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First guide to understanding and enhancing social value

02 December 2020

The new standard will support public bodies seeking to demonstrate compliance to the Social Value Act and help organizations who wish to understand and prioritise social value.

BSI, in its role as the UK National Standards Body, has today published the first standard addressing the concept of social value. The new British standard outlines advice and principles to help public and private sector organizations understand and enhance their social value.

The launch of the standard coincides with growing momentum in the social value movement in the UK, as from January 2021, all government procurement exercises will be expected to evaluate the social value commitments being offered by all potential bidders, and base at least 10% of the final evaluation score on the social, economic and environmental benefits created as a result. The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 requires public sector organizations to “have regard to economic, social and environmental well-being in connection with public services contracts; and for connected purposes”. In the private sector, organizations are increasingly prioritising net social value as a key part of their sustainability agendas, including commitments to UN SGD Global Goal 3 Good Health and Well-being.  

The new standard, called BS 8950, Social value – Understanding and enhancing – Guide, will be used by procurers and suppliers within the public sector looking to comply with the Act as well as senior decision-makers and practitioners in organizations aiming to better serve the communities in which they operate. It gives guidance and principles for the understanding, preservation and enhancement of social value – which the standard defines as “well-being, in the short and long term”. It provides practical guidance on how to make and align decisions, whilst it outlines a framework for organizations to measure and assess their contribution to social value.

Organizations of all sizes and sectors, including public, private and social purpose organizations working alone or with others, can use the standard to identify the benefits of creating social value irrespective of how little data or maturity they have. The standard sets out a seven-point plan:

  1. start planning for data collection
  2. identify and consult stakeholders
  3. finalize plan and collect data
  4. assure data are good enough
  5. analyze data, develop and consider targets and options
  6. report to stakeholders
  7. consider changes to data collection

David Fatscher, Head of Environment, Social and Sustainability Standards at BSI, said: “Building back better is a commitment that many organizations have pledged through the pandemic. With the appropriate level of leadership, vision and implementation guidance, social value can become core to an organization rather than a box-ticking exercise. The cultural vision and plan for implementation should be devised with a clear view of the current cultural starting point and the potential barriers and opportunities for change. This new British standard will help organizations to take the first step towards accountability.”

The standard has been produced by a committee1 of technical experts from across the social value assessment, sustainable business and social capital eco-system.

Find the guide here and download the standard here.



1Technical committee members

Social Value UK, IEMA, NEF Consulting, Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply, PwC, University of Salford and Cambridge University.