Measuring social value in infrastructure: Lessons from the public sector

Published September 2020

As the infrastructure sector continues to shift its focus from economic value to more holistic social value, projects are being designed, built and assessed in a new way. Government regulation and consumer demands mean that the industry is being required to deliver and demonstrate social impact. Indeed, social value represents an opportunity for the infrastructure industry to adjust its way of doing business to affect positive change, and impact on people’s quality of life as we seek to ‘Build Back Better’ from COVID-19.

RICS professionals will have an increasingly key role to play in this, helping clients understand and set social value strategy, and measuring the impact of projects effectively. Not least because national governments, such as, for example, the UK’s emerging ‘value toolkit’, will increasingly demand a wider ESG approach to construction initiation and procurement.

However, embedding social value into infrastructure delivery is not without its challenges. Currently, the infrastructure sector does not consistently define or measure social value. It lacks a robust set of standards and objectives to guide the delivery and assessment of social value, and there is little capacity for social value measurement.

Within this insight paper, we provide an introduction and overview of social value measurement to RICS professionals. We outline the current issues with measurement, and set out the foundations for consistent and robust social value measurement by demonstrating and discussing the best practice developed in the public sector.

This paper:
• Reviews current practice, focussing on core measurement frameworks considered best practice by government bodies, such as cost-benefit analysis.
• Addresses the issue of valuing the broader societal effects of infrastructure projects (including environmental impacts).
• Details 7 international case-studies to illustrate and discuss best practice.