Time for the water industry to tap into social value

Andrew O’Brien from Social Enterprise UK explains why water companies should tap into social value.

Over the past decade the UK has seen a growing movement on the importance of social value. What is social value? Social value is the social, environmental and economic impact that governments, businesses and social enterprises create through the way that they carry out their work. Social value is the same as the added value that Ofwat has outlined in its vision for the water industry.

Once you get past the jargon, social value is just plain common sense. If you can provide a service and create apprenticeships for disadvantaged young people or use environmentally sustainable methods – it is obvious that you are going to create better outcomes for society than just using traditional methods. We know social value works because we represent 100,000 social enterprises that exist to create this value every day through the goods and services they sell.

Social Enterprise UK are a membership body for social enterprises. They represent over 100,000 businesses which have a legally binding social or environmental mission

In a world where there is huge pressure on businesses to be socially and environmentally responsible, social value provides a solution.

At Social Enterprise UK we have been campaigning on social value for years. We successfully lobbied Parliament to pass the world’s first law requiring government procurement to consider social, economic and environmental value.

We have worked with the UK’s biggest business through our Buy Social Corporate Challenge. This Challenge now includes fifteen businesses, from financial services to construction all committing to buy from social enterprises to boost their social value. It shows that every sector can adapt its business model to help people and planet.

The water industry has huge potential to increase its social value. As anchor institutions that are embedded in every community across the country, there is a huge range of possibilities. All we need is leadership and creativity. The time has come for water companies to go with the flow and tap into social value.

Watch: Andrew O’Brien gives his three takeaways for the water industry on social enterprises and social value

Andrew O’Brien is Director of External Affairs at Social Enterprise UK.

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