Unlocking social value across the procurement cycle will boost UK sustainability

1 Dec 23

Through the implementation of the Procurement Act, value for money will remain a high priority but public money will also be directed towards tangible social, economic and environmental benefits, writes Nathan Goode, chief strategy officer at Social Value Portal.

The main focus of the new Procurement Act is to make it easier for suppliers to do business with the public sector. This means making it simpler and more transparent, opening up opportunities for new entrants such as small businesses, voluntary, community, faith and social enterprises. There is also a greater emphasis on procurement as a means to deliver wider benefits for the public good and that is where Social Value comes in.

The big difference for Social Value will lie with the legal requirement for public sector buyers to shift from awarding contracts based on M.E.A.T (Most Economically Advantageous Tender) to M.A.T. (Most Advantageous Tender). 

This means considering how the community in which the contract will be delivered stands to benefit, such as: local employment opportunities, carbon emissions reduction or using a local supply chain – all of which fall under the umbrella of Social Value and are aligned with national strategic priorities.

How to unlock Social Value throughout the procurement cycle

Social Value needs to be close to the top of the list of priorities at the very inception of a new project, starting with planning, preparation and market engagement.

The very first step is to identify the needs of the community in which the contract will be delivered. For instance, does the area have a high number of unemployed people, a high crime rate or a poor standard of shared outdoor spaces?

This information will inform how a supplier can make a positive difference. We’ve known a number of public sector procurement professionals who have benefitted hugely from holding a ‘meet the buyer’ event, which provides potential bidders with a chance to hear and discuss what the focus areas and expectations will be, gain a clearer understanding and, in turn, provide better bid submissions.

This type of event also provides insights for potential supply chain partners to make a stronger Social Value case to tier one suppliers, thus unlocking Social Value across the wider supply chain. 

The secret to getting an effective response to an invitation to tender is being absolutely clear about the contract’s requirements, including delivery timelines, expectations around evaluation methods, clarity on weightings and key Social Value areas.

We would also strongly recommend including Social Value commitments in the final contract and getting the contract management team involved as early as possible.

The case for evaluating Social Value delivery

A fair and transparent evaluation process from initial tender right through to contract delivery has multiple benefits and is worth spending the extra time on.

For the buyer, assessing Social Value delivery from the outset means:

  • Budgets will go further, getting the best possible results for the public

  • Concrete evidence of benefits created for the community can be delivered, enabling opportunities to promote successes with credibility

  • Compliance requirements are legitimately covered 

  • Improved supplier collaboration and engagement


For the public, this means:

  • Wider access to employment and upskilling opportunities 

  • Stimulus for local businesses 

  • Cleaner, greener spaces, maintained by sustainable practices

  • Healthier, safer and more empowered communities


The Social Value TOM System™, endorsed by the Local Government Association, ensures procurement spend goes as far as possible, enabling buyers to track and measure Social Value from commitment to delivery. It is fully compatible with the UN SDGs, works alongside the central government Social Value Model and is the most established and widely adopted method for recording and reporting Social Value in the supply chain. 

Using Social Value to tackle climate change

With COP28 serving as a reminder to persevere with our efforts to meet net zero commitments, it’s important to remember that Social Value and reducing environmental impact go hand in hand. 

Climate change is felt differently by different groups, with lower income and disadvantaged groups more likely to be affected, despite contributing to the causes of climate change the least. 

As Social Value is all about spearheading improvements that will lead to a flourishing local economy, it gives public sector buyers a unique opportunity to support the just transition by helping disadvantaged groups on the road to net zero. 

Social Value has been steadily gathering momentum since the Public Services Act was passed in 2012 and, with the new Procurement Act coming into effect in Autumn next year, it’s encouraging to see organisations across the public and private sector gaining a wider understanding of the many and far reaching benefits to be had from generating Social Value throughout the supply chain.

Social Value Portal has launched a Buyer’s Toolkit aimed specifically as procurement professionals in the public sector. It includes a guide to powering up procurement, the recording of a recent webinar of the same name and a short interview with guest speaker Richard Carroll, chief procurement officer at Durham County Council 

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