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Maximising Social Impact: A Comprehensive Guide to the National TOMS

Written by Thornton And Lowe


Oct 19, 2023

In a world increasingly focused on social responsibility and sustainable practices, the National Themes, Outcomes and Measures (TOMS) has emerged as a pivotal framework to reshape public procurement.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into what the National TOMS entails, its significance in public procurement, common commitments across various industries, how to ensure compliance, and valuable tips for boosting social value.

What is the National Themes Outcomes and Measures (TOMS) Framework?

The National TOMS is increasingly being formalised, particularly by Councils, by using the Social Value Portal. The Social Value Portal publish, annually, a set of measures which authorities choose commitments from to implement over contract lifetimes.

These are publicly accessible and currently include 147 measures split across 28 outcomes and in turn, categorised against 5 themes. This comprehensive system can be broken down into three core components: Themes, Outcomes, and Measures.

The awarding body may use a social value calculator, via a spreadsheet, to calculate your bid’s value in monetary terms through cost evaluating the work to be done and respective hours to be spent on said work, for example Pagabo.

The number of social value questions you could be asked when tendering is practically unlimited. There is no set wording to be used and contracting authorities can ask whatever they feel is important to them and appropriate to the work or service being provided.

The questions will however, be split between the main three sections: Social, Economic and Environmental. Here are some examples of questions that you may need to answer in your tender documents.

Themes: A framework for social progress

Themes serve as the bedrock of the National TOMS and cover a spectrum of critical elements according to social value and impact. From fostering fair employment practices to championing environmental sustainability, the National TOMS identifies thematic areas that require attention and action.

The themes act as a structured roadmap for organisations, allowing them to chart their course toward achieving social progress. By highlighting these thematic areas, the National TOMS compels organisations to consider the broader implications of their procurement decisions. In essence, themes create a structured approach that is integral to realising the overarching goal of public procurement – to foster a more equitable, sustainable, and socially responsible society.

Outcomes: The desired impact

Within the National TOMS, the "Outcomes" component takes centre stage, setting out the desired impact of procurement decisions. It provides a clear path for organisations to outline the specific changes and improvements they intend to effect through their procurement processes.

The emphasis on creating social value is a hallmark of this component. It underscores that procurement decisions should not merely be transactional but should also focus on generating positive, meaningful outcomes for society. By specifying the intended results and effects of procurement activities, the National TOMS aligns public sector organisations with a broader purpose of social betterment.

Measures: Assessing and enhancing impact

To make a tangible difference, measuring and evaluating the impact of procurement decisions is crucial. The "Measures" component of the National TOMS is dedicated to this critical task. It involves the systematic collection, analysis, and reporting of data to assess the actual social impact stemming from procurement choices.

These measures serve as the compass guiding organisations to enhance their social value over time. By quantifying and scrutinising the outcomes of their procurement decisions, organisations can not only track their progress but also make informed decisions for continual improvement. The "Measures" component, therefore, forms an indispensable part of the National TOMS, ensuring that the system remains a dynamic force for positive social change.

The significance of the National TOMS in public procurement

Public procurement is more than a simple transaction; it holds the potential to shape societies and influence the environment.

Catalysing social value

At its core, the National TOMS serves as a catalyst for fostering social value within public procurement. It acts as a guiding framework, encouraging organisations to integrate ethical and sustainable practices into their procurement processes. In doing so, the National TOMS empowers organisations to go beyond mere transactional exchanges and consider the broader implications of their actions. This shift towards responsible procurement yields numerous benefits, not only for the organisations involved but also for society at large.

One of the most compelling aspects of the National TOMS is its emphasis on ethical and sustainable practices. By urging organisations to prioritise fair employment practices, environmental sustainability, and other critical social values, it paves the way for stronger, more resilient communities.

Ethical procurement practices, for example, lead to fair wages and improved working conditions, directly benefiting workers and their families. Sustainable procurement decisions help protect the environment, reducing the carbon footprint and preserving precious resources for future generations.

Real-world impact

Across the country, the National TOMS has made a substantial impact on public procurement practices. Regions have witnessed tangible changes in their procurement processes, translating into real, measurable results. The structured approach offered by the National TOMS has proven to be highly effective in achieving these outcomes.

Reductions in waste represent one significant achievement. By incorporating the principles of the National TOMS, organisations have minimised waste generation in their procurement processes, contributing to a cleaner and more sustainable environment. This reduction is not only an environmental win but also a financial benefit, as it often leads to cost savings.

Improvements in labour practices represent another positive outcome.

Organisations adhering to the National TOMS have fostered fairer employment conditions, raising wages, improving working environments, and enhancing the well-being of employees. This commitment to ethical labour practices is not only a moral obligation but also an economic investment, leading to a more motivated and productive workforce.

Moreover, the National TOMS has generated increased opportunities for marginalised communities.

By prioritising diversity and inclusion in procurement decisions, organisations have opened doors for underrepresented groups, creating a fairer and more inclusive society.

Tips to boost social value

Boosting social value through procurement practices is not only a responsibility but also an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on society and the environment. Here are some tips to enhance social value in your procurement processes:

1. Research the buying authority’s interests and initiatives: Buying organisations seek to partner with suppliers who they can trust to echo their commitments and values throughout the contract lifetime. To present your organisation as most closely aligned with the buyer’s social value interests, research their Social Value Policy and charity initiatives to help align your commitments to their hot issues.

2. Measure and report social impact: Effective measurement and reporting are crucial for tracking and demonstrating your commitment to social value. Invest in tools and resources that help you collect and analyse data effectively, such as free membership to the Social Value Portal. By quantifying the impact of your procurement decisions, you can identify areas for improvement and showcase your organisation's contribution to social betterment.

