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Answering the public sector’s top questions on unlocking Social Value through procurement

We answer some of your top questions on best practice for unlocking Social Value through public procurement.


Social Value Portal’s Power up your Procurement webinar delved deeply into best practice for public sector procurers looking to unlock Social Value in partnership with the supply chain. The session attracted a well-informed, 450+ strong audience, with numerous incisive questions about Social Value in procurement.  

We couldn’t cover them all in the hour, so our experts have gotten together to answer some of the those we didn’t get to.  

Read on for answers to your top Social Value procurement questions. 

Want to power-up your procurement with Social Value? Explore our Buyer’s Toolkit. 

1. How can buyers make sure that Social Value requirements are fair and effective for small and medium enterprises (SMEs)? 

In principle, if a bidder can deliver the contract requirements, they should be capable of delivering the Social Value requirements too, assuming those requirements are proportionate and relevant to the contract. 

But it is true that SMEs often don’t have the same resources as larger bidders. Here are a few approaches that can provide support to these organisations: 

  • Engage with the market: Over the past couple of years, we have seen how important it is to bring bidders of all sizes into the process early on through preliminary market engagement. 
  • Emphasise quality: Buyers should look closely at the qualitative aspect of the proposal and the benefits that the supplier would bring to the community in response to the specific tender. 
  • Provide clarity: It is key to be clear about your needs and feed them into the individual contract. 

2. Does the Social Value TOM System™ align with PPN 06/20 and the UK Government’s Social Value Model?  

The Social Value Model (introduced alongside PPN 06/20) only mandates a qualitative evaluation, and while it is useful in terms of procurement, it doesn’t measure Social Value delivery.  

However, the TOM System aligns against the Social Value Model and the MACs within it, supporting contract management and enabling users to comprehensively demonstrate what is being delivered through its metrics.  

 This ultimately enables bidders to go beyond the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of their Social Value offer by giving an indication of scale: how much Social Value they could deliver under contract if they’re successful.  

3. How much Social Value should buyers aim to deliver per contract?  

The average ‘Social Value-add’ – Social Value delivered relative to total contract size – is around 20%. So, for a contract value of £60,000, we might see £12,000 of Social Value delivered. But this differs significantly across sectors, with notable variance in areas like health and social care, IT, construction, facilities management, professional services and others.  

We would advise caution when it comes to mandating a particular Social Value-add as this can result in ‘over-asking’ and makes it more difficult to differentiate between bids. Not all opportunities are large enough to deliver a 20% Social Value-add, and some contracts deliver a lot more than 20%, so it’s important to ensure that expectations are proportionate.  

4. Does the Social Value response in a tender have to be something the supplier doesn’t currently do as part of their corporate Social Value? 

It is not enough for a supplier to simply report something they already do. Social Value is about additionality: what else the supplier does in addition to core contract requirements, or normal industry standards. It must also be specific to that contract, meaning the supplier wouldn’t be doing it had they not won the business.  

One exception is if a supplier demonstrably extends an existing program for a particular contract, because doing so creates additional more Social Value.  

5. How should buyers select relevant TOM System™ Measures, and how does Social Value Portal help with this? 

In our experience, many bidders welcome greater focus and clarity around what buyers are looking for and why – be it delivering on a policy objective or addressing a local need.  

Context matters, however. The ask from the buyer must be proportionate and relevant for each contract, but also reflective of the needs for the community or communities it is serving. It is also worth asking whether a narrower focus on the Social Value outcomes you want will increase your chances of achieving that result.  

By connecting Social Value outcomes to TOM System™ Measures, buyers can give clarity to bidders while also better measuring delivery under contract. This approach is effective whether the buyer is from the wider public sector, central government, or indeed the private sector. 

We help our members identify the right focus areas and Measures through our Consultancy team’s Local Needs Analysis service, and also during onboarding, where our Social Value Advisers work with members to map key TOM System Measures.  

6. How can buyers help suppliers to connect with VCSEs? 

Enabling suppliers to connect with VCSEs is an effective tactic to amplify the Social Value delivered in a contract. It’s also something that buyers should prioritise early on.  

Here are a few tips that can help:   

  • Promote networking: This could involve organising ‘Meet the buyer’ events, roundtables, and preliminary market engagement prior to tendering. 
  • Give ‘shout-outs’ to VCSEs: Identify relevant (and perhaps local) VCSEs aligned to your Social Value goals. Consider sharing these with bidders in advance of the tender and in your ITT bid pack. 
  • Debrief bidders after evaluation: If a buyer invites and expects VCSEs to feature in tender submissions, but feels that improvements can be made, they should communicate these to bidders to help enhance future submissions. 

7. Suppliers have the skills, resources, and ideas to identify Social Value opportunities. How can buyers tap into these? 

The first step in leveraging the unique knowledge and skillsets of the supply chain is to prioritise engaging the relevant organisations.   

We have already discussed the importance of ‘meet the buyer’ events and roundtables for facilitating connections and networking. But this kind of preliminary market engagement is also an opportunity to gather ideas, draw insights, and identify pathways.  

We would further encourage you to conduct thorough market research. Look at suppliers and the relevant activities they report on. These may be presented as Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting and case studies, but they will give you sense of the work that is already being done.  

8. How does Social Value Portal use Local Needs Analysis to help councils identify their Social Value needs?  

The purpose of a Local Needs Analysis is to gain deeper insight into the key Social Value needs and opportunities in a local area. This ensures that Social Value activities can have a real and lasting impact. It also helps councils to focus interventions on a hyper-local level; after all, needs in one area of a local authority may be different to another.   

Procuring councils can use these insights to inform suppliers’ bids and developers’ planning applications, and as a mechanism to deliver ‘place-based’ Social Value.  

A Local Needs Analysis may include:   

  • A policy review: Comprehensive review of relevant policy documents.  
  • Deprivation analysis: Qualitative and quantitative (often using the Indices of Multiple Deprivation) research into the forms and geography of deprivation in the local area.  
  • An overview of the support ecosystem: Identification of potential local community partners to collaborate with to achieve lasting change.  
  • A Social Value action plan: Identification of specific interventions to address local needs with relevant community partners.  

Ultimately, a Local Needs Analysis should help the council, as well as their suppliers, developers and stakeholders, to prioritise the Measures they will deliver against and partnerships that they engage with. 

Learn more about Social Value in procurement! 

Featuring the on-demand webinar, an in-depth report, and video case study, our Buyer Toolkit is a must for any organisation looking to power-up their procurement with Social Value.  

And if you’re a business that wants to work with the public sector, you can find all the resources you need with our Bidder Toolkit.  

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About Social Value Portal

Since 2017 Social Value Portal has been at the forefront of the Social Value movement. As creators of the endorsed Social Value TOM SystemTM, hosts of the annual Social Value Conference and founding members of the independent National Social Value Taskforce – they set industry standards and lead the business agenda.

Their unique mix of consultancy, cloud platform and programmes offer organisations the complete solution to accurately measure, manage and report Social Value – and create lasting impact.

In 2022, SVP achieved B Corp status, scoring above average in all assessed. The company’s aim is to promote better business and community wellbeing through the integration of Social Value into day-to-day business activity across all sectors.

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