Doing the right thing – the bottom line
Some organisations do what they consider “normal” and “right” and are at the same time creating social value. Doing the right thing often has a direct impact on the bottom line. With just a little up-front thought, direction and effort it is possible to see organisational results very quickly. For instance, improved employee loyalty and customer satisfaction are just some of the benefits firms have reported that are directly attributable to their approach to social value.
Another example of social value is when an organisation makes its main hall available to community groups at weekends and in the evening. They started doing this because a member of staff wanted to host a charity event, but now the rooms are in use most Saturdays and two evenings a week. It hardly costs anything – a little bit more in heating, lighting and cleaning costs – so they don’t really think about it. But it’s a lifeline to community groups.
Another approach to social value could be when an organisation runs team-building days for staff. Instead of paintballing or puzzles, they look after the bushes and flowerbeds in a local memorial garden. The garden was donated by the organisation in memory of one of the founders, but this company has already noticed that productivity, staff turnover and sickness/ absence are lower than in similar companies. They’re benefiting from it, so they don’t see it as a cost to make a community contribution.
Another is a business converting its local fleet of delivery vans to electric. There are grants, and it’s cheaper on fuel, so the business case stacks up. Is this social value in practice? Yes it is, in some circumstances.
What about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? Is CSR the same thing as social value?
CSR is the planned things that the organisation does to make a difference. It also includes the governance element of your organisation, for example, ethics, equality and so on. However, social value can arise almost accidentally, or when you do something on the spur of the moment, as well as when you planned it. Some CSR may not even count towards social value contribution!
Social Value Practice
In order to improve the social value to your local community, your organisation provides it is worth having a social value strategy – so everyone in the organisation knows which schemes will be approved and which ones won’t. This encourages more people to come forward with ideas, which in turn makes everyone feel more involved (they may not have come up with an idea themselves, but they know someone who did, and it was listened to).
It’s worth having a plan – so you spread your big activities in place and time, and don’t have big gaps between activities. The good things you do are often far more effective if other people join in, both for the activity (e.g. clearing litter is always easier with more people, and everyone who takes part is likely to think twice about dropping more litter), and for the publicity (your brand name).
It’s worth recording and reporting what you have done – so prospective employees and those who didn’t come can see what you did; so that those who did it can feel appreciated, and of course so you can add up what was achieved and compare with what it cost to put on all the activities in the plan, and decide which things you will do more of next year and which you will do less of. If you can get press coverage, then create a scrapbook (or web page with copies of web coverage), so that people can look back on it.