What is Social Value: Key trends and factors to consider in 2023

You might have noticed that it’s becoming more and more important for businesses to do good and to prove they’re doing good. This has led to lots of discussion around social value – and this is a trend that’s likely to continue throughout 2023 and beyond.

So, if you’re still wondering what social value actually is, why it’s so important, or which factors you should be thinking about in 2023, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve taken a look at various definitions and analyses of social value, so we can give you a clear, simple run-down of what social value really means. Plus, we’ll be getting into why social value is more important than ever, so you can keep on top of key trends.

Social Value: meaning and context

In the simplest terms, social value is just the impact an organisation has on the planet, the economy and society. The idea is that you should be striving to create as much positive impact (aka as much social value) as you can.

This might look like committing to using local suppliers, aiming to hit net zero carbon emissions, donating your team’s time to volunteering, or creating opportunities for people in your local community who would otherwise have a tough time in the job market.

Although social value is about making the world a better place, that’s not all there is to it. The other vital part of the equation is that your social value should be quantified and then reported to stakeholders. So, if you can prove that you’re creating positive impact, you’re securing the support of your stakeholders (including investors), which is – of course – a good thing for business. But more on that later.

The idea of social value has been around for a while now. In the UK, the introduction of the Public Services (Social Value) Act in 2012 was a pretty clear indication that organisations needed to think about their social and environmental impact seriously. This act was just about the public sector prioritising social value, and now the private sector is playing catch-up.

So, if social value has been a big deal for over a decade, you’re probably wondering why it’s been getting so much attention recently.

Why Social Value is key for 2023: the trends and factors you should know about

There are loads of reasons why social value is more relevant than ever – here are a few vital factors.

‘Box-ticking’ is so last year

You might’ve noticed companies getting some serious backlash for ‘greenwashing’ over the last 12 months. In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority is even doing a greenwashing investigation into three different fashion brands at the minute. There’s no doubt about it: empty claims just aren’t passing muster anymore. According to Sensu’s 50 Shades of Greenwashing Research Report, only 23% of people believe ESG claims. And, only 8% agreed that businesses are currently doing enough for the environment.

In essence, the vast majority of people want companies to do more good – and they no longer trust when companies say they’re doing good. All this means that stakeholders are on high alert. Box-ticking isn’t good enough anymore, and stakeholders (including investors) want to see companies take a real, holistic approach to doing more good.

This has put way more pressure on organisations to examine and prioritise their social value strategies.

The world is facing some pretty scary stuff right now

It’s no secret that the cost of living crisis, the energy crisis, and the climate emergency are weighing heavily on organisations and individuals. A report by S&O Inclusive Economy Center also noted that the war in Ukraine is bringing a huge amount of attention to social issues, making it even more important for companies to focus on social value.

With all this going on, stakeholders are paying close attention to how organisations impact the world around them.

It’s an employee essential

Social value should be a top priority if you want to attract the best of the best. According to Porter Novelli, 70% of employees say they wouldn’t work for a company without a strong purpose.

And social action is even more vital for companies hoping to woo Gen Z –  a report by Deliotte found that 77% of Gen Z think it’s important for their workplace to have values that align with their own.

It’s key for retaining talent, too. As employees feel less invested in their jobs, and ‘quiet quitting’ looms large, empowering employees to do social good can help instil purpose. Plus, when employees contribute social value through volunteering, they’re likely to feel more confident and less stressed out.

Social value = financial success in the long run

S&O Inclusive Economy Center reckons that focusing on social opportunities – and managing social risks – is of direct strategic interest to companies right now.

And Nigel Wilson, Chief Executive Legal & General Group, reckons social value and commercial return go together like tea and biscuits: “The two go hand-in-hand and are mutually reinforcing over any reasonable period of time, and the economically sustainable business is the one that has a relevant, socially useful mission or purpose.”

All of this points to one thing: stakeholders are demanding more commitment to social good than ever before. They want accountability, transparency, and – basically – a real commitment to doing good for society and the planet.

Where do we go from here?

Trends and predictions alike indicate that social value is only going to become a hotter topic throughout 2023.

If you’re wondering how your business can start delivering more impact, onHand can help you. Book a demo now to understand how you can start doing more good.