The Business Case for Social Value in Property Development: An Irish Perspective

The Business Case for Social Value in Property Development

By Carol Tallon, CEO of Property District, changing the narrative of the industry


“The business case for social value is compelling and increasingly urgent, demanding developers plan holistically, act inclusively, and build responsibly”

[Originally published in Civil & Construction Magazine, September 2023:]

As any property developer or placemaking project owner will attest, there is a lot more to delivering great places than building homes – or even navigating Ireland’s fractions planning system. In today’s rapidly-evolving landscape of urban development and community planning, one term has continued to gain momentum both globally and in Ireland: Social Value. Often touted as a cornerstone of sustainable urban regeneration in regions like the UK, its significance has become increasingly apparent to Irish placemakers and property developers, even main contractors who can find up to 5% percent of a tender dependent upon a cohesive strategy to deliver social value to the local community and local area. But what exactly is social value, and why is it pivotal in crafting sustainable, vibrant, and compelling urban spaces? 


What is Social Value?

At its core, social value relates to the wider non-financial impacts of projects, initiatives, or interventions. It pertains to how the actions of businesses, in this context, property developers, impact community well-being, social cohesion, and the overall fabric of the community. This goes beyond mere economics and ventures into the realms of long-term community benefits, inclusivity, and social cohesion.

For example, a property development that incorporates affordable housing, green spaces, and community hubs would score highly in terms of social value, as it directly addresses societal needs and contributes to long-term community cohesion. Going a step further to employ an agreed number of local supply chain trades, or perhaps offering on-the-job training for local unemployed people or incorporating schemes for local people who are currently homeless, adds a deeper layer of social value for the local community. A positive side effect of this includes the enhanced reputational benefits for the project owners.


The UK’s Foray into Social Value

Before exploring the Irish context, it’s worth noting the strides made in the UK, where the notion of social value has been deeply embedded into the procurement and development processes. The UK’s Social Value Act of 2012 set a precedent, ensuring that public services are procured with an eye on achieving maximum social value. This approach has triggered a paradigm shift, urging developers to think beyond brick and mortar, focusing on creating places that enrich lives and foster community spirit.


The Irish Context: Why Social Value Matters

(i) Evolving Urban Dynamics: Ireland’s cities and towns have witnessed transformative changes over the past decades. From Dublin’s bustling streets to Cork’s emerging urban precincts, there’s a growing need to ensure that development is inclusive. As population densities rise, so does the need for cohesive spaces where communities can thrive.


(ii) Historical Legacy: Ireland, with its unique historical and cultural narrative, possesses numerous heritage sites, public spaces, and traditional hubs. Modern property development should seamlessly weave this legacy into new narratives, ensuring continuity and respect for past generations.

(iii) Societal Fabric: The importance of community and kinship in Irish society cannot be overstated. Hence, developments that promote social interactions, facilitate communal activities, and forge connections inherently align with the nation’s ethos.


Examples of Social Value in Action

  • Dublin’s Docklands: Once a derelict industrial wasteland, Dublin’s Docklands have transformed into a hub of innovation, commerce, and culture. Key to this revitalisation has been the emphasis on creating mixed-use spaces, community hubs, and affordable housing, ensuring that the development offers broad societal benefits.
  • Community-driven Projects in Limerick: Limerick’s regeneration initiatives provide excellent examples of grassroots, community-driven projects. Here, developers have worked in tandem with locals to ensure that new projects resonate with the community’s aspirations and needs.


The Business Case for Social Value

(i) Enhanced Brand Value: Developers who prioritise social value demonstrate a commitment to the greater good, bolstering their brand image and establishing trust with stakeholders.

(ii) Economic Viability: While there might be initial costs, developments with high social value tend to have better long-term returns. They attract diverse populations, foster local businesses, and ensure sustained property demand.

(iii) Stakeholder Support: Projects that resonate with community aspirations and align with societal needs often face fewer hurdles in terms of approvals, permits, and local opposition.

(iv) Resilient Developments: By focusing on broad societal impacts, project owners can ensure their projects are resilient to socio-economic shifts, changing demographics, and evolving urban needs.


For Ireland-based project owners, it is important to realise ‘Social’ is an important part of the growing ESG conversation. A strategy for social value that goes beyond the tokenistic can be a roadmap to creating sustainable, inclusive, and vibrant urban and rural spaces. The business case for social value is compelling and increasingly urgent, demanding developers plan holistically, act inclusively, and build responsibly. Collaboration is key. Together with the community we can sustainably create great places where people choose to live, work and spend time. 

[Originally published in Civil & Construction Magazine, September 2023:]

Property District, changing the narrative of the industry: 



Sign up to receive Property District's weekly  Sunday Property Round-Up, for all the latest construction, property and proptech news straight to your inbox.