Property industry must improve social value perception, says report

The property industry must do more to demonstrate the positive impact of construction projects on communities, according to Scape.

The property industry must do more to demonstrate the positive impact of construction projects on communities across the UK, according to new research by public sector procurement specialists SCAPE. 

In its latest nationwide research, SCAPE found that as few as one in five (20%) people in the UK believe that property developers will deliver against the commitments they make in relation to social value and improving local communities. 

The research indicates that there is a clear disconnect between the wide-ranging initiatives employed by contractors nationwide to create social value and the general public’s awareness or perception of them. Only half (50%) of the 2,000 UK residents surveyed recognised that a project had contributed positively to their local community. Respondents indicated that delivering long-term community benefit was the most important outcome for any project, ahead of other issues such as a building’s appearance or its green credentials. 

The research forms part of Social Value: More Than Metrics, a new report by SCAPE that explores the evolution of social value in the public sector and the impact that contractors and developers are having on local communities. 

Despite widespread initiatives across the construction industry in relation to employment, sustainability and social cohesion, many members of the public are still unaware of how projects are being delivered in a way that enriches their community. Only a third (35%) of all respondents had heard of the term ‘social value’ and felt confident that they understand what it means. 

With the public sector already acting as the cornerstone for the UK’s economic recovery – and set to play an increasingly important role in infrastructure investment as the nation builds back better in 2021 – the report calls for public sector organisations and contractors to aid the public’s understanding of social value. 

Key recommendations in the report include: 

  • Giving social value returns equal if not greater prominence than traditional procurement drivers, such as time, cost and quality;  
  • Incorporating qualitative feedback procedures, such as interviews with community stakeholders and focus groups, into measurement processes; 
  • Encouraging ongoing review of the metrics used to measure each project to avoid a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to social value; 
  • Standardising sustainability measurement to demonstrate benefits with greater ease and consistency; 
  • Implementing long-term community engagement processes to ensure positive legacies for every project. 

Mark Robinson, group chief executive at SCAPE, said: “In the seven years since the Social Value Act was passed, the new duties required in procurement have played a valuable role in guiding public bodies and contractors to consider the wider impact of public investment on society. However, as we await the imminent launch of the government’s Construction Playbook – which will increase the focus on socio-economic improvement – our research shows that work still needs to be done to improve public perception regarding the benefits being created through construction projects. 

“Whilst the monetisation of social value is important, in many ways, the more important thing is the short and long-term value that one action can set in motion within a community, and how these actions are perceived and received. By shining a light on the public’s understanding and perception of social value, and demonstrating what best-in-class delivery looks like, it is our aim through this report to get to the heart of these issues and drive positive, sustainable change within communities.” 

Click here to download the report Social Value: More than Metrics.

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