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Social value should be considered throughout the supply chain, says Joe Baxter at Akzonobel

What does social value mean to you?

In my opinion, social value is a way of thinking about how scarce resources are allocated and used. It involves looking beyond the price of each individual contract and looking at what the collective benefit to a community is when a public body chooses to award a contract. We are committed to measuring the social impact of the work we do, from speaking the same language as housing providers on social impact, to using the results of our social housing initiatives to help us continually develop and improve our offering so that we can best meet the needs of modern communities.

Why do you think this is an important subject?

In line with the Public Services Act 2012, public sector organisations must now consider how their suppliers can add real social value to the communities in which they operate. Rather than awarding contracts solely on the ability to offer best value, bodies such as housing authorities must choose suppliers who can provide support or investment that will have a positive effect on those living in that area. As the spotlight turns increasingly on meeting social improvement goals, so we will ensure that Dulux Trade, part of Akzonobel, will continue to deliver socially and environmentally responsible solutions that affect people positively as they go about their daily lives. We remain committed to putting social integrity and responsibility at the heart of our values.

Are there any social value-driven initiatives that you are involved in?

When it comes to social housing, we offer the authorities we work with a range of initiatives whose social value can be measured and assessed to support and enhance the lives of residents, from training opportunities to local community painting projects. We offer a range of bespoke initiatives tailored to the needs of the social housing sector that support and enhance the lives of residents both in the communities where Dulux Trade works and those in which our contractor partners operate. From adding colour to local areas of deprivation, to inspiring the next generation via a wide range of imaginative projects, we are helping to build brighter outcomes for people.

What are the main challenges in delivering social value?

During the procurement process, the value the supply chain can add to meeting the needs of the client and its community often goes unnoticed. The key to this is a community needs assessment, which is owned by the client and where the supply chain can add valued input. This can then set the agenda from day one. The main contractors who tender are often requested to demonstrate what social value initiatives they can provide that will have a positive effect on local communities. There are many high-value initiatives offered by the main contractor but there is a missed opportunity by not including the supply chain in the tender process. By working together collaboratively, we can help facilitate the process, develop understanding and enable each other to contribute fully as a partner.

How can you best measure success, and do you need to?

Consistency of measurement is the key to successfully demonstrating well-being values. This needs the supply chain and the clients to be working closely together to deliver this. Suppliers need to be held accountable and outcomes should be valuable for the local community. If they are procured, then they need to be delivered efficiently and pro-actively. Everyone has to buy into delivery of social value within the client group. We are working closely with the Housing Associations' Charitable Trust (HACT) to demonstrate the social value created from every initiative and every pound invested. We are hoping this work will raise the profile of social value so that it becomes a more important element of tenders.

What social value-led projects that you've worked on are you proudest of?

Dulux Trade, as part of Akzonobel, is hugely committed to delivering tangible and accountable social value through the partnerships we have with our clients and when it comes to social housing. We offer the housing authorities we work with a range of initiatives whose social value can be measured and assessed to support and enhance the lives of residents. We are proud of many of the projects we have supported. We continue to engage in many community-led projects, including training opportunities in partnership with registered social landlords and their communities.

Take an example that features Riverside. The housing association embarked on a project chosen by the local community, to repair, replace and repaint all of the damaged fencing to a number of streets on a housing estate situated in Leicester. Riverside worked closely with the local residents and Community Payback team, who provided all the labour, along with Akzonobel donating all the products and tools needed to get the project completed. It massively enhanced the appearance of the estate for the good of the local community. In partnership with our training partners and working closely with registered social landlords, Akzonobel is now offering training courses for groups of young people who will end up working directly in local communities.

The sole aim here is helping people into work, further education or apprenticeships. We can provide flexible class-room based modules in conjunction with work experience across many sectors, not just painting and decorating.

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What do you think the future holds for social value?

Social value can be defined as a shared vision held by all stakeholders. It is based around community needs that are valued across all the teams within the client organisation. It is not a crusade, but a valued movement that is incorporated within the wider procurement process. It is something that needs to be delivered with consistency and measurability. It needs to be regularly assessed and continually improved.

The more engagement there is with social value, the more initiatives there will be to support it and with more initiatives, there will be more innovation across the whole supply chain. This will subsequently lead to improvements for communities, greater value for money and brighter futures.

You can find more information and other great articles at Inside Housing

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