Public consultation is underway on changes to government contracts that will prioritise social responsibility and inclusion. Melanie Ryan explores the implications for infrastructure and development projects.

Private sector firms wanting to do business with the UK Government will have to demonstrate how they embed positive outcomes for society in their projects, under new requirements for procurement unveiled by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Government is shaking up the way it awards contracts to ensure that addressing issues like lack of diversity, wage gaps, skills shortages and inaction on climate change are top of the agenda for those who win new work.

Have your say

Government has invited feedback until 10 June on changes that will apply to all departments, executive agencies and public bodies undertaking procurement. The new framework will offer those involved in planning and construction the chance to stand out from the crowd with clear and careful tender marketing.

The developers achieving high scores during bid evaluation will be those who can show evidence of best practice stakeholder and community engagement. The results of engagement, and the willingness to consult, will demonstrate a prospective contractor’s ability to support government in improving social and environmental outcomes from projects.

Going forward, the 4,000 commercial buyers in Government will be looking for compelling examples of excellence in tender documents – such as:

  • How co-design techniques were used to create the vision for, and understand the services involved in, delivering work
  • Pre-tender consultation with local supply chains that could add underrepresented voices to the development process
  • The number and quality of engagement activities that led to unique and localised targets for equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Meaningful programmes (such as STEAM education outreach in schools) that demonstrate a commitment to sharing the benefits of infrastructure or property expertise.

Case studies will be key

Well-written and evidence-led case studies will be crucial to clinching Government’s newly-proposed minimum 10 per cent weighting for social value in a bid. To prepare for taking part in the revised framework, firms will likely start reviewing existing stories about their achievements – checking whether these case studies match the metrics in government’s emerging procurement model. They’ll also be looking to ensure they’ve got the right permissions to use statistics, quotes and images that will highlight the community considerations at the heart of projects.

If fully adopted, the policy changes will demand that bidders go above and beyond in liaising with community leaders, local SMEs and charities, both pre- and post-procurement – as the evaluation metrics will be carried through to the contract, to help monitor and manage contractor performance. Businesses will need to follow through on their social commitments, communicate with vulnerable and hard-to-reach stakeholders, and capture the gains from their good work.

You can review the consultation documents, and share your views on how government should take account of social value in awarding contracts, at the UK Government’s consultations portal. You can also get in touch with Copper to learn more about how we can help organisations succeed with upcoming tender processes.