Social Value Procurement: Expectations vs Reality
With social value procurement now the norm, are buyers and suppliers 100% there yet? We've taken a look.
We’ve said it many times before, that Social Value is now a massive part of public sector procurement. Suppliers should be thinking about how the services that they provide to UK Gov positively create change – that’s sustainability, equality, well-being etc – and better public services.
Well, since the implementation of new regulations and requirements (from up-high in Central Government and rolled out through Crown Commercial Service), there’s been a lot of talk about what Social Value looks like. On top of this, there’s also the potential confusion about how it’s measured, recorded and demonstrated.
Here at Advice Gov we always inform our clients that it’s no longer a buzz word or box ticking exercise – but how does this look in the real word?
Measuring supplier social value
Expectation: That suppliers to the public sector measure their social value. This doesn’t mean just with the services or products they provide, but also their internal processes. Companies should be monitoring their carbon footprint (and trying to achieve Net Zero), committing to social value goals and targets, and putting these in to tangible results. At the end of the day, stats and outcomes are what put suppliers above the ‘box-tickers’.
Reality: Measuring social value internally can be hard. Companies may have small teams, meaning that resources are already stretched. Adding to people’s roles and responsibilities is costly, in time and money. Companies may have to outsource this in the end, or ask for help to achieve this – there’s nothing wrong with that! We see that many suppliers to the public sector aren’t prepared to answer buyers’ questions on social value, they can’t back up what they say just yet. Importantly though, suppliers now need to start measuring their social value or risk being left behind.
Demonstrating social value to buyers
Expectation: When asked by government buyers’ to demonstrate their social value, suppliers should provide tangible evidence or goals that commit to bettering society and services for citizens. That’s just how it is. Increasingly buyers are asking this at framework application level, but it also should be outlined in suppliers’ bids and responses to tenders. In a lot of cases, the buyer’s evaluation criteria will have social value weighted at 10%. Meaning it’s the make or break aspect of a bid or application.
Reality: We’ve seen many suppliers fall down in demonstrating the social value of their provisions. Whilst this is a new aspect to social value procurement and only came into play in the last year (and still isn’t seen 100% across the board), there are a lot of providers falling short. Many suppliers aren’t even mentioning this in their bids at all! In most cases though, the suppliers are fully aware that they need to be demonstrating social value, but their teams just aren’t quite sure how to…
Buyers knowing what they’re looking for
Expectation: In theory, buyers looking to procure highlight their requirements and needs before going to market. In today’s procurement world this should include social value and sustainability too, not just the quality of the service and price. Public sector procurement teams will score and evaluate suppliers on how their social value matches with their own outcomes, and how they can measure it moving forward within the contract.
Reality: In a recent research conducted by ourselves with a selection of public sector buyers, we found that 45% had started on implementing social value into their tenders and value tracking but still had a long way to go to fully get there. 12% hadn’t even started. So, whilst these requirements are being filtered down from Central Government, it’s still taking a while for procurement teams to get on board. This means that buyers may not be clear in what they’re looking for themselves – as they’re unsure how they measure or score suppliers’ responses. It also may be that buyers are unfamiliar with how they can monitor social value outcomes over the contract period.
Have we achieved full social value procurement?
No, not yet. On both sides very good progress is being made though. We’re seeing buyers now engaging with the experts and beginning to implement social value into their pipelines and tenders. With the ongoing discussion being around how they monitor this throughout a contract’s lifetime after it’s been awarded. It’s all a learning curve but it’s positive movement.
Suppliers are also starting to get on board with these requirements. Social value procurement is here to stay and those that aren’t measuring and demonstrating their worth will get left behind. At Advice Gov we’ve seen progression here from a wide range of sectors, with discussions and support reaching far and wide.