Embedding Social Value into Business Models

Linking social issues to organisational growth.

SBN-Community-Hubbards and Chorus

Businesses internationally and locally are increasingly competing to deliver greater value to their stakeholders, and ultimately, their customers. To create or embed social value into your business means ensuring that you are creating value for society, your stakeholders, as well as for your business operations.

At the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) we believe that all organisations have a role to play in creating thriving communities. ‘Communities’ are not only the geographical boundaries of where people do business, but they also include suppliers, products and services, community partners and employees. Businesses that align the critical needs of our communities with their strategic goals and use that as a platform for innovation and growth can be stronger, more resilient and have a better brand reputation.

SBN has therefore identified that this is a critical topic for our members to understand, in particular how businesses can implement and maintain strategies that ensure they are creating social value. We have started a work stream to uncover the opportunities for social innovation through businesses committing themselves to creating positive social value.

If you’d like to know how you can get involved please get in touch with us.

What do businesses with social value embedded into their operating policy look like?

There is no one model, as it depends on your purpose, markets, products, employees and many other factors. This is why it’s important for all organisations to consider their role in their community, who their stakeholders are and how they can deliver value for them. This becomes the basis of how to create programmes that are valued and strategically aligned to the business.

Key Focus Areas for a Business
  • Purpose: Embed your purpose throughout your strategy and structure.
  • People: Make sure your staff are happy, healthy, engaged and empowered
  • Partnerships and programmes: Create social impact through external collaboration.
  • Investment: Support social innovators to thrive through investing in those organisations.
  • Purchasing: Consider how your suppliers are working towards your organisation’s purpose
  • Products and services: Ensure that your products and services are working to further your own organisation’s purpose and that they are helping to solve a social or environmental need.

SBN is working on a number of solutions:

  • Sustainable Procurement

Our corporate and council members are forming a working group to create common sustainable procurement criteria (at least as a minimum standard) against which to assess their tender proposals.  SBN will then work with our small and medium-sized member businesses to help them understand their role as a supplier – to both meet these criteria and help corporate/council purchasers implement their sustainability strategies.

As we start to see more organisations procuring sustainably and demanding more stringent social and environmental performance from their partners we will see a change in New Zealand’s business landscape.  More organisations will want to understand how they can meaningfully operate in a sustainable way, creating social value through their operations.

  • Leadership development to empower and support employees

    Leadership can be a critical roadblock that stops many bold and transformational strategies from getting off the ground.  Having inspiring and strong leaders will help your organisation to be resilient through change (even positive change) and create a better organisational culture.  SBN is developing a programme to help organisations value and empower their employees. It includes a variety of tools and techniques to develop authentic leadership skills within the individual that can then be implemented at an organisational level to create stronger organisations.

  • Community Footprint workshops for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises

    The community footprint framework (developed by Business in the Community, UK) helps organisations understand the socio-economic issues their communities are facing. It looks at the areas of your business that impact on those issues (either positively or negatively) to help you identify where you should invest your time and resources.

    Starting in mid-2015, this practical set of workshops takes Small and Medium Sized Enterprises through this process so they can develop their own community investment strategies and future-proof their organisations to ensure they are having a positive impact in the communities where they are operating.  Please register your interest with Julia Jackson if you would like to participate.


We are looking for people who  want to engage in this work to discover how businesses can link social issues to organisational growth effectively and meaningfully.  If you would like to be involved, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch with Julia Jackson.