GWS Engineering and Construction: social value practices
GWS Engineering and Construction was interviewed in August 2020 as part of a research project on the social value created in the Australian construction industry. Social value means the economic, social and cultural impacts of construction companies. GWS was interviewed to understand how the company creates social value in the context of its company policies and Indigenous procurement policies. Interview data was analysed to see how the company creates economic, social and cultural outcomes for employees. This report was provided to GWS as a research outcome.
GWS is a Supply Nation certified structural and architectural steel fabrication and supply company to construction companies on Sydney public and private infrastructure projects. As an SME that is three years old, GWS has experience of contracting for large Tier 1 construction companies on major public projects. They have previously been a successful supplier on projects subject to Indigenous procurement policy requirements.
GWS has four policies that contribute to creating social value in their supply chain and workplace. They are:
- Indigenous Australians employment policy
- Equal employment opportunity policy
- Sustainability policy
- Ethical sourcing and modern slavery policy
These policies commit GWS to making a positive contribution to the communities in which it operates. This includes its supply chain, where GWS works with suppliers to improve their social and environmental practices. GWS therefore commits to creating social value in all its business practices, from suppliers to its employment practices.
This study was done around a framework for creating social value in construction. The framework analyses the economic, social and cultural influences on social value. The interview was analysed using a new framework to assess social value. A link to the framework is provided at the end of this report for information.
Economic outcomes refers to outcomes like income and staff development (as an investment in their future income potential). In addition to investing in staff so they are paid above legislated award wages, GWS invests in staff development so staff can provide a professional service to clients. Management works with staff to upskill them so they can overcome challenges on site. This includes helping staff through difficult personal situations so they can continue to provide their services to GWS’ clients. GWS therefore creates economic value for the company, staff and clients.
Social outcomes of social value include the positive social effects of good renumeration and workplace relationships. GWS aims to create social outcomes for staff through the above policies. GWS achieves this through its approach to staff development and building a culture of perseverance and resilience in its workforce. Paying staff above award wages improves the socioeconomic position of employees. As one of the social determinants of health, paying staff well is known to contribute to improving social outcomes. In addition, GWS develops the mindset of staff so they are successful in their roles. Key outcomes include developing staff relationships (to promote a collegiate work environment) and professionalism, so staff have the ability to work with clients to find solutions that arise on site. These are important social outcomes that promote social value because of the broader impacts the outcomes have on people’s professional and personal lives.
Cultural outcomes generally refer to outcomes that improve how work is done at the company. At GWS, this includes developing a mindset of perseverance and resilience in employees which ensures staff can find constructive solutions to site issues. This makes sure that work gets done as specified and helps staff get fulfillment from their work and promotes social inclusion in the workplace, another important part of the social determinants of health. These attributes are developed by management by working with staff to solve problems and build their capability. This means that staff can solve problems on site to avoid further issues. GWS’ key cultural outcomes therefore include promoting resilience in staff, developing staff so they can independently overcome challenges and set-backs, and encouraging positive relationships between GWS and its clients.
This report analysed an interview with GWS Engineering and Construction to understand the social value created in the Australian construction industry. The study used emerging research on social procurement and social value to understand if GWS promotes social value. GWS creates positive economic, social and cultural outcomes for its employees. The policies and practices put in place by GWS create outcomes that promote social value for its staff and in its supply chain. It was found that GWS also achieves outcomes that promote the social determinants of health. Therefore, including GWS as a supplier on construction projects is likely to help contractors meet their social procurement and social value goals on site and in their supply chain.
Social value framework reference:
George Denny-Smith, Megan Williams & Martin Loosemore (2020): Assessing the impact of social procurement policies for Indigenous people, Construction