Blog: 17 May 2022In logistics, we have more to learn about social value and more to do

James Finn

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James Finn

Planning Director

Kings Hill office

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What does social value mean to you? What does it mean to a local council? To an occupier? To a community neighbouring a proposed logistics development?

If people all have different perceptions of what social value means to them it can be hard to achieve a common understanding. That has implications for how we should deliver and measure it.

Getting the definition clear is a challenge we can and need to overcome. We need everyone with a stake to be talking the same language. Because increasingly even if the viewpoints on social value are different, the ask is the same: for developers and developments to do and deliver more.

On jobs, on skills, on community benefit, on local investment, on sustainability, the logistics industry is being asked ‘if we’re going to take these large buildings in our back yard, what are we going to get in return?’

Of course it’s not as transactional as that and the planning applications my colleagues and I prepare are extremely sophisticated. But we all need to hold ourselves to account and we should be able to answer that question with positive measurable social value outcomes.

Top of the list for many of us is jobs and access to jobs. The buildings my colleagues and I plan and design for the sector create jobs that are fundamental to unlocking social value. Why? Because, unlike the common preconception, logistics offers a wide range of jobs that, with the right pathways in place, can be accessible to people excluded from the labour market or in insecure employment, or looking for career progression, personal and professional development. Big sheds are for everyone – from the data engineer to the packing operative.  All roles are necessary for the whole to function. All roles and colleagues are valued. Logistics developments enable people to get back into stable jobs and, by doing so, to thrive. That’s uplifting. 


Linked to the jobs themselves, I think the skills, training and increasingly the coaching of people into careers in logistics is also really important. The industry is getting much better at partnering with local authorities, colleges and training providers to develop strategies and plans to pull people in and to pull talent through.  Helping NEETs, more mature people, return to work applicants, and others to find their feet in the industry can only be a good thing. That’s where things become potentially life changing. But of course, we could do more and part of this is almost certainly around how we can deliver greater transparency and insight into logistics careers, so that everyone from the planning committee councillor to the site neighbour understands what the ‘jobs’ created actually are.

Switching from people to place, the way logistics facilities are designed today is worlds apart from the schemes of 20 or 30 years ago which are still responsible for some of the sector’s negative reputation.  From creating community woodland to gifting green open space, often the next-generation logistics parks are inviting the community in rather than putting up the perimeter fence. The result is genuinely impressive placemaking and developments that people can enjoy, not just that fulfil a function.  The best schemes coming forward now are landscape or green infrastructure-led.  We all appreciate and understand the real inherent health and well-being benefits of nature and green space, and even more now post pandemic. So the ability for people – employees or the general public – to use and benefit from these facilities is significant.

I’m not trying to make the case for big sheds by writing this piece, they are already an essential part of our urban infrastructure. What I want to do instead is share some ideas for how we can ‘do social value’ better. There’s an opportunity here.

And on the flip side I worry that if we don’t define and speak more clearly on what we mean by social value, we’ll falter into the same accusations that the so-called ‘greenwashers’ are dealing with. We don’t need mutterings about ‘blah, blah, blah’ with social value. We need clarity, purpose and collective delivery.

I’m fortunate to work with progressive developers and talented teams of professional advisers who are all pulling in the same direction. We want to do high-quality development that generates value in every sense of the word.

I’m keen to work with others who share my view that social value matters in logistics and we all have more to learn.

‘There are social value benefits in your basket – would you like to proceed to checkout?’

Now there’s an idea. 

Posted with the following keywords:
Social Value, Logistics