How to Answer Social Value Tender Questions

The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 became law on the 8th March 2012 and went live from 31st January 2013. The public sector must now consider social value as part of any procurement. Not just value for money (cost and quality). So now you may have to respond to social value tender questions when bidding for public sector contracts.

Social Value Act 2012

What is Social Value in Tendering?

The Act requires authorities to make the following considerations at the pre-procurement stage:

  • How what is proposed to be procured might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the “relevant area”
  • How in conducting a procurement process it might act with a view to securing that improvement

We are now seeing much more focus on social value questions in tenders. Some have method statement questions on what social value you will provide. Others have social value calculator Excel spreadsheets to complete (see below).

Some public sector tenders completely ignored social value when tendering! But the Government’s latest measures reinforce the need to include social value in tender evaluation. As opposed to “consider”, authorities must “explicitly evaluate” social value (if reasonable and proportionate for that procurement). See Procurement Policy Note 06/20.

Some tenders weight social value as high as 10-20% of the total possible score! So, there can be a lot at stake.

Social Value Tender Questions

Social value tender questions can appear daunting at first. But once you start to understand social value, they become a lot easier. These types of tender questions can also help local businesses to score higher than non-local competitors. The reason is that they are already contributing to their local “relevant area”. For example:

Economic – employment, training and work-experience opportunities for local people.

Environmental – local staff, local suppliers and local work reduces your carbon footprint.

Social – supporting local community initiatives e.g. charities, local amateur sports teams etc.

Many of the terms used by councils and government can be confusing: “social integration and community cohesion” and “community development and engagement“. But in fact most of it is common sense. Here are some typical areas for social value and how you might respond:

Economic

  • Local jobs created and sustained
  • Apprentices
  • Work placement schemes for schools and colleges
  • Local school and college visits e.g. careers talks and mentoring, safety talks, curriculum or literacy support
  • Training opportunities e.g. your own staff, work-experience and customer staff
  • Taking people out of unemployment
  • Reducing the disability employment gap
  • Tackling workforce inequality
  • Providing career advice and/or mentoring
  • Using local suppliers, voluntary groups and agencies
  • Promoting social value in your supply chain e.g. using suppliers who operate apprenticeship schemes, have ISO 14001 etc.
  • Supporting COVID-19 economic recovery

Environmental

  • Reducing carbon footprint/pollution and improving air quality e.g. electric cars, reducing mileage, energy-efficient equipment
  • Decreasing congestion e.g. car-sharing and cycle to work schemes
  • Minimising waste e.g. re-use and recycling
  • Using environmentally friendly goods
  • Saving energy e.g. energy efficient lighting and equipment
  • Sustainability e.g. FSC timber products
  • Operating an ISO 14001 environmental management system or similar
  • Helping improve public spaces e.g. parks

Social

  • Supporting local charities
  • Helping local community groups (e.g. amateur sports clubs or social groups) – financial or any other support
  • Ethical suppliers e.g. Fair Trade
  • Community engagement e.g. involving local residents
  • Promoting social integration e.g. work opportunities for disadvantaged people
  • Supporting local culture and heritage
  • Hosting community events
  • Volunteering
  • Supporting a healthier community e.g promoting staff well-being, flexible working policies for staff
  • Helping vulnerable people to live independently
  • Supporting local crime reduction
  • Helping to reduce homelessness
  • Helping communities recover post COVID-19

Social Value Calculators and Measuring Social Value

Many Councils and public sector bodies have started to use a more formal way to assess bidders’ social value impact. Typically, the tender will include the authority’s published social value aims and you will be asked to state exactly how you will support these locally. In addition to general activities, you will need to commit to firm numbers. For example, how many man-hours of attending local schools or colleges to deliver career talks or advice.

Tender submission documents can include a table or social value calculator (spreadsheet) which has a detailed list of social value activities. Against each category, there will be a financial value. You then add the amount of commitment to any activity that you can support. This calculates your bid’s social value in monetary terms. For example: 3 weeks of work placement for a local student at £100 per week = £300.

You can see and download an example social value calculator at the Sustainable Development Unit (NHS England and Public Health England).

You can also download a copy of Social Value Portal’s National TOMs to see another social value calculator.

Social Value in Salford also has some useful information on measuring and evaluating social value.