3. Engage your workforce: Your employees are a valuable resource for boosting social value. Incorporate them into your social value initiatives by providing training and awareness programs. Educating your workforce on the principles of responsible procurement and its positive impact on society can help create a culture of responsibility within your organisation.

4. Stay informed and adaptive: The field of socially responsible procurement is constantly evolving. Stay informed about emerging trends, best practices, and innovations in the industry. Be prepared to adapt your strategies to align with the changing landscape. This adaptability allows your organisation to remain at the forefront of social value practices, maximising your positive impact and boosting your quality scoring.

5. Set clear goals and targets: Establish clear and measurable social value goals for your procurement practices. Outline specific targets and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that align with the principles of the National TOMS or other relevant frameworks. Having well-defined goals provides a clear path to social progress and allows you to track your organisation's success in achieving them.

6. Prioritise diversity and inclusion: Diversity and inclusion are key aspects of boosting social value. Prioritise procurement practices that promote equal opportunities for marginalised and underrepresented groups. Encourage diverse supplier networks and ensure that procurement decisions foster inclusion, thus contributing to a more equitable society.

7. Foster innovation: Innovation can be a powerful driver of social value. Encourage your suppliers and internal teams to develop innovative solutions that address social and environmental challenges. Embrace new technologies, processes, and strategies that enhance your ability to make a positive impact.

Best Practices for the National TOMS Framework

As public sector organisations strive to incorporate the National TOMS into their procurement processes, adopting best practices becomes paramount in maximising the positive impact of this framework. Here, we collated essential best practices that help ensure a smooth and effective implementation of the National TOMS.

1. Regular impact assessment: Frequent impact assessments are crucial for gauging the effectiveness of your procurement decisions in achieving social value. By conducting these assessments at various stages of the procurement process, you can identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments. Regular impact assessments keep your organisation on track towards fulfilling the desired outcomes outlined in the National TOMS.

2. Ongoing stakeholder engagement: Engaging with stakeholders, including suppliers, employees, and the community, is essential for successful National TOMS implementation. Regular communication with these groups ensures that your procurement decisions align with their expectations and values. Stakeholder engagement also provides valuable insights and promotes transparency, which is a central theme of the National TOMS.

3. Long-term commitment: Realising the full potential of the National TOMS requires a long-term commitment. Social impact and responsible procurement are not one-time initiatives but ongoing processes. Organisations should invest in the necessary resources, develop internal capacity, and maintain dedicated teams to ensure that the National TOMS is integrated consistently throughout the procurement lifecycle.

4. Robust data collection and reporting: Accurate and transparent data collection is at the core of the National TOMS. Implement systems and procedures for collecting and reporting data on the social impact of your procurement decisions. Ensure that you have the capabilities to measure the effects of its actions and report on progress toward achieving desired outcomes.

5. Supplier collaboration: Collaborate closely with suppliers who share your commitment to social value and the principles of the National TOMS. Engage in dialogues, set expectations, and work together to enhance ethical and sustainable procurement practices. Building strong relationships with socially responsible suppliers can significantly boost your ability to achieve the desired social outcomes.

6. Awareness and training: Create a culture of responsibility within your organisation through awareness and training programs. Employees at all levels should understand the principles of the National TOMS and their role in ensuring compliance and contributing to social value. Training programs can include workshops, online courses, and informative materials.

7. Adaptation and innovation: Stay informed about emerging trends and innovations in the field of socially responsible procurement. The landscape is continuously evolving, with new technologies and strategies becoming available. Be ready to adapt your organisation's procurement strategies to align with these changes and embrace innovative solutions that enhance social value.

Does the National TOMS framework have any challenges?

While the National TOMS offers a comprehensive framework to drive social value in public procurement, it is not without its challenges. Overcoming these hurdles is essential to successfully implement the National TOMS and maximize its positive impact.

One of the primary challenges when adopting the National TOMS is resistance to change within an organisation. Businesses, especially those who are accustomed to traditional procurement practices, may be hesitant to embrace a new system. Overcoming this resistance requires effective change management strategies, clear communication about the benefits of the National TOMS, and training programs to ensure businesses are confident in their ability to navigate the new system.

Similarly, supply chains are often complex and involve numerous suppliers, making it challenging to trace the origins of products and services. The National TOMS emphasises ethical and sustainable sourcing, which can be complicated in such complex supply chains. Organisations may need to invest in advanced tracking systems and work closely with suppliers to ensure compliance with ethical and environmental standards.

How to overcome National TOMS challenges

Many organisations struggle with gathering the necessary data, especially when dealing with multiple suppliers and disparate systems. Overcoming this challenge involves investing in data collection tools and integrating them into procurement processes. Additionally, setting clear data collection standards for suppliers and ensuring data accuracy is vital.

Implementing the National TOMS effectively requires dedicated resources, including time, personnel, and budget. Some organisations may face constraints in allocating these resources. To overcome this challenge, organisations can consider phased implementations, starting with a smaller subset of procurement categories and expanding gradually as resources become available.

Achieving the desired social outcomes often depends on the commitment and cooperation of suppliers. Some suppliers may not initially align with the principles of the National TOMS, making it challenging to establish the necessary partnerships. Overcoming this challenge involves open dialogues, setting clear expectations, and potentially seeking out alternative suppliers who share the commitment to social value.

Measuring the social impact of procurement decisions can be a complex task, and organisations may lack the expertise to carry out these measurements effectively. Overcoming this challenge requires investing in tools and systems that simplify impact measurement and collaborating with experts in the field to establish reliable measurement practices.

We can help with The National TOMS framework - get in touch and let us be the voice that helps you to boost your social value offering today.

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