SUEZ reveals social value results for 2020

Recycling and recovery company SUEZ has today (16 September) revealed its social value results for 2020.

The firm has confirmed that it generated £1.99 billion in social value in 2020, up from the figure obtained for 2019 of £1.55 billion, in spite of the economic and operational challenges posed by the pandemic.

SUEZ Social value is defined as, according to Social Value UK, ‘the quantification of the relative importance that people place on the changes they experience in their lives’. SUEZ states that it has used bespoke software, designed by Social Profit Calculator, in order to evaluate the value of the wider social, environmental and economic benefits generated by its enterprises.

The focus on social value follows recent government legislation that promotes its application when outsourcing work. In 2013, the Social Value Act was passed, which encourages all public bodies to consider broader social, environmental and economic impacts when procuring services. In 2020, a Procurement Policy Note (PPN) was issued, requiring all central government departments to explicitly evaluate social value and give it a 10 per cent weighting score when awarding contracts.

SUEZ states that one of the contributing factors to the increase in social value was continued employment growth, which saw the recycling company’s workforce increase in number by over 400 employees, largely as a result of the commencement of its ten-year contract with the Somerset Waste Partnership back in March. Another key factor was increased household recycling, with the vast majority of people working from home for much of the year.

This overall increase in social value was achieved despite a drop in the ratio generated per tonne of waste handled, from £2.32 in 2019 to £2.26 in 2020. This dip was linked to pandemic restrictions, which saw all 25 of SUEZ’s reuse shops closed up for at least half of the year, with many education community outreach programmes also suspended.

SUEZ states that social value holds more meaning when tailored to an area’s specific needs, with the company seeking out new means through which to support local communities in light of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. These methods included redirecting community funds to support groups most affected by the pandemic; introducing a ‘Giving Something Back at Christmas’ fund supporting local community and environmental charities nominated by staff; launching free STEM education resources for teachers and home educators covering key stages one, two and three; and participating in virtual community and education activities such as heritage open day and STEM careers events.

John Scanlon, Chief Executive Officer for SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, commented: ‘We are very much a part of the communities that we serve, and I’m proud of the way our teams sought new ways to support and work with their local communities last year when faced with the challenge of the pandemic.

“At SUEZ we are clear that our activities must benefit more than the bottom line and the social value we created in 2020 shows how this approach is being embraced throughout the organisation, with social value a core part of our business strategy.”

Sarah Ottaway, Sustainability and Social Value Lead for SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, said: ‘We are now in our third year of evaluating and measuring the social value created by our activities and this understanding is helping us to deliver meaningful social value across the country.

“With the lifting of restrictions this year allowing us to resume and expand our reuse offering, and by retaining some of the innovations introduced last year during the pandemic such as virtual educational tours of our facilities, I’m confident we’ll continue to build on our social value in 2021.”