'We need social value if we’re serious about rethinking capitalism'

The Social Value Act has the potential to create a new kind of capitalism, the environmentalist Jonathon Porritt has said.

The Act requires all public sector procurers of services over a certain value to consider how they can create wider social, environmental and economic benefits through their purchasing. 

Porritt made the comments at the launch of a new toolkit to help buyers engage with the act, the Social Value Maturity Index (SVMI).

“We’re not just talking about something that is quite useful on the margins. If we’re serious about rethinking models of capitalism then we have to think about the contribution the Social Value Act can make to that,” said Porritt, who is also a non-executive director of construction firm Willmott Dixon.

Porritt said the Act was about finding ways private sector companies could work with the public sector to “reduce the negative externalities today and tomorrow of capitalism, and enhance the positive externalities”.

Cindy Nadesan, procurement improvement officer at Orbis, a joint partnership between Surry and East Sussex councils, said social value could “brings the passion back into the public sector. It make us realise that actually, we’re in this sector to serve the residents”.

“By working together across all our service areas – social care, environment and transport – we were able to develop measures that aligned to [our partner’s] strategic objectives as well as procurement’s desire to secure the best value,” she said.

Guy Battle, CEO of the Social Value Portal, the company that developed SVMI, said there was a perception of battle lines existing between the public and private sector. “But actually if you think about who runs private sector organisations, it’s people like you and me. It is just normal people, inherently they want to do good.”

Porritt said: “The contribution that business can now make to making a better world is significantly greater than most of those businesses understand, and much more important in the great span of things than the general public understands.”

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