Social value can be this large, amorphous term. One that’s often used as a catch-all to cover every environmental, social, and economic impact. It’s also often used interchangeably with other buzzwords, such as social impact, sustainability, CSR, purpose, and countless others.
We want to explore what social value really means in more depth. Let’s take a look at what we consider to be the most important examples of social value, identifying what these might look like to your organisation.
So, what is social value?
Social value in the context of an organisation is a long-term, ongoing commitment to doing better by individuals, communities, and the planet. It’s a desire that sits at the heart of your company to create as much positive impact and as little negative impact as possible.
It’s about wanting to consciously work towards being a more ethical organisation. Not just because it’s good for money, but because it’s morally the right thing to do.
In a landscape where ethics and social responsibility are a pressing concern for consumers, social value is about demonstrating the selfless actions you’re taking to improve real lives, communities, and combat urgent environmental issues. After all, 77% of consumers are more likely to use companies committed to making the world a better place. While 73% of investors state efforts to improve the environment and society play into their investment decision-making.
At Impact, our social value definition considers four primary types of social value: community, sustainability, wellbeing, and diversity.
In practice, giving back to your local community means undertaking activities and initiatives to address their needs. Think how you can ensure longevity and empower local residents to help shape your approach and social value strategy.
Specific examples might include investing in new or improved healthcare sites or community centres. You could invest in skills training or work experience opportunities for local people. Or support or donate – money, products, or volunteering time – to local, community-facing organisations.
Like we mentioned above, sustainability is often a word used interchangeably with social value. But we think it’s a bit more nuanced than that.
When a business considers their social value, it’s impossible to do so without acknowledging their influence on the environment. Becoming more aware of this influence, and making steps to improve your impact, is what’s called ‘sustainable thinking’ and should form a key pillar of your social value strategy.
66% of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods. This means operating more sustainably isn’t a ‘nice to have’ addition to your business, but rather a future trend you’ll have to get on board with sooner rather than later.
The idea of sustainability continues to evolve. For example, Afdhel Aziz is an innovative writer who promotes the concept of abundance. Abundance is a way of thinking about mitigating the risk of climate change to create a fairer society. This is a point of a view that champions value-driven technology.
In a lot of ways, all roads lead back to wellbeing when it comes to social value. We look for ways to improve the environment to ensure happier and healthier lives for future generations and bolster local communities to improve the wellbeing of their residents. Social value, in short, is about improving the lived experience of as many people as possible.
There’s no consensus on a firm definition of wellbeing, but one we feel fits comes from What Works Wellbeing:
“We define wellbeing as having 10 broad dimensions which have been shown to matter most to people in the UK. The dimensions are: the natural environment, personal wellbeing, our relationships, health, what we do, where we live, personal finance, the economy, education and skills and governance.”
As articulated in this definition, wellbeing transcends mental health, applying instead to all aspects of human life, including an individual’s education, skills, and personal finance.
Diversity and inclusion
Diversity and inclusion is one of the most commonly known aspects of social value. Mainly because it can exist internal to your business and is fully within your organisation’s power to control.
But we anticipate the topic of diversity will continue to dominate the social value space. And rightly so given its profound impact on the success of businesses and in challenging some of the major inequalities that plague our society.
By 2044, groups formerly seen as “minorities” will reach majority status. While 43% of companies with diverse boards noticed higher profits and racially and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to perform better.
Sometimes it pays to go back to basics and refamiliarise yourself with the many facets of social value and impact. While you might be thriving in some ways, there may be other aspects worth focusing on. There’s always progress to be made, no matter how far along its social value journey your organisation is!
At Impact, we empower organisations to elevate their social impact. We make it simple to measure, evaluate, and report on your social value activities and initiatives. To find out more about what our platform could do for you, schedule a demo or get in touch with the team on 0161 532 4752.