The University of Sheffield is applying the NSVF through its procurement practices, in line with its sustainability strategy. Developed by a group of volunteers from the higher education consortia, these measures will be used to change the way universities make ethical and social value decisions throughout their purchasing priorities.

The University of Sheffield has begun integrating the national social value framework (NSVF) into its procurement practice in line with its sustainability strategy. This provides a way of gauging social value to a consistent standard.

What is social value? 

Social value refers to a product or service’s contribution to society. It can be quantified in terms of how it promotes the local economy, improves climate mitigation efforts and community wellbeing. This is important to universities, both in their place within the wider community and at the forefront of education.

The Social Value Portal  is an online tool that informs organisations how to prioritise and measure their social value through the supply chain. Sheffield is implementing a similar structure in procurement, translating into considering social value through in what they buy, where they buy it and the social value of the company they are procuring from.

This framework also sets up a mandatory minimum 10% weighting to sustainability and social value, meaning the University will be giving extra weighting in the contracting procedures to those with increased sustainability and social value. In other words, the University will invest in companies and initiatives with higher social value.

How is this regulated?

This scheme is regulated through the National Social Value Measurement Framework (National TOMs). This framework groups together social value themes (ie aims), outcomes (ie the positive changes within communities an organisation aims to implement) and measures (ie the method to achieve outcomes) to increase social value. In reality, this translates into making viable plans to build sustainable supply chains, implement the living wage and tackling inequality and how to execute them.

NSFV aims also include supporting communities through the COVID-19 recovery, tackling economic inequality and combating climate change – aims which can (and should) be implemented across higher education.

Why Procurement?

Whilst procurement may be less visible than changing student behaviour through the SU or groundbreaking research in the face of climate change, focusing on procurement can increase the Universities sustainability impact through switching or compelling suppliers to become more ‘socially’ conscious. 

Current estimates suggest that approximately 80% of University of Sheffield emissions are related to supply chains. This demonstrates how great an opportunity engagement in the supply chain is in working towards the University’s net-zero and related sustainability goals whilst having a far-reaching influence on companies beyond the university sphere.