste. While infrastructure is important, we shouldn’t lose sight of who it’s being built for and why it’s needed. Social value isn’t a nice to have, rather it should be a core value that defines operations.