Ben Carpenter, CEO of Social Value International, explains how a better understanding of social value helps improve wellbeing, reduce inequality, and protect the environment.

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Highlights of the conversation:

  • Public value is the value companies create for the people outside their organisations, for society. When we talk about social value, we talk very much at the individual level, about how people experience change, notably in well-being. Public value in turn is larger and value created for a group of people.
  • The principles of social value are accounting and reporting principles. In 2007, we created a network of practitioners who wanted to develop accounting for social value. In today’s society, value needs to go beyond what is was understood a decade ago and we focus both on social value and environmental value. Our practitioners are professionals who want to share the best of their discipline. They draw from the techniques of accounting, but also from the scientists monitoring and evaluation, and sustainability accounting. We believe that we need to work together across various fields of expertise and share our methodology to help raise the standards needed for social value.
  • The network is a membership organisation and members/ practitioners who come from the private sector, NGO, academia and even the public sector. They are united by a shared vision of what social impact, social wellbeing, and wellbeing of the environment should be. 
  • Wellbeing is subjective and hard to measure. There are a lot of techniques, and we share the best practices. We try to be closer to people to understand what is important to them at the current time, and capture their experience. It is a dynamic measurement as social value and well-being are developing with time and places. We do not advocate for one universal approach to measurement. We prefer to share principles that everyone can adopt, rather than metrics that may not be useful to all organisations.
  • The environment contributes to individuals’ wellbeing. Climate change is happening and it is urgent for all of us to adopt the right measures. Members do share their best practices and observations from their field of expertise, and think of the future generation as another stakeholder.
  • A lot of work remains to be done for companies to raise awareness of the need to measure social and environmental value, and of the best practices to do so, as well as the need for third party scrutiny for increased transparency. We care about educating people in a way that is consistent with other existing frameworks.
  • Social value is a coordinated effort between regulators, civil society and the private sector. The OECD Social Impact Investment Initiative aims to foster economic development while achieving social outcomes. The Social Value Act in the UK is another regulatory framework that encourages the private sector to develop social value. In the world of business, there is a larger understanding that social value is a way to drive economic growth, both locally and globally. A lot remains to happen, but mindsets are developing towards increased social value. More political pressure and activism can only help make things change.



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