Since we published our guidance on social value in new development this March, interest in social value in the built environment has continued to rocket. So too have the number of relevant initiatives, studies and policy developments. We know how hard it can be to keep up, so this is a snapshot of recent highlights.

From the local authority side, champions of the agenda are setting more prescriptive social value requirements in developer procurement, and some are requiring that developers produce “social value action plans” as part of planning agreements.

Partly in response to the requirements from the public sector, but also because businesses are keen to communicate the value they bring to communities, growing numbers of companies have been investing in the measurement of social value outcomes. When done well, efforts to measure social value are highlighting which activities are particularly beneficial for local communities, encouraging more targeted, impactful investment.

Since we reported in March, UKGBC’s work on social value as part of our Cities Programme has focused on:

  1. Encouraging and improving the capacity of the private sector to measure the social value outcomes through a recent masterclass and the development of a new training offer for members
  2. Creating an evidence base of the opportunities local authorities have to drive social value in new development
  3. Advocating for the integration of social value into the planning system and the strengthening of procurement requirements
  4. Working with other parties to build consensus of how social value can be delivered through the built environment

Amid this activity, David Lidington, Minister for the Cabinet Office, gave a speech which promised to strengthen the 2012 Public Services (Social Value) Act. Then two weeks ago the Civil Society Strategy qualified exactly what strengthening the Act would look like:

  • Central government departments will be expected to apply the terms of the Act to goods and works and to ‘account for’ the social value of new procurements, rather than just ‘consider’ it as currently
  • The government has committed to explore the potential for the use of social value in grants as well as contracts
  • The government has committed to explore the suggestion that the Social Value Act should be applied to other areas of public decision-making such as planning and community asset transfer.

Although in the short-term there will be no legislative change, or focus on local authorities as commissioning bodies, the decision to explore the application of the Act to planning could be a powerful tool for driving change at the local level. Perhaps most importantly, the strategy tells us that there is a clear ambition from central government to transform the role of business by embedding social value into every part of government decision-making.

In the built environment, the typical model for development – at its worst – has arguably been the extraction of public value for private gain. We need to shift towards a model where the public sector, private sector and local communities are able co-create value through places. With the political will and private sector leadership buy-in that there is for the agenda at present, social value creates a real opportunity for achieving just that.

Recent industry activity on social value:

  • Constructing Excellence are planning to launch their Social Value Style Guide in September 2018. It is an online tool that will provide practical advice, actions and measures to create, deliver and measure social value in the built environment.
  • BRE are undertaking a scoping study to identify what elements of social value require independent verification, in order to support better decision-making in the procurement and delivery of construction.
  • HACT published their work on Valuing Improvements in Mental Health in The calculator is based on the Warwick Edinburgh Mental-Wellbeing Scale and wellbeing valuation and will help housing associations, charities, councils and contractors to measure their impact on improving their customers’ mental health.
  • The National Social Value Conference, run by the Social Value Portal, is taking place on the 20th and 21st of November. The theme for this years’ conference is ‘inspiring leadership’ and will take place in Manchester.
  • As part of their Responsible Business and Social Value Project, the RICS have established the Responsible Business Leader’s Forum to discuss how a business can deliver social value, and navigate its way through current and future ESG challenges.
  • The Sustainable FM Index has been encouraging facilities management providers to embed a social value into their service provision through the use of thought leadership, auditing and competitive benchmarking.

UKGBC is keen to collaborate with others who are working on social value in the built environment. If you are working on a project which you think it would be important for us to be aware of, please email

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