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Construction must create social value for communities

Rachel Woolliscroft

The construction industry is inextricably linked with the whole of UK society.

Companies in this industry build the physical world around us, of course, but our impact is felt beyond that. 

We offer training and employment prospects, inspire young people to join a vibrant and diverse industry, and support the thousands of SMEs and social enterprises supplying us.

Since the Social Value Act came into force in January 2013, this obligation has been enshrined in law for any services procured by the public sector.

Real value

Construction’s established presence in the community enables lasting relationships to be developed with suppliers and local people, to the extent that we can consistently lead the way on ‘social value’ and be a real force for good. Procuring through social enterprises is one way of delivering this value.

Social enterprises trade for profit, but reinvest their earnings into social or environmental purposes. They can be anything from trades, recycling firms, stationary suppliers, media companies – the sectors they operate in are as wide and varied as any other type of business.

“Social enterprises are more likely to be led by women or black and ethnic minorities. In an industry grappling with diversity, it is an interesting approach to think about.”

By using them in the supply chain, companies can procure key business services while doing good, playing a key role in supporting the growth of organisations that are tackling some of society’s most pressing problems such as homelessness, unemployment, offending and disability.

In addition, social enterprises are more likely to be led by women or black and ethnic minorities. In an industry grappling with diversity, it is an interesting approach to think about.

Commercial sense

Wates has been dedicated to integrating social enterprises into our supply chain for the past five years. We were one of the founder partners of the Buy Social Corporate Challenge – a drive for businesses to spend £1bn with the SE sector by 2020 – and we recently hosted a dinner for clients and peers to explore ways in which other industry firms can strengthen their links with social enterprises.

“Many companies across the sector are doing great work to build the bridges between society and business”

We do it because we’re committed to making a real difference to the societies in which we work, but it also makes sound commercial sense.

Many companies across the sector are doing great work to build the bridges between society and business, and I’m pleased to see that 2018’s CN Awards will include a category on social engagement recognising this.

Before then, we have Social Saturday happening tomorrow – a great way to make your pound go further.

Visit Social Enterprise UK’s online marketplace at socialsaturday.org.uk to see the array of products on offer from a host of social enterprises, from clothes and confectionery to food, wine and various gifts.

Why not use your own spending power to make a difference to communities?

Rachel Woolliscroft is sustainability director at Wates Group

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