The Importance of Shared Value in Corporate Social Responsibility

Jonny Frank
Engaging in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has always been the ‘right thing to do’ but now with Social Value, through the Public Services Act 2012 and its recent amendments in 2018, Social Value has added weight to companies recognising their Social, Economic and Environmental (SEE) duties.

Social Value is now a key component for winning public sector work, however CSR is an opportunity to do the right thing whilst recognising deeper, longer-term, ‘shared value’ relationships with local communities rather than a shorter-term, project-specific transactional relationship.

It is fair to say the first six months of 2020 has been a period of isolation for all of us.  As the industry embarks upon a quarantine exit and begins a return to something close to resembling ‘normal’, we are presented with the opportunity to engage in a more considered approach to CSR and support local communities who have been severely impacted by Covid-19. 

Local communities need support more than ever; investing in a long-term partnership and forming a dependable, collaborative ethos allows all parties to make the most of their engagement, providing stability, greater opportunities and more efficient use of resources through better planning that can only enhance the built environment, as opposed to a token gesture or short-term engagement.

This shared value strategic approach creates an opportunity, aligned with a business’ strengths and objectives, to engage in SEE activities where tangible benefits are mutual and long-term, rather than client-driven tick box exercises.  By doing so, establishing longer-term connections and proactively contributing locally through CSR will have a more profound impact both to the region and your business.

Laying the foundations through long-term association with STEM-related enterprises such as RTC North and supporting their initiatives, enables them to strive towards ever more powerful and outreaching activities in region, knowing they have the stability of local business support.  The same can be said for engagement with other organisations such as Generation for Change, RICS Matrics Young Professionals and CECA Young Professionals.  A long-term strategy such as this can not only help those taking part but also the industry as a whole; it enables future generations to discover their own successful careers in the construction industry, ensuring we close the skills gap and attract the best talent into the diverse built environment.

Supporting local councils with environmentally friendly initiatives such as tree planting, litter picking and recycling over longer periods makes for a SEE contribution beyond the construction of the built environment.  This is not only important to help reduce our carbon footprint, but also to positively enhance the regions within which we live, work and study.  Consistently supporting networking events lays the foundations for growth in numbers and subsequently improves exposure in region within your network.  Providing CPD or recruiting trainees locally develops the local talent pool, whilst procurement through local business helps support in-region GDP.

In order to have a profound impact, CSR needs to be used to facilitate deep-rooted collaboration so that there are dependable, continuous resources available for the local community to rely on as a catalyst for growth and development.  Longer-term partnerships grant the opportunity to truly understand the needs of the local communities, identifying business opportunities to positively shape the built environment and recognise and forecast for future SEE needs. 

The partnerships also need to be tested and measured, to ensure the initiatives you choose to implement are truly achieving the desired unity between your own business goals and those of your partners.  A business may be mitigating their negative impacts on society or complying with business ethics standards—which is of course important - but it may not necessarily be creating shared value for the communities it serves.  Benefits are long-term and incremental, and new expectations and needs will develop, so it’s important to speak to your partners to understand ‘are we still doing the right thing?’

The way companies behave has never been more important, or more visible, and embedding social value into the business’ approach needs to be, as mentioned above, the right thing to do rather than a tick-box exercise.  Through shared value, it allows you to engage in richer, truer and more meaningful dialogue with your stakeholders (i.e. clients, communities, etc.), giving you greater insight into their needs and wants, and ultimately shaping the built environment for the better.

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