The Importance of Social Value in Tendering

Social Value is becoming increasingly important in modern bids and tenders, and buyers favour a supplier that can make tangible commitments towards promoting positive social value, local economic growth and reducing environmental impact. 

Learn more about Social Value, what this means and its importance when tendering for a contract or framework.

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What is Social Value?

Social Value refers to the improvements made to the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of a local area when tendering to promote sustainable and ethical procurement practices.

Social Value became a key part of tendering when the Public Services (Social Value) Act came into force in 2012. This clearly outlines how businesses must heavily include Social Value commitments in their tender documents and contract proposals. 

Social Value is typically offered in three main areas. These include, with examples of specific value to be had:

Social

  • Supporting local charities and community projects

  • Helping the community and its vulnerable and disadvantaged residents

  • Tackling serious issues such as homelessness, crime, poverty and health within the community

  • Supporting and promoting local culture and heritage

Economic

  • Offer local employment and training opportunities or apprenticeships

  • Offer work experience placements for schools and colleges

  • Focusing on workplace inequality and employing people from disadvantaged backgrounds 

  • Supporting and using local suppliers, agencies and businesses

Environment

Working to reduce the impact on the environment by:

  • Reducing carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions

  • Minimising waste and promoting recycling

  • Using sustainable, environmentally-friendly products

  • Being a part of an ethical supply chain

Why is Social Value in Tendering Important?

As a business looking to win larger contracts, you must be able to show (with sufficient, preliminary evidence) a commitment to social value in your community. 

Buyers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of social value in tendering and will be looking for a business who makes a conscious effort to promote a positive working environment.

Acting on Social Values

Buyers are becoming increasingly aware of and beginning to counteract the practices of ‘greenwashing’. This refers to companies that state that they operate ethically without actually acting on this.

Crucially, as confirmed on a recent webinar run by the National Social Value Taskforce, social value is about "additionality"; what is being provided above and beyond what a company should be doing anyway - the standards are evolving. For example, as they highlighted, having a wellbeing strategy (with some of the standard elements) is increasingly expected of all employers and now carries less weight.

If you can offer the work, services or products required by a buyer and also make a serious and actionable commitment to local social value, you’ll stand out from the competition when bidding for lucrative contracts.

Government National Procurement Policy Statement

The Government published a new Procurement Policy Note in June 2021 (PPN 05/21) titled as ‘National Procurement Policy Statement’. It states that contracting authorities should consider new, specific social values as well as other local priorities.These recently emerged, national priority values are:

  • Creating new businesses, jobs and skills;
  • Tackling climate change and reducing waste (expanded upon further in the recent PPN 06/21);
  • Improving supplier diversity, innovation and resilience.

The key areas need to be kept in mind when a Social Value Delivery Plan is being formed.

Calculating Social Value

Public sector authorities and local councils will have individual, formal methods of calculating social value in a bid. They tend to use a system - TOMs - which focuses on Themes, Outcomes and Measures.

This approach is increasingly being formalised, particularly by Councils, by using the Social Value Portal. They publish, annually, a set of measures which authorities chose from. These are publicly accessible and currently include 147 measures split across 28 outcomes and in turn, categorised against 5 themes.

You will need to clearly state your social value aims and commitments, what you will achieve and some evidence or hard facts to prove your efforts. You could use statistics (some of our clients have used these specific commitments), for example:

  • We will hold and fund an annual campaign for tree planting 

  • X hour sessions with unemployed people in the community

  • £x donation to a local charity to support their work

  • We will have at least 1 employee who is a care leaver (aged 16-25)

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.

Social Value Tender Questions

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:

Social Value Example Tender Questions

  • How will your company help others in the community?

  • How will you ensure that your supply chain is ethical?

  • How will you help and support vulnerable people in your community?

  • What opportunities will you provide for disadvantaged individuals and marginalised groups?

  • Can you be certain that your workforce will be representative of your diverse community?

Economic Value Example Tender Questions

  • How will you create jobs for and offer opportunities to members of your community?

  • Will you offer any opportunities for voluntary work, work experience or apprenticeships?

  • How will you engage with local educational institutes?

Environmental Value Example Tender Questions

  • What environmental impacts will be associated with your work and how will you aim to combat/reduce/counter these?

  • How will you monitor your energy consumption and what will you do to keep this at a respectable level?

  • What initiatives will you promote that aim to protect and preserve local environments?

  • In what ways will you recycle relevant materials, waste, goods and packaging?

Answering Social Value Questions in Tender Submissions

Your responses to these questions may vary hugely depending on the scope of work you are offering and the sector in which you work in. You’ll need to be clear and precise when detailing your commitments, ensuring that the buyers understand how you’ll best address the issues they care most about.

Increasingly, a thrust of the National Social Value Task Force (who run the Social Value Portal listed above) is that the measures are ‘proportionate’ - i.e. bidders aren't required to commit to everything that they could link to social value, but should focus on what is deliverable.

Be clear and make sure your answers are tailored to the contract you are bidding for, and not just generic responses. Only make commitments that you can realistically, genuinely deliver on. Making false promises will only damage your reputation with the current buyers and buyers in future tendering. Social value commitments made on the portal also require quarterly evidence submissions which are independently reviewed.

Creating a Social Value Delivery Plan

Many of our clients create Social Value Delivery Plans which outline the commitments they are going to make, how these will be actioned, by whom and to what timescale.This plan will often also include a Social Value Method Statement which is simply, the proposed methodology around how the commitments stated are going to be actioned. 

A key tip: We would advise that these plans and method statements need to be as specific to the bid, area and proposed social value measures as possible. These elements need to be taken seriously - it may be of benefit to come to the experts at Thornton & Lowe for support on your future bids.

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How Thornton & Lowe Can Help you to Understand Social Value

At Thornton & Lowe, we offer expert bid writing services and bid training, so can help you to understand what Social Value is and how you can effectively promote this area in your future tender documents. 

We complete the social value parts of clients' submissions weekly (regularly scoring highest without breaking the bank in terms of their commitments) and this ranges from method statements, delivery plans and completing calculator and SVP responses.

A key part of where we can add value is making suggestions of what sorts of initiatives might be of most value to specific buyers. We can also prepare a compelling social value "menu" that reflects the industry/service being delivered, and draw together social value examples to provide evidence.

Our team of experts are highly experienced in navigating Social Value commitments in tenders and can help you add significant value to your bid in order to secure contracts.

Bid writing courses at Thornton & Lowe

We offer specific courses, such as our Corporate Social Value & Bidding Course or more generic, yet detailed, masterclasses. These include our Bidding for Beginners course and our 2 Day Bid and Tender Writing Masterclass, both of which cover social value and its importance in tendering.

With buyers, local councils and governments putting further emphasis on the impacts of social value commitments in tendering, it is absolutely crucial that you nail this area of your tender document in order to see bidding success.

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