Let’s build back greener, fairer and together

1st March 2021 Posted by

Let’s build back greener, fairer and together – this was the overarching message running through this week’s National Social Value Conference organised by Social Value Portal. With the end of lockdown finally in sight, it was an ideal time to bring the brightest minds working on the social value agenda together to discuss and empower each other as to where we go from here.

Through the sessions I listened to and spoke at during the two-day event, there were three messages that really stood out and were repeated by many of the speakers.

Our social and environmental challenges are inextricably linked

And so are their solutions. By creating a greener economy based on renewable energy, circular use of materials and more nature-based solutions, we reduce our impact on our environment, while creating green, skilled jobs and sustainable communities, and this is possible in every region and devolved nation. There was no debate that change needs to happen and we cannot simply go back to how things were before COVID-19 confined us to our homes. However, we need everyone outside of the social and environmental industries to understand and embrace this too, by seeing the opportunities this brings, which is likely to be the greatest challenge in this process.

No one organisation can do this alone

There were plenty of examples of third sector, public and private organisations doing remarkable things and showing how much social, environmental and economic value can be created by following a triple bottom line approach, something that is part of our DNA at SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, but this isn’t the same everywhere. However, no one organisation can deliver the change needed on its own. Everyone has to play their part and this includes cross sector collaboration – something we are seeing more of in the resources sector, as we collaborate in increasing amounts with the rest of the value chain in order to deliver the intentions of DEFRA’s resources and waste strategy.  This will only continue to expand over time, and I hope in an ever increasingly rapid rate, as we have a crucial role to play as we align with every sector (as who doesn’t generate waste or deal with resources in some form?) and we shouldn’t underestimate the part we have to play.

Close-Up Of Fresh Green Plant Growing

What gets measured gets done

Social value has been a head scratcher for many when it comes to what do we monitor and measure and why should we do it. The simple fact is, by attributing a realistic value of the impacts of an activity means you can measure delivery, understand if improvements have been made and compare and contrast with others to continually improve on a wider scale than just an individual organisation. At SUEZ, we’ve invested in our own social value platform to help understand the relative value created by our activities at a national, regional and local level, this monetises the outcome to help us understand how our time and money is creating social, economic and environmental benefits, aid decision making and in time enable us to determine where we have improved and where more effort is required. This is just part of the puzzle when it comes to deciding how and where to invest resources, but it’s a useful one, as the outcomes are presented in a way that everyone can understand and interpret.

Main takeaways

One of my main takeaways from the event is the greater need for a sector wide approach to social value, one that aligns with the national picture, most notably the social value model created by the Cabinet Office, and create a more consistent approach to its adoption and evaluation, while maintaining the local impacts it creates. By doing so, this will enable us to collaborate and increase our impact as a sector, which in turn will contribute to a fair and sustainable green recovery.

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