Proxima speaks to the National Highways Executive Director of Commercial & Procurement about how his organisation uses its position to deliver positive change
How do you define social value?
For us as an organisation, social value encompasses a huge range of things. Together they quantify the experience we add to people’s lives, from skills and job creation through enhancements to the local environment to boosting community facilities. As a government company, we are spending public money to build and maintain the nation’s strategic road network and we do this in a way that supports business, the economy and has a genuine positive impact on people’s lives. This can take many forms – from creating wildlife habitats to employing veterans to help them get back on their feet. This is what we mean when we talk about social value.
At National Highways we’ve been working for some time to embed social value into our ways of working, but the guidance from the Government (in particular its recent policy note on procurement) has provided us with a real boost. It’s great to see that government is placing itself at the heart of this agenda as this will only help ensure that organisations, both big and small, are making a positive contribution to the levelling up agenda and Covid-19 recovery. I’m proud of the passion with which National Highways is adopting social value thinking and it can only be a good thing to see more commercial and procurement teams embrace social value.
The roads that we build and maintain, connect different communities up and down the country and it is important to us that we are engaging with those communities to understand their needs and concerns. This is front of mind when delivering projects, the longevity of which means we can deliver positive results for current and future generations. A requirement for apprentice schemes within our contracts, aimed at those who live alongside the scheme, is just one of the ways we are leveraging our position as a client to make an impact on the world in which we live. We want to be in a place whereby we finish a project and can take a step back safe in the knowledge that we’ve not only built quality infrastructure but also left a legacy.
How do you work in collaboration with your suppliers?
Delivering social value cannot be achieved in isolation. We bring together the supply base to engage in an open dialogue around things such as net zero and social value and encourage innovation. This creates a space for suppliers to share knowledge, contribute ideas and work towards collective goals. Social value now represents 10% of the overall score for tender assessments and we will be adopting new approaches to assess carbon content in bids. The scale and size of our framework contracts form a significant change enabler for the sector.
We use our significant spending power to support suppliers whether that’s through charity work, volunteering, improving the diversity of the workforce or helping them to be more sustainable. For example, one of our supplier’s chosen areas of focus is the rehabilitation of ex-offenders and they have a track record in helping them to find work after coming out of the prison system. For us, social value is about doing what we can to support suppliers like these who are committed to improving quality of life and enhancing the environment. My favourite example is Royal British Legion Industries who employee ex-service men and women who need some help. The business makes road, rail and street signs and we are working with our supply base to support a steady level of demand from the sector to help them provide continuity of employment to ex-service men and women.