Business

Social value: delivering maximum social impact

By: Bob Taylor, CEO at the First Ark Group
Published: Monday, August 17, 2015 - 13:11 GMT Jump to Comments

Careful consideration and planning is an important first step for businesses wanting to ensure that social value activity delivers the maximum impact.

There will never be enough funding, help and support available, so businesses need to think smarter when it comes to social investment. The days of simply supporting grants and generating ‘any old’ social value isn’t enough on its own.

Organisations need to think innovatively and inclusively about social value and ensure it is linked with clear business priorities so the activity undertaken is planned, thought-out and working to make a real impact.

This doesn’t mean that generating social impact is hard - it can be quite simple. One way to deliver maximum social impact is through a long-term investment-led approach and by considering how capital is recycled.

Investing funds into projects that will eventually see these funds returned is a great way to ensure companies are able to re-invest the same money over again– delivering maximum social impact several times over from one pot of money.

The First Ark Group is just one contributor to the Big Issue Invest Corporate Social Venturing Challenge. For a second year running we have invested £50,000, alongside partners including Barclays, Experian, Places for People and Big Issue, to help early-stage social businesses to grow. 

The money is presented to worthy social enterprises as a business loan, so it will soon be returned to the partners ready to begin the cycle again. Supporting social enterprises ensures the funding is part of an on-going cycle which works to deliver social impact on various levels and means the impact of this activity is far reaching. 

Not all organisations have an investment-led approach for delivering social value. To ensure that it isn’t seen as an arena for only the large and hugely profitable businesses, it’s important to highlight how social impact can be delivered through other activity.

Joining forces with other like-minded individuals who share an ethos and passion for social value, and forming a partnership on projects that help businesses to succeed and boost communities, can also help to deliver impact.

The Big Issue Invest project is a great example of partnerships working to deliver maximum social impact. Companies receiving loans from the fund will also receive the very best advice and mentoring to help these fledgling social enterprises flourish.

There are currently 19 new social enterprise businesses that are receiving mentoring, support and advice through this project. By working in partnership with big brands such as Barclays, Experian and Big Issue, we are able to each offer those 19 enterprises’ time.

With that time, we are able to utilise the skills and expertise of our team to deliver an impact. As a single organisation, the level of support that can be offered may be limited. Working with other businesses, which are able to offer different practical support and expertise, is certainly worth considering.

The decision of a business, from an SME to a large corporation, will always impact the community in which it operates. It would be refreshing to see social impact considered part of the ‘total value’ that can be generated from what a business does and the choices it makes.

As members and co-designers of the Liverpool Social Value Charter, the First Ark Group is not only committed to improving economic, social and environmental well-being in the Liverpool City Region through our day-to-day business activities, but to inspiring and encouraging other local organisations to pledge their support.  

Following the introduction of the Social Value Act, Social Value Charters have been introduced across the UK. If a business pledges its support, or goes one step further and co-creates a Charter for its own area, the result of this combined intent and commitment will in turn deliver greater social impact throughout that community.

Supporting a Social Value Charter is an extension of partnering. It often results in businesses creating apprenticeships, local jobs and supply chain opportunities through the intelligent commissioning and procurement of goods and services – activities which pose little or no risk to a business, but make a big impact in a community.

Delivering social impact shouldn’t be an exercise in reducing profitability or being in any way less commercially minded, quite the reverse.

It has been proven that being viewed as a caring and responsible employer makes it easier for businesses to recruit and retain quality employees and customers. This is a crucial factor for any organisation that wants to succeed.

Commentators talk about the UK economy needing to see increased productivity to sustain long term economic growth. It is quite possible that social value is one of those key components to help businesses deliver a social - and competitive - edge.

Delivering real social impact requires businesses to be innovative, breaking the mould and thinking outside of the box to ensure any investment - whether that’s money, time, or resources - works as hard as possible to benefit the community and environment.

The key is thinking it through in the beginning and not making social value an afterthought.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.

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