What is social value?

    We have defined social value as:

    “A commitment to using our influence and procurement power to help deliver the Belfast Agenda; to drive inclusive economic growth, improve the local environment and support vulnerable people – while ensuring the best possible value for money when purchasing goods, services and works for the people of Belfast”

    Our Social Value objectives

    To maximise the impact of our expenditure, we have established the following social value objectives:

    1. Grow an inclusive and resilient Belfast economy, by engaging local suppliers and thereby encouraging re-spend within the Belfast economy, supporting micro and small businesses (who make up circa 90% of all Belfast businesses), social enterprises[1] and co-operatives[2] (who may employ local people and people who are disadvantaged in the labour market and re-invest within local communities).
    2. Increase the number of jobs in Belfast and create local employment opportunities for the long-term unemployed, economically inactive and other underrepresented groups in the labour market.
    3. Raise the living standards and prosperity and enhance the wellbeing of local residents by promoting socially responsible criteria for our suppliers.
    4. Promote environmental sustainability by, for example, implementing environmental improvements (aligned to our draft Resilience Strategy), supporting reductions in waste and carbon emissions, supporting energy efficiency, promoting and procuring the use of materials from renewable and sustainable sources within the Council and our supply chain (leading to, for example, reductions in disposable and single-use plastic items) etc.
    5. Support fair and ethical trading in the supply chain (such as compliance Human Rights legislation and Modern Slavery Act), whilst expecting our suppliers, service providers and contractors to demonstrate a similar commitment.

    [1] Defined by the Council as "A trading business – selling goods and services – but whose primary objective is to achieve social and/or environmental benefit. Social enterprises are different from those charities and voluntary organisations who do not have financial independence through trading income".

    [2] Defined by the Council as "people centred enterprises owned, controlled and run by and for their members to realise their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations".

    What are reserved contracts and how will they be used?

    The Council is permitted to reserve contracts for bidders who meet the requirements set out in regulation 20 of the Regulations (Article 20 of the Public Contracts Directive) i.e. 

    (a) to sheltered workshops and economic operators whose main aim is the social and professional integration of disabled or disadvantaged persons, or

    (b) provide for such contracts to be performed in the context of sheltered employment programmes,

    provided that at least 30% of the employees of those workshops, economic operators or programmes are disabled or disadvantaged workers.

    Bidders will be required to demonstrate in their tender how they meet this criteria. Bidders who fail to demonstrate that they meet the requirements of regulation 20 will be excluded from the process.

    We will use reserved contracts, where appropriate, to support social enterprises and co-operatives. To do so, we are instigating changes in our procurement decision-making process to ensure that the potential to reserve a contract is properly considered. 

    We will take commissioners through a step-by-step process to ensure appropriate and proportionate decisions are made on whether a tender can be delivered via a reserved contract. It will not be enough to simply ‘consider’ the potentially to reserve - if a commissioner determines that a contract cannot be reserved, they will be required to explain and document why this is the case. 

     We will also:

    • Examine on a yearly basis our pipeline of procurement activity to identify potential contracts suitable to be considered as ‘reserved’ – thereby improving our understanding of the barriers.
    • Publish our procurement pipeline so that the market can plan for tendering for opportunities. 
    • Undertake pre-market engagement to determine how competitive/representative the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector is in certain markets. 
    • Reduce requirements within contract e.g. remove minimum turnover thresholds.

    Promoting good practice through organisational behaviours (selection criteria)

    Our message to our supply chain is clear – we want to do business with suppliers who have a strong people, environmental and ethical focus within their business.

    For all tenders over £30,000, we already look for suppliers to demonstrate their current business policies and procedures e.g. assessing suppliers against aspects such as offences in relation to conspiracy, corruption, bribery, fraud etc. and compliance with Modern Slavery Act.

    Moving forward, in addition to the above we will seek suppliers (where appropriate) to provide the following: 

    Ethical Procurement and Fair Treatment of the Supply Chain:

    • Prompt payment of suppliers (we will ensure that our suppliers pay their supply chain promptly i.e. within 30 days following payment by the Council).
    • Supplier's policies relating to their ethical procurement and fair treatment of their supply chains.


    Environmental Policies and Procedures (supporting the circular economy/procurement):

    • Supplier’s to have in place ISO 140001 environmental management systems ‘EMS’ or an equivalent EMS.
    • Supplier's policies relating to reducing single use plastics (SUP).
    • Supplier's policies relating to donating/recycling equipment to the VCSE sector.


    HR Policies and Procedures relating to: 

    • Supplier's policies relating to equality and diversity in the workplace.
    • Supplier’s policies relating to the development, health and wellbeing of their employees.
    • Supplier's policies relating to the appropriate use of zero-hour contracts.


    It is our aspiration that this will encourage and reward supplier behaviours to ensure that their business practices as employers, procurers, or in the delivery of their services, are channelled in the direction of achieving social value and inclusive growth across Belfast.


    Our proposed approach to real living wage and zero hour contracts

    In relation to the Real Living Wage (RLW) and the use of zero-hour contracts, it is our intention to reward suppliers (as part of the award criteria) if they offer to:

    • “Pay all employees engaged in delivering the services under the contract the Real Living Wage (as updated and published by the Real Living Wage Foundation) throughout the Contract Period”. This would support our ambitions whilst offering flexibility to suppliers to offer the RLW where they could, and be rewarded for doing so, without being too restrictive. 
    • “Not use zero hours contracts for any employees in delivering services under the contract during the Contract Period”.

    A recent announcement by Finance Minister, Conor Murphy will see a new social value policy applied to the wider public sector in Northern Ireland which will see the Real Living Wage being included as a condition of contract for all tenders (>£30k value) from June 2022 and therefore mandatory that all suppliers who tender/ contract with the public sector would pay the Real Living Wage. 

     Further information can be found here:

    New era for public procurement as social value to be scored in government contracts – Murphy | Department of Finance (finance-ni.gov.uk)

    Taking a phased approach to implementation

    Our approach will be implemented on a phased basis – allowing us (and our suppliers) time to build our expertise and experience. This is not only important for us as an organisation, but also for our suppliers, as they continue to face the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

    It our intention that in the first twelve months of operation we will apply our enhanced organisational requirements to all tenders over £30,000, with the additional social value requirements applying only to tenders that are over £250,000 (we estimate that this will be applied to over a third of our overall tenders in the first year).

    We will establish a Review Reference Group that will meet on a quarterly basis. After we have undertaken a number of tender evaluations during the first year of implementation, this reference group will review key aspects of our approach (e.g. weightings, social value initiatives and/or the corresponding points etc.) to determine what (if anything) should be altered. This will: 

    • Outline any opportunities for continual improvement. 
    • Provide an opportunity to revise our approach as we learn from best practice and supplier feedback.

    Our phased approach to implementation is described below:

    Year 1

    • Enhanced organisational requirements to all tenders £30,000+.
    • Additional social value requirements applied to tenders £250k+.

    Years 1-5 

    • Annual reviews & regular monitoring and reporting.
    • Update/develop our approach based on our changing priorities/ commitments, procurement legislation (e.g. advice from NI Procurement Board, possible introduction of a Social Value Act in Northern Ireland) etc.

    Importantly, we expect our ‘ask’ of suppliers to increase – both in terms of: 

    • The weighting social value is afforded - this could rise from 10/15% up to 30%; and
    • What suppliers should offer.

    Year 5 

    • Suppliers paying RLW. 
    • No zero-hour contracts.
    • Increased competition and participation from VCSE sector.
    • Increased use of reserved contracts.
    • Increased maturity of suppliers, supply chains & contracting authorities throughout NI.