Creating social value

Businesses of all kinds create social value

Social value is moving from the periphery of business activity to the core as consumers see ethical standards and community cohesion as significant aspects of the value of goods and services.  In the wake of the continuing financial crisis the public remains often sceptical of business and angry at those that seem focused only on the bottom line. The Havas Social Business Survey 2010 shows that 74 per cent of consumers believe companies have as much responsibility to drive positive social change as government.

Even for public sector organisations with an explicit social purpose the pressure is on to demonstrate value as austerity bites ever harder.

Social value is central to most businesses

Social value describes the value that organisations create for society as a whole, beyond the value they deliver to individuals. For instance, individuals benefit from being educated but we are, collectively, better off thanks to this in that we all live in a richer, more informed, more cultured society. Similarly, businesses benefit when banks lend them money to grow but we all benefit thanks to increased employment, higher tax revenues and staff training and development.

The problem is that most businesses haven’t a clue where to start when faced with demands to demonstrate social value. Common difficulties we’ve come across include:

  • Public sector organisations that are not used to thinking like this precisely because they assume that being publicly funded means they create lots of social value.
  • Commercial organisations that are not used to thinking about value from a social angle. They may have worthwhile CSR programmes but know that the question now is how their core business creates social value. They face uncharted territory.
  • Organisations that have some idea of their social value but don’t know how to provide evidence for it and communicate it.

We are experts in social value

We’ve spent most of the last decade developing and applying the concept of social value at the BBC so we know it’s a powerful tool that really works. We help organisations define and deliver their social value by the same processes that we use in our other work – except that here the goal is the creation of a social value framework and its application in guiding strategy and action throughout the organisation.

The social value framework comprises three basic elements that we work with our clients to build:

  • The social dimensions to the organisation’s purposes and what actions it takes to deliver them.
  • The social benefits that flow from those purposes both for individual consumers or users and to society as a whole.
  • Measures, both quantitative and qualitative, that provide evidence of these benefits.

Read what our clients say about our work.

It’s all about judgment

There’s no magic number that proves your social value or that is easily comparable to that of other organisations. Social value is all about an evidence-based judgment against the explicitly stated criteria of what organisations are trying to do. It provides an energising sense of purposed that informs action inside the organisation. And all our experience tells us that the public respond enthusiastically to the clarity and honesty of the approach.