Building Social Value into Estate Management Strategy

by Caroline Hildreth - Head of Estate Management Services | minutes read

Social Value is becoming an increasingly important part of day-to-day life. In simple terms it’s about how local government and organisations can create value for society, to provide the services we need and deliver support for businesses and communities to thrive.

The Social Value Act has played a key part in developing focus on social, environmental and economic wellbeing, based on five key policy themes: Promoting Wellbeing, Fighting Climate Change, COVID-19 Recovery, Tackling Economic Inequality and Equal Opportunity.

In January 2021, the legislation was updated, making it now a compulsory part of all major central government contracts, rather than just being an optional consideration. This means it is more important than ever for organisations to embed positive social, environmental and economic outcomes as part of their services, delivering Social Value to customers, outside of quality and price as standard.

The Role of Estate Management

Property plays a fundamental role in bringing together workforces, teams and communities.  Incorporating Social Value into Estate Management services has the potential to deliver tangible positive change by tackling some of the most pressing issues that the UK is facing, such as:

  • Ensuring the places where people live and work are greener and cleaner
  • Creating opportunities for local people to develop new skills and find jobs
  • Helping local businesses develop the strategies they need to thrive
  • Building stronger and deeper relationships with communities and social enterprises
  • Developing new ideas and finding innovative solutions to problems
  • Promoting opportunities for disadvantaged groups

However, Estate Management and Facility Management teams often find it difficult to build Social Value into the management of their property portfolios and strategies.   

Addressing Challenges

There are several perceived barriers including lack of resources, concerns around additional costs, communicating Social Value to suppliers and uncertainty around measuring outcomes. That’s where Sopra Steria can help, by bringing clarity to:

  • Assess the current situation to identify gaps
  • Understand the Social Value objectives
  • Create a plan to achieve Social Value goals aligned to client needs
  • Measure the impact of Social Value initiatives

By leveraging our capabilities and technology, we help clients improve the wellbeing of employees, citizens and residents, maximise environmental benefits, and bring together local populations by developing skills and supporting workplace schemes.

We work with our customers to ensure the Social Value they deliver aligns with their priorities.  For example where a client may be prioritising tackling economic inequality, as part of our service we will provide STEM and employability skills training or create employment opportunities for apprentices, kick starters or prison leavers.

Social Value in Action

While Estate Management can contribute to improvements across all five Social Value themes, Sopra Steria is focusing on the three areas where we can maximise the positive impact: Fighting Climate Change, Promoting Wellbeing and Tackling Economic Inequality.

#1 Fighting Climate Change

Given the outputs of COP26, Environmental Sustainability has never been higher on the government agenda. Within Estate Management, there is still immaturity around efficient and detailed reporting of the environmental impacts of estates and many organisations still use simplistic systems to track and report on environmental impact. The rise of technology in managing estates, such as smart buildings and IoT, demonstrates there are increasing methods of undertaking smarter, less manual and more detailed tracking of environmental outputs.

At Sopra Steria we utilise our capability and proven track record to help organisations identify areas that need improvement and help take the necessary steps to achieve their sustainability objectives such as Net Zero.

#2 Promoting Wellbeing

Properties and space can greatly affect the wellbeing, health and safety of citizens, the impact of which has become more apparent as a result of the pandemic. Traditional workplaces and ways of working have been irreversibly changed, and working environments need to change to reflect this. The challenge for Estate Management teams is to consider:

  • How office environments should adapt to provide positive experiences for employees who have become accustomed to working from home
  • How office space can be utilised effectively when flexible working is the norm
  • How to create collaborative spaces for employees to work effectively

The use of technology is playing a key role in defining the future of work. Communication and engagement with employees to understand their desires, motivations and requirements will ensure that organisations are able to build and adapt their working environments in order to continue to prioritise employee wellbeing. By managing the environment for employees through employee-led property strategies we can drive improved employee experience and retention.

Sopra Steria looks at opportunities within the built environment itself to improve wellbeing as well as safety.  Factors such as location of roads and volumes of traffic, green space, and number of accessible community buildings all have an impact on wellbeing . Technology can allow us to understand and mitigate the impact on both physical and mental health; physical health, in terms of safe routes to schools/work and low exposure to traffic emissions; and mental wellbeing in having consistent access to open outdoor areas, social activity and community support.

#3 Tackling Economic Inequality

We work across our customer organisations to assess the needs and priorities of their local community, and ensure that through the services they deliver, they are helping to develop people into a high skill economy. This could be done through identifying roles within the service with potential for upskilling or reskilling, or offering work experience, apprenticeships and everything in between.

Within Estate Management, the challenge of meeting Living Wage Foundation requirements is one that many organisations are struggling to meet, as calculations can be complex particularly when considering part-time and contracted workers. We can work with our clients in order to ensure that not only are they are able to achieve and retain their accreditation, by paying all staff and critically supplier staff working on their sites the living wage, but they are also doing it as efficiently and simply as possible.

At a corporate level through the programmes we run for customers, we embed skills training into our delivery models, and use our community impact programme, Tech for Good, to drive positive change in local communities and the local economy. We also participate in a huge number of outreach programmes in schools, colleges and with local charities, providing local people with digital skills and training to improve their employment and career prospects.

Measuring Impactful Change

It can be very difficult to measure and evaluate how Social Value has been delivered and importantly the impact that a Social Value strategy has had on users, stakeholders and communities. At Sopra Steria, we use an established framework and methodology to measure the outputs and impacts of Social Value strategies, ensuring our customers can understand the impact they have had. Our programmes and initiatives are tailored for each client, helping them to achieve their ambitions in this space, while also supporting national agendas like levelling up and Net Zero.

This is only a brief overview of some of the ways an effective Estate Management strategy could bring real Social Value for communities.  Compliance with the Social Value Act is a good starting point, but organisations need to be going further.  Programmes need to be developed as part of the overall property strategy to ensure delivering Social Value is more than virtue signalling, and instead is core to delivering positive, meaningful and measurable change.   

Next Steps

For more information about how Sopra Steria can help you develop your Estate Management strategy to deliver Social Value, please contact:

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