Member Blog: Social Value – good business?

Date: 11/09/2018
Author: Chris Dabbs
Company: Unlimited Potential

By Chris Dabbs, Chief Executive - Unlimited Potential

“What you do makes a difference. You have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

To continue to prosper, every type of business must make a profit. But is that all that we want to achieve?

Many business leaders want to achieve much more, and an increasing number see creating wider benefit as central to their purpose.

22% of the UK small business population - or 1.21 million enterprises - are socially-oriented small and medium enterprises (SMEs), sometimes known as ‘mission-led businesses’. That is, SMEs that have social and/or environmental goals, alongside making a profit.

Larger businesses also see a business case in embracing social value in their day-to-day operations. Timpson has over 2,000 retail stores throughout the UK and Ireland. It operates an ‘upside down’ management style, giving freedom to staff with only two rules: look the part; and put money in the till. Relying exclusively on personality, Timpson considers anyone for vacancies and actively recruits ex-offenders and other marginalised groups. This benefits not only society, but also the business through responsive customer service and staff retention.

Social value is about producing a wider social benefit, and running an effective organisation. Taking a social value approach creates increased social, environmental and economic impact, but also a business that is more attractive to others.

In consumer markets, providing added social value creates an advantage over competitors. For example, retail sales of Fairtrade goods in the UK have steadily grown over many years, and grew by a further 7% in 2017.

For businesses selling to the public sector, the Social Value Act legislation has become increasingly important. For example, procurement of significant contracts for public services must factor in social value. 10-20% of the scoring of bids for social value is common and, in some cases, this has been known to rise to as high as 40%. Any business that cannot prove and articulate its social value risks losing business.

Even in business to business transactions, social value is entering the fold. Some larger businesses are seeking more than just price and volume. They need to be seen to be doing ‘the right thing’, and are increasingly aware that if only empty words are uttered, they risk being exposed on social media, to the detriment of their image.

In Salford, the public, private and voluntary sectors have joined together to make Salford better socially, economically and environmentally. They have created a partnership called the Salford Social Value Alliance.

The 10% Better campaign in Salford aims to improve the quality of life in the city and tackle the inequality and poverty that remains despite the substantial economic growth that continues. It believes that, by all sectors coming together, the chance of success will be greater.

The campaign aims for 2017 to 2021 are: 

  • For people: 10% more volunteering; 10% more young people in employment, education and training; and 10% more people saying that they have good well-being.
  • For the planet: 10% less waste; 10% more recycling; 10% more green travel; and 10% more use of parks and green spaces.
  • For prosperity: 10% more purchasing from Salford-based companies; 10% more companies paying the real Living Wage; 10% less fuel poverty; and 10% more local people from vulnerable groups accessing new jobs, apprenticeships, training and work experience placements.

With this, through local supply chains, the campaign aims to increase the value of goods and services in Salford by £2,353 per head.

The 10% Better campaign is supported by award-winning branding and web design agency, Carbon Creative, which is based at MediaCityUK. They believe that creatives have a moral duty to design responsibly, whether it is the selection of materials, the body of work they do or, perhaps more importantly, the message and behaviour changes that their work can achieve.

Carbon Creative believes in making a commercially successful business to be proud of. For them, though, there is something else. When they are older, telling stories to their grandchildren about what they did with their lives, they want to be proud to say that they worked with some amazing people, created some beautiful things and did so with a vision, driven by their values and guided by the beliefs held closest to their hearts.

Not a bad way to plan your life, while also doing good business!

If you have a business that is based or trades in Salford, you can make a pledge – however large or small - to make Salford 10% Better by going to the pledge site.


Unlimited Potential is a social enterprise that specialises in social innovation. Chris is a committee member of Greater Manchester Chamber's Salford Business Network (SBN) and also SBN’s lead on its Social Value campaign.

Salford Business Network (SBN) is running four campaigns, led by Dina Railean, Chief Executive of Express Language Solutions Ltd and Salford President of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce:

  1. Mentoring
  2. Closer collaboration with local academia
  3. Social value
  4. International trade

Please look out for future blogs on these campaigns, including ways of getting involved.