A perfect partnership in a sector leading the way

Kier recently partnered with Thrive, which is delivering a social value calculator that will capture, track and report social value across the group’s activities. Thrive’s chief executive Neil Macdonald spoke to Andy Walker about the new partnership and delivering social value in the construction sector.

When leading UK construction company Kier chose a partner to help drive its social value agenda, they found in Thrive what they believe to be the perfect match. In turn, Thrive is delighted to be working with Kier, who they see as a key player in the sector. “Kier has been leading the way on social value for several years using internal tools, and their new partnership with us indicates the intent for the next phase of their social value journey. It allows them to stay ahead of the pack,” says Thrive’s chief executive Neil Macdonald. 

He says that the impact of the partnership will be great and is looking forward to seeing Kier influence the supply chain in the delivery of social value. I asked Macdonald why he thought Kier chose Thrive as their partner. He said that it was down to their agile and flexible approach. “We can provide very off-the-shelf software solutions where appropriate, but the big thing for Kier is that they needed an organisation that was agile and a software solution that was very flexible,” he says. “Our system makes it very easy for them to report on various client demands and we can configure the system to meet their exact corporate requirements. There are many other players in the market that are very rigid, but that doesn’t give Kier the flex that they needed,” Macdonald says.

 Thrive chief executive, Neil Macdonald.

“Also, there is the social value calculation framework that comes built into our system - the Impact Evaluation Standard – which is very forward thinking and keeps up with emerging best practice in the sector in an agile way. This standard has been built in a somewhat construction-focused way, making it even more attractive to organisations in the sector,” he said.

The flexibility of the Thrive platform is clearly something that will be inviting to other businesses in the construction and infrastructure sector. “We can provide a solution that is tailored to an organisation’s needs when we start working with them, helping them identify where social value can be delivered,” Macdonald explains. “There is uncertainty among many organisations about social value. Often they don’t realise that they are delivering a lot of social value in what they are doing - they just don’t know that they are doing it! We can help them identify and measure that,” he said.

Macdonald sees the sector as one that is leading the way in social value delivery, driven by the Public Services Act and government exhortations to the industry to ‘build back better’. “There is a wealth of community benefit being delivered through construction and for an organisation with our ethos it is really important to be working with other organisations that really want to deliver,” said Macdonald.

Thrive’s software solution is also a smooth fit for companies with many different demands from stakeholders. “By its very nature the construction sector is very disparate in how it delivers work - with sites all over the country - and our system makes it very easy to capture that information,” he says. A key part of the Thrive difference according to Macdonald is the way they work with clients. “It’s a genuine working partnership. We aim to really understand a client’s needs and provide something that works for them. We are approachable and openminded - not rigid - and we provide a complete software platform, which other corporate responsibility tracking tools in this space simply don’t have.”

I ask Macdonald what companies in the sector embarking on their social value journey should expect when they start talking to an organisation like Thrive. “Invariably a lot of our potential customers are already committed to social value but they don’t know how to capture the breadth of what they are doing. One of the first things we can do is help them identify where they are already delivering social value and capture it in one place. This means they can report on it much better,” he says.

Given that he thinks construction is a market leader in this area, how well does Macdonald think the sector promotes the social value it provides? “We have the advantage of working cross-sector so we bring a lot of learnings from other sectors and construction is definitely ahead on this. But there is still uncertainty though, especially amongst the mid-tier. It’s going to be in the supply chain where there needs to be more clarity and focus to really deliver on social value,” he says.

Macdonald also believes that the sector needs to move beyond numbers and start telling a story about the social value it delivers. “Over recent years there has been a tendency to report big numbers, but where the sector needs to get better and will get better is reporting the impact of those numbers and the narrative that goes around it. That’s another part of the upcoming trend about how construction talks about social value. So highlighting impact rather than just monetary value,” he says.

As a company, Kier is certainly happy with their new partnership. As group social sustainability manager Sheryl Moore, says: “Thrive is the perfect partner to help us demonstrate our social legacy and drive the social value agenda. It has a unique combination of being user-friendly, having the ability to effortlessly capture data across both our business and throughout our supply chain, as well as providing robust and credible metrics and having the flexibility to support our various customer requirements”.

If you would like to contact Andy Walker about this, or any other story, please email awalker@infrastructure-intelligence.com.