Preparing for Social Value

Use the above lists and/or TOMs to measure what social value you currently offer. Then use those to assess what more you can do for the authority’s tender you are bidding on.

Research your prospect and understand what social value elements are most important to them e.g. environment is big for Bristol Green Capital.

Download their social value policy. Look at any social value news or procurement social value requirements on their website.

Attend any supplier engagement events. These will help you understand if the Authority has any social value preferences e.g. employment, apprenticeships etc.

Answering Social Value Tender Questions

Initially, social value questions asked about what social value initiatives you have undertaken. Nowadays, buyers are looking to understand what specific social value you will provide for their contract. The Social Value Calculators above are a good example of this.

So, make specific commitments on what you will do, how much and when. For example: number of staff hours spent on school and college visits (e.g. delivering careers talks, curriculum support etc.) per annum, in the locality relating to their contract.

As explained in this guide on answering tender questions, you must respond specifically to their questions. Not just give them your preferred social value activities. We’ve seen plenty of social value questions that don’t ask about all 3 aspects of social value e.g. just asking about apprenticeships and employment. Also, do your research on what is important to the buying authority. For example, Bristol has very clear and challenging environmental ambitions so providing an electric car for for your staff to travel around the City may hold more value to the Council than other social value provisions.

If you need help with answering tender social value questions, contact us.

Summary

You have to look outside some of the confusing terms. Most businesses are already doing many of these activities and therefore contributing to social value.  

Consider what you can do specifically in the buying authority’s local area. Understand what is important to them. Then be clear on what, when and how much you will do if you win the contract.

Does anybody have any other ideas or thoughts on answering social value tender questions?

7 thoughts on “How to Answer Social Value Tender Questions”

  1. Hello

    Good site thank you. I saw some advice for submitting tenders which suggested firms should promote their local presence and therefore local impact to gain a higher score due to the Social Value Act. This is understandable advice as the SVA Act does require an authority to consider the impact on the are they operate in. However the tension in the process is that that the authority cannot discriminate in favour of local firms, a firm from Ghent should (in theory) have as much chance of winning a contract with Durham Council as a firm located in Durham. Therefore the council could not openly score a local firm higher, unless that local firm indicated they were providing higher value independent of where they were located. I think I would just caution against a locally based firm pushing their location as part of the reason they should be contracted with, they would be better to focus on the requirement of the council and how they can add value, leaving the locality as a sort of obvious advantage sitting in the background. Hope this makes sense.

  2. Thanks for this Tom, excellent point.
    Just to clarify my thoughts: a business bidding for a contract in its locality should be able to offer decent evidence of social value relevant to that contract e.g. employing local staff, offering local apprenticeships, using local suppliers, supporting local charities etc.
    On the flip side, smaller businesses bidding for contracts outside of their local area can find some of these things harder to offer compared to a larger firm (e.g. regional or national supplier) who may already be operating in the area.
    You are quite right that being a local supplier means nothing until benefits of being local are demonstrated.

  3. Hi,
    Im just doing some research on how best to answer social value-related questions in tenders. I am starting to see them in virtually all tenders received.
    We are a medium sized manufacturer in the waste industry in the West Midlands, supplying to the majority of local authorities throughout the UK.
    We have no local activity; all our employees are in the Midlands. Our supply chain is widespread including overseas. How do we best answer questions along the lines of how do we support the voluntary and community sectors; promoting local employment and sustainability etc.?
    Is there a resource I could go to or training available that could help me with this?
    Thanks,
    appreciate any comments you may have

  4. Hi Jackie
    That’s an interesting question. Where companies face this issue, I normally recommend actively targeting social value activities that the company can achieve. For example, working with schools and colleges to offer talks on manufacturing, helping local voluntary/community sectors and looking for any other things that you don’t do but can. Depending on the size of contract, you may be able to fund local SV initiatives; some businesses pay towards the costs of council’s apprentices and/or fund events.
    You also need to re-examine what SV you are doing as some activities will affect each local authority e.g. low-emission vehicles creating less pollution in the borough, do you have suppliers in that borough (or will you seek to engage with them.
    Hopefully these examples help. I would expect that most of your competitors face the same issue which might reduce the impact of what seems a weakness.
    I’ll email you so you can contact me if you want to discuss this further.
    Regards, Tony

  5. Hi,

    Very interesting article. How much should the company invest in social value? 1%3%, 10% of the value of the contract?

    Thanks.

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