Social value has grown increasingly important with the need for greater focus on working collaboratively to drive positive, lasting impacts – for people, communities and the environment. Social value is about understanding the relative importance of changes that people experience and using those insights to make better decisions – so we focus on how we make society better for individuals and create better social, environmental and economic outcomes.
At Jacobs, social value is embedded in PlanBeyondSM 2.0, our sustainable business approach, so that we focus on integrating social value and equity considerations and innovations into the solutions we deliver for our clients. As a purpose-led company, we know we have a pivotal role to play in creating a fairer society and, in the U.K. for example, contributing to the U.K. Government’s Levelling Up agenda.
In this feature, we’re talking to Sarah Rial, social value delivery lead in the U.K., who specializes in supporting clients to design, implement and monitor social value strategies across projects, programs and organizations.
Tell us about your background in social value.
I’ve spent over a decade working in social value, mainly within the built environment market.
I’ve worked on a number of U.K. major infrastructure projects over the years, including Thames Tideway Tunnel, Crossrail in London, the Northern Line Extension, the Transpennine Route Upgrade and East West Rail.
I've also worked across different sectors, including the health sector, working with several hospitals, including the 3Ts (Trauma, Teaching and Teriary care) Redevelopment of the Royal Sussex County Hospital and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, with a focus on health equity.
What excites you the most about your role?
I love that I make a positive impact on people's lives. My career has been so diverse, from supporting someone who’s homeless to secure a job or helping a school pupil to identify what career path they might want to follow, to providing guidance to clients on how to set up new governance structure to deliver social change.
I really enjoy collaborating with clients and communities to really understand the needs of that client and community and develop solutions that will deliver the greatest positive impact it’s so rewarding.
Every client we work with has a different challenge, the solutions can be so varied depending on the type of project being delivered and what the community needs are. Those elements make my job so dynamic.
Can you tell us more about the way we support clients to design, implement and monitor social value strategies?
We offer an end-to-end solution – providing early diagnostics, through to delivery on the ground and reporting and measurement tools.
We work with clients and communities to design solutions that are bespoke to their circumstances. We’ve developed a best practice framework to assess and understand the social impact and opportunities on a project. We work through a client’s business operation to understand and mitigate any potential negative impacts and identify solutions around positive areas of impact such as skills, employment and procurement, in the context of the local area. We want to ensure that communities feel that projects are being developed with them and for them, not simply provided to them.
The next stage determines the mechanisms and levers we need to put in place to deliver on these social value opportunities, whether that be through the development of a new governance and organizational structure, or approach to design and procurement, or considering different funding or commercial models, ensuring we maximize the benefit to communities and to society.
We can then support with how projects and clients articulate the value they are delivering. We provide them with best practice approaches to gathering and reporting outcomes, how to measure the impact of what they have delivered and how these benchmark against others (aligned to ESG reporting).
We also provide advice around procurement and how to maximize the social value delivered by the supply chain – everything from where the opportunities within the supply chain are, through to drafting contract requirements and how to manage your supply chain to deliver on those outcomes.
We’re also in a privileged position of being able to bring knowledge from the array of U.K. major projects that we’re involved in, from Sellafield to Thames Tideway Tunnel to the A9 Dualling in Scotland, all of which deliver outstanding social value. We also incorporate best practice from global clients, such as Metrolinx in Canada and the New Zealand Transport Agency.
Collectively, we need to ensure we’re designing solutions and seeking intelligent opportunities that will maximize long-term benefit and value to all of us socially, environmentally and economically.
“We work with clients and communities to design solutions that are bespoke to their circumstances. We’ve developed a best practice framework to assess and understand the social impact and opportunities on a project. We work through a client’s business operation to understand and mitigate any potential negative impacts and identify solutions around positive areas of impact such as skills, employment and procurement, in the context of the local area. We want to ensure that communities feel that projects are being developed with them and for them, not simply provided to them.”
What’s been your most interesting career moment?
My career has provided a lot of diversity. For me, working on major projects is always the most challenging and, in many ways, the most interesting.
However, I take great pride in the smaller initiatives I’ve personally set up and delivered. For instance, I’ve been working with a local charity in Manchester called Refugees and Mentors, who support refugees. Their goal is to bring highly skilled, professional refugees back into the workplace through a supported placement and mentoring. We have managed to work together to deliver a highly successful mentoring program, and we are just about to start our first paid placement.
I feel passionately about supporting the most disadvantaged, creating more equal and equitable access to opportunities. It’s why I love this job.
If you aren’t working, what would we most likely find you doing?
Enjoying family time! I have a three-year-old son and two stepchildren so I’m always busy with family activities. I'm also a keen runner, which I picked up at the beginning of the pandemic, but I’ve stuck with it and find that it really helps my mental health. I’m also an avid fan of true crime and drama shows.
What do you enjoy most about being part of #OurJacobs?
I love being part of a company that not only encourages but actively supports employees to be innovative and challenge everything. Every day I see colleagues challenging one another and our clients to create new solutions and be truly inclusive, and Jacobs supports this. We truly live and breathe our values.
About the interviewee
Sarah Rial has spent the last 13 years leading and strategizing social value across some of the largest construction and infrastructure projects in the U.K. She has worked across multiple sectors including education, infrastructure, health and retail to develop complex social and economic value strategies and drive outcomes through the supply chain.
Integrating responsible business with successful business; Sarah creates innovative regeneration and sustainability strategies at a national, regional and program level, that contribute to creating a more inclusive and successful society.
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