Mears takes an active approach to Thought Leadership within our sector, supporting real change in issues that matter. In 2020, Mears commissioned the think tank Localis to review the Social Value Act and to recommend ways in which we can level the playing field when commissioning social value. Mears believes this is a golden opportunity to get things right now so that our most vulnerable communities can harness the support of the private sector in a genuinely meaningful way and achieve the Government’s ambition to level up our economy.
We will continue to press Government and the sector to accept a more consistent procurement system and work to get everyone working to the same end. Since 2020, Mears has worked with the think tank Localis to look at how we can create a more ethical social value and procurement approach. We welcome the opportunity for our clients to be involved in this work.
The only way is ethical procurement
At Mears, we always push for better ethical standards in the housing sector.
Therefore, earlier this year, Mears commissioned the think tank Localis to look at the ways the public sector should strive to be more ethical and place-sensitive when buying goods and services worth up to £300bn each year.
The report ‘True Value: towards ethical public service commissioning’, examines the current state and likely future of the public service marketplace, as well as the role of social procurement reforms to advance the ‘levelling up’ agenda.
The paper urges the public sector to make the most of the freedom from EU directives to reform public spending on goods and services, so the process becomes more strategic, innovative and delivers better services and local outcomes for communities.
Among key recommendations for place-based procurement reform, Localis calls for central government to prove the impact of their procurement spend, especially in priority areas of the country, to show how they are achieving goals outlined in the Levelling Up White Paper.
The report also sets out a local English charter for ethical public procurement centred around seven key themes:
- good jobs
- good business
- understanding local impact
- carbon commitments
- good training
- high standards.
Localis Chief Executive, Jonathan Werran, said:
Procurement has been very much a criminally neglected art, whose skills and potential impact are more vital now than ever post-Brexit.
The extent to which better public service commissioning can improve public efficiency and social benefits to communities is seen as a niche issue. But, nearly a decade after the Social Value Act, as a positive force for shaping and improving the daily life of ordinary people everywhere it can’t be bettered.
Local government has a pretty big dog in this fight. Some £180.6bn was spent with third parties in the last three years and £63bn alone was spent on third parties in 2019-2020. The trick for the next decade will be to boost the value of the local pound in making local economies stronger for people and places – whether through better local wages or enhanced skills acquisition for jobs in the age of net zero.
Alan Long, Executive Director said:
To achieve meaningful levelling up in our communities, companies who bid for work with the public sector need to be more honest and open about social value outcomes when bidding for work. There are too many examples of poor practice in the sector which means councils do not get meaningful payback for their communities.
Procurement at council level also needs an overhaul. I hope that the procurement changes will create a level playing field and genuinely enshrine social value as a metric on which contracts are decided, rather than simply on price.
If we all get this right, the prize will see real and immediate benefits and harness the public pound for the benefit of all.
Building the Most Socially Responsible Business in Scotland
2021 saw Mears announce the launch of our first-ever Scottish Responsible Business Charter for consultation after evidencing alignment with multiple benchmarks.
The Charter is a values-led partnership between Government and business based on boosting productivity and competitiveness through fairness, equality and sustainable employment.
Mears aims to be regarded as Scotland's most trusted and respected provider of housing with care solutions and we want to make sure we get our business pledges right.
The Charter is a recognition that we need to take a separate approach to our successful Scottish Business as the legislative framework is very different to England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
The Charter has been developed in full consultation with MSP’s and Mears senior leaders.
Our charter commitments include:
- Paying the Scottish Living Wage, including fair work principles in our operations
- Having resident and tenant representation as part of our scrutiny arrangements and service design
- Improving the Environmental, Social, Governance, and economic well-being of the area in which Mears operates
- Paying small businesses on time
- Making it simple, straightforward, and easy for local SMEs, social enterprises, and supported businesses to access supply chains opportunities
- Making firm and achievable commitments to support Scotland’s target of Net-zero emissions by 2045
- Having a social responsibility to pass on skills to local communities
- Being transparent in our financial and business reporting
- Working harder to address equality and diversity and submitting to an independent audit of all policies and procedures to enable fair access for all
- Having a balanced board.
