Can social value add value to Surrey?

Amey has co-sponsored Girlguidings Innovative Skill Builder badge as part of its commitment to STEM

Amey has co-sponsored Girlguidings Innovative Skill Builder badge as part of its commitment to STEM subjects (photo: Matt Greenham) - Credit: Archant

Social value is a term that has gained momentum over recent years – but what does it mean and how is it impacting Surrey residents? Amey, the highways and infrastructure specialist responsible for waste collection in four Surrey districts, seeks to explore the answers

A growing number of organisations have realised how social value can empower communities, deliver positive change and drive economic growth at a local level. Amey, a member of Social Enterprise UK and one of the key figures in the Buy Social Corporate Challenge – a group of high-profile businesses aiming to collectively spend £1 billion with social enterprises through their procurement – is one of them.

Furthermore, as the fallout from Covid-19 continues to expose huge swathes of the UK population, Amey is drawing on its supply chain to support local authorities and vulnerable people.

“We’re looking to add value at every end of the social value spectrum”, says Emily Davies, Amey’s Head of Social Value. “From on-the-ground initiatives, such as providing hundreds of face masks to a care home in Woking in order to protect keyworkers and vulnerable people against Covid-19, to donating £17,000 to Dorking Area Foodbank to help the Trussell Trust in its own fight against the pandemic, we’re listening and responding to the challenges local communities currently face.”

Amey spent £5m with social enterprises – businesses that aim to maximise community and environmental benefits through commercial practices – in 2019, and it is aiming for £30m annual spend by 2023. It also launched its Social Value Plan earlier this year, which commits to investing in people and helping those facing barriers into employment, supporting suppliers, achieving net zero carbon emissions and transforming local communities.

“Our work with Britain’s Bravest Manufacturing Company, a social enterprise that’s part of the Royal British Legion, has seen us support the Armed Forces by offering work to those who have struggled to find it”, continues Emily. “To date, we’ve spent £2.5m with the social enterprise by purchasing 20,000 road signs, which are now in use across a number of UK contracts.”

Amey also offers its employees, who are under 23 years old, the opportunity to go through the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award programme, and has co-sponsored Girlguiding’s Innovative Skill Builder badge as part of its commitment to STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths - subjects. Whilst it has long supported school engagement through the provision of work experience placements and a renowned apprenticeship programme, Amey is focussing even more of its resource on developing youth skills in the wake of the pandemic, which continues to negatively impact the generation set to become tomorrow’s workforce.

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Amey’s support for charities, not-for-profits and its commitment to driving skills development nationwide is clear, but how does its social value plan translate to a Surrey audience? Nicola Blake, Account Director for Amey’s Waste Collections Services Team in Surrey, is in a good position to explain.

Earlier this year the Reigate resident was named finalist for the Social Impact Award at the National Business Women’s Awards 2020 – a category she’s hoping to win during the national awards ceremony in November. She is also closely connected to the Armed Forces, after carrying out two tours of Afghanistan before swapping barracks for bins and joining Amey in 2018.

“Since joining the business, my team and I have delivered 50 volunteer days, which has seen us mentor ex-military personnel across Surrey through a partnership with SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, which is close to my heart”, explains Nicola.

Earlier this year Nicola helped 1,500 Surrey schoolchildren become ‘Junior Citizens’ by holding a series of interactive workshops to engage young people on the importance of recycling. She is also establishing partnerships with charities including Dorking Refugee Support, which could see Amey provide opportunities in the business for refugees and other vulnerable people.

So, how does she feel about the possibility of winning a national social value award, and how important is social value to her?

“I’m delighted to have been shortlisted and proud to work for an organisation that places as much importance on social value as it does on service delivery”, concludes Nicola. “My current role enables me to make a difference to the lives of people who work on the contract, the residents who benefit from our service and the environment. Having this much freedom to invest in the wider society drives me forward and through Amey’s Social Value Plan there is so much that can be achieved across Surrey.”

As a large company, Amey understands that it has a responsibility – and an opportunity – to positively impact individuals, entire communities and the environment through everything it does. Now, through its Social Value Plan, it aims to build on the momentum it has generated for years to come.

Given the direction it is heading in and the progress it has already made in this area, perhaps Amey will one day become as well known for maintaining and building social infrastructure as it is for maintaining and building highways and transport infrastructure.

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