In November 2021, our Director, Gemma John, had the privilege of speaking at the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) annual conference. Her talk focused on delivering social value, and lessons learned from Europe and the UK.

In summary, Gemma explored: What is social value?; How can businesses engage with local stakeholders and communities to deliver it?; How do we know we've had a positive impact? Here are the main points from her talk.

1. She started her talk by exploring the relevance of social anthropology for planning and development. She explained that:

  • Planners and developers must take into account cultural change and societal shifts to ensure real estate remains relevant and withstands disruption 
  • With regard to the future of work, it is important to understand why end-users feel differently about returning to the office and also incorporating work into their home-scape 
  • It is necessary to build a resilient community, and to do so we must balance occupier and end-user requirements with a hyper-local approach 

2. Next, she focused on the relevance of shared value. Shared value is becoming increasingly important from a property asset management perspective. By delivering positive impact for the planet and society, businesses can strengthen their future and investment horizon. She explained that:

  • Shared value businesses focus on creating new products and services that better serve societal needs
  • In so doing, businesses turn from unknown outsiders into recognised stakeholders, strengthening local ties and building trust with communities
  • This can enable businesses to have first refusal on the acquisition and management of other local assets, improving their pipeline

3. In the final part of her talk, she examined the “take-aways” for the real estate industry. She argued that it is increasingly necessary to:

  • Work together: We need to collaborate to achieve results. Social value can be delivered through more meaningful relationships and stronger partnerships between the public, private and voluntary and community sectors. It is only by working together that we can answer the question - what is social value?
  • Embrace complexity: One of the challenges with social value is that it too easily becomes a tick box exercise. However, society is messy. We shouldn’t be afraid of embracing its complexity and using different methods to understand what is really going on to deliver impact in the long-term.
  • Develop a language: Are definitions and measurements useful? Measurements CAN be useful as they enable different parties to engage in conversation at a strategic level, but the data is often at odds with lived reality. It’s important to ask yourself -Does impact look the same everywhere?

We would like to thank GBCSA again for their invitation to talk. If you have any questions or comments about this event and discussion, we'd love to hear from you. Get in touch with us We would love to discuss new business opportunities.

Want us to help you think about social value and impact? Get in touch