Why social value matters
Delivering social value in relation to the built environment is more than about creating a buzz on the high street, it’s about bringing about long-term sustainable change in towns and cities.
Social value was something that we noticed the real estate industry talking about quite a lot last year; however, it was struggling to find a way to report and measure it. It seemed sensible for Human City to focus all our efforts in this area, and for us to support individuals and organisations that want to add value to the built environment.
We believe that a social value proposition is different from a business value proposition. It focuses on what matters to the wider community. In retail, for example, this means considering the added benefit of developing a shopping centre for retail staff and local residents as well as shoppers.
It is worth considering the following:
Cities are undergoing rapid change
Cities are undergoing rapid change. More than half of the global population live in urban areas, and 1.5 million more people are added to this urban population every week. At the same time, digital technology is changing the way that we live, work and interact. Leading-edge consumers have more flexibility and choice, and the demand for customer experience and personalised service is growing. Businesses need to work closely with occupiers and develop a transparent relationship and a hands-on approach that can help establish what the consumer wants.
There is widening disparity between the rich and poor
In the UK, there is widening disparity between the wealthiest and most deprived communities, particularly in light of cuts to core local government funding. It should come as no surprise that local councils are more likely to grant planning approval for developments that improve the economic, social and environmental conditions of an area — with a new focus on social care. For example, an urban development could be said to provide people with independence so that they are healthier, stronger, more resilient and less reliant on formal care services.
Businesses can build trust
By recognising that social value matters to leading-edge consumers and the poorest members of society, commercial real estate companies put cash in their pockets. They have an opportunity to not only respond to their obligations under Section 106 but also demonstrate that they can go well beyond this, by anticipating areas of untapped value for tenants and the wider community. In this way, businesses can build trust, enhance their reputation and increase the attractiveness of local places.
They can bring about sustainable change
However, delivering social value in relation to the built environment is more than about providing a bit of entertainment on the high street to create a buzz, it’s about bringing about long-term sustainable change in towns and cities. It will be important to have a good understanding of the local history of an area and its people to deliver value in places where it matters most to business and society.