“Social impact is also an important driver for businesses from a people point of view. Both current and prospective employees expect and deserve their organisation to be a people-centric and fair place to work. Ensuring positive societal change for clients and the people and places they serve is put simply, the right thing to do.
“It is about leaving a positive community legacy after the builders have gone. For example, the long-term legacy for the development of Stratford, East London is far greater than the standalone outcome of the 2012 Olympics.
What’s the aspiration?
“At WSP, social value is already embedded in many of our projects and we’re ensuring it becomes the norm across the board. We’re even able to build a picture that further demonstrates the impact these projects are generating several years after completion – after all it speaks to our core purpose to shape societies of tomorrow and help communities thrive.
What’s the biggest challenge?
“Although not new, social value is still developing and maturing. In bid responses, volunteering days and STEM engagement tend to be the focus for a lot of companies because these are well established and relatively easy to quantify. But true social value is much more holistic – the work we do on wellbeing and loneliness is very relevant.
“In conjunction with our Future Ready programme, our engineers and consultants act on the future trends and wider social issues impacting design. We look to utilise our research and development in these areas to consider future social innovations as part of our approach. We can harness the power of building back better to create world class infrastructure. Using the opportunities brought about by innovative technology and the changing world, we can deliver schemes that meet the needs of today, deliver a net zero future, and build healthy and cohesive communities
“Internally we are already doing some great things – our low carbon and environmental initiatives, diversity and inclusion activity, STEM and apprenticeships, wellbeing, volunteering and the WSP Foundation, for example. Our experts produce a Social Return on Investment report each year for corporate initiatives as part of our Annual Sustainability Report. My priority is to bring these together so that we achieve consistency and can accurately measure our total impact using the national TOMs framework. We also have dedicated ESG and planning experts in the business, embedding and engaging social value throughout the project lifecycle.
“Our next challenge is to help our industry peers define what social value means in the built environment. We need to multiply the value created by driving social value through our supply chain to create value and positive impact at all touchpoints. We’ve refreshed our social value policy, and we’ll build on that to shape our approach within our business and as part of our service delivery too.”