Alan Longsaid “ It is with great pride that I can say that the Charter has received official acknowledgment from the Scottish Government”.
Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work, Richard Lochhead said:
“ The Scottish Government encourages all businesses in Scotland to adopt Fair Work principles and practices, such as the Fair Work First criteria. I very much welcome the approach Mears Group is taking, which aligns with both our Fair Work First criteria and Scottish Business Pledge elements.”
Alongside the Charter, you can also view our dedicated web page which highlights all of the great work our colleagues in Scotland do. From employing 23 new apprentices in North Lanarkshire, Faciities Management (FM) picking up awards for their work and the community impact that our asylum teams are delivering in communities – please have a look – there is so much to be proud of. The link is available here.
Good governance: Enhancing Scrutiny – Mears’ leading approach
Mears has two well-established Boards within the group, ESG and Your Voice, with the focus on creating our approach to scrutiny, insight and governance, for service and social responsibility, in the way we deliver our business. The groups have external representation from organisations and individuals who are experts in their field and whom we treat as ‘trusted friends’ to validate and challenge our thinking. In addition, our remuneration committee has broadened its remit to encompass pay across the whole group and is actively supporting our efforts to address gender pay.
In addition, we value the voice of our employees in shaping good policy and practice for our people strategy. Mears will launch the Employee Forum in 2022. This builds on the market-leading approach we have taken with the recruitment of an Employee Director and Deputy Director, who have a seat on Plc Board.
- ESG Board To drive social and diversity impact throughout the business, we continue to operate our externally appointed ESG Board. This ensures that we take a strategic approach to corporate social responsibility and embed it into every area of our business. The Board is endorsed by three external experts whose role is to challenge us to drive forward our social and diversity agenda and to hold us to account. The Board’s work with external partners has been crucial in developing our approach to diversity and inclusion policy in 2021 and a full review of how we recruit, retain and develop people from backgrounds who suffer from discrimination.
- Your Voice is part of our Customer Involvement Strategy and aims to drive action from insight and advance service standards for Mears customers (whoever they are, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances), through customer-led scrutiny, challenge and support of Mears’ improvement plans and performance in these areas.
Purpose: To scrutinise, support and hold Mears to account as they seek to raise service standards for all customers.
Reporting to the Mears PLC Board, the Scrutiny Board works closely with the Customer Champions Forum and Online Network for evidence and insight into the issues it is investigating.
Your Voice sets the highest standards of customer involvement and engagement across the Group, leading the way nationally, and delivering real benefits to all our customer groups – clients, colleagues, customers and local communities
The learning from the Scrutiny Panel and associated groups also promotes best practice and shared learning across the Group through insights, challenges and innovation.
Your Voice is made up of three component parts:
1. Mears Customer Scrutiny Board – An independently chaired panel of customer representatives working alongside the PLC Board and providing oversight, challenge and support to Mears. It will be supported, and its independence assured, by the Centre for Public Scrutiny.
2. Mears Customer Champions Forum – Made up of our own Branch-based customer engagement (or equivalent) leads plus other key stakeholders such as client scrutiny board chairs, resident association leads, community activists. This forum will create a link between the Scrutiny Board and our local involvement groups and scrutiny structures.
3. Mears Online Customer Network – A virtual network of residents from around the country, who opt into providing feedback on our services - provide insight into what’s important and what’s not - offer opinion and suggestions - validate and endorse our thinking/new initiatives.
Read more on the outcomes of the activity from the Mears Scrutiny Board, the annual report:
- Mears Employee Forum:
This year, we are excited to announce that we are launching a Voice of Colleague Forum and are looking to recruit representatives from across the business.Working closely with the Mears Employee Director, and the Workforce Group – the representatives will provide feedback, review colleague strategy, and hold Mears to account as they seek to make the organisation a better place to work.