Social value must play a role in purchasing

Simply being interested in environmental and social benefits is no longer enough for councils – they are now legally bound to consider more than just the bottom line when making a purchase.

From 31st January, the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 means that public bodies, including local authorities, have a duty to give serious thought to social value – that is, improving an area’s ‘economic, social and environmental well-being’ – as part of their procurement process for public services contracts. Not only must they consider these factors before they make a purchase; they also have to look at how they might act to secure such improvement.

Councils will need to give careful consideration to carrying out consultations in order to gauge the potential impact of their purchasing decisions, which, when providing services to people in the local authority area, means involving the very people who may receive the service. A range of bodies from the voluntary and community sector should be involved from the beginning, having their say in how programmes and services are designed. By involving people and agencies at the local level, this new legislation opens up the possibility of locally based services being bought, and should be good news for organisations that already have a firm commitment to engaging local citizens, boosting the local economy, and ensuring environmental sustainability.

As an award-winning social business committed to Corporate Social Responsibility, Recycling Lives takes the lead in these areas that councils must consider, and has a history of providing innovative solutions in waste management for customers whilst giving something back to society. The primary focus of the social business itself is waste management and recycling, which has obvious benefits for the environment: landfill is avoided and waste materials are reused to make new products.

In addition to our commitment to improving environmental well-being, Recycling Lives does everything it can to stimulate the local economy. We actively encourage new businesses to flourish by offering them low-priced office space in the form of “business incubators”, as well as mentoring and support. Our investment doesn’t stop there, either: we have a social welfare charity that provides accommodation, employment and a holistic support programme to homeless individuals and those at risk of homelessness.

Hand in hand with the economy is, of course, the community. Recycling Lives not only employs people in the local community and provide a base for new local businesses; they also educate the community and host community events. The Recycling Lives Centre in Preston, for example, was built on a derelict patch of land where a vandalised old building had stood; thanks to Recycling Lives, the site is clean, modern, and busy – it welcomes over 130 local people every day!

Recycling Lives prides itself on providing meaningful solutions to communities, and working in partnership with other businesses and charities. The organisation spreads the benefits of its work well beyond its own operations with a range of Community Dotcom schemes, dedicated to sustaining charity through metal and waste recycling. These include: Car Donation Network, which deals with the disposal of old vehicles; Furniture Donation Network, where people can donate excellent and very good quality furniture so it can be passed on to charities; and Bulky Waste, which refurbishes, reuses and recycles large waste appliances. Using these services means that charities receive a revenue boost, people in need are helped, and people are kept in employment.

In short, when a local authority awards a public service contract to Recycling Lives, it can be assured from the start that it is doing business with a company that cares about social value. The company welcomes the new Public Services (Social Value) Act, and the integrated social engagement it stands for.