Today, more than ever, businesses are being challenged to demonstrate the social value they bring to the communities in which they operate: but what exactly does ‘social value’ mean and, more importantly, how can it be measured?
The main problem with ‘value’ is that it is inherently subjective and people will often attach more value to things that matter most to them. The other problem is that many companies are already doing great things in the local community on an ‘ad-hoc’ basis and without a framework in place to capture and measure these initiatives, the financial and societal value of these initiatives is never formally recorded.
Helen Keller once said ‘alone we can do so little, together we can do so much,’ and for me, working in partnership with our supply chain and customers is the best way for us to ensure that our developments are, and continue to be, a force for good in the communities where they are based. What’s also important is working with a partner who can provide a framework and measurement system which ensures our combined efforts are recorded and reported.
Company values matter
At Prologis UK we recently introduced a Social Value Policy, outlining our commitment to maximising the economic, environmental and social benefits that our developments bring to the communities where they are based. At the same time, we also became the first property company in the UK to introduce a Social Value Charter (SVC) for our supply chain and it was the long and trusted relationships we have built with these companies over many years that enabled us to introduce this Charter.
We already knew from our ongoing relationships with our supply chain that many of our trusted partners were already ‘doing the right thing’ when it comes to promoting local skills and employment and building safer and greener communities. Introducing the SVC was simply a way of strengthening and demonstrating the positive outcomes which arise from our shared mutual values.
Company values matter and integrated reporting through a social value portal, where both we and our suppliers can view and manage individual projects and enter data, enables us to evaluate and predict the social value contribution for a development both during construction and throughout the lifetime of the development. This system, which prioritises enduring value over short-term costs and is built around a set of Themes, Outcomes and Measures (TOM’s), is operated by The Social Value Portal and provides a framework within which our entire supply chain can join with us to deliver more value to the communities where we are based and where we are building.
Using the national TOMs Framework, to provide a minimum reporting standard as a basis for measuring social value, enables us to measure what matters in an objective and organised way. It also enables us to capture and communicate the social value that we and our supply chain are creating in terms of our financial, environmental and societal contributions. And, because we retain ownership of our logistics parks and build long-lasting relationships with our customers and the local community, this system will also enable us to work with our customers and record the enduring social value provided by our logistics parks over their lifetime.
When you consider that the Social Value Act was introduced over five years ago, it’s surprising that some businesses are still struggling to articulate what social value actually means and that’s why it’s so important to have partnerships and measurement tools which can identify tangible outcomes and deliver consistent, meaningful metrics.
It’s also important to remind ourselves that social value isn’t a new thing: many businesses with strong company values have been making genuinely positive contributions to the wider economy and our society for many years. From training and employing the long-term unemployed and people with convictions, to sourcing material locally and improving green spaces in the local community, many of these initiatives are already happening – the problem is they often go unnoticed or unrecorded.
The emergence of social value has put people and ethics back at the heart of business and, for companies with a strong culture of ‘doing the right thing’, there is an opportunity to build on trusted partnerships for the long-term and measure how shared mutual values can bring long-term benefits for local communities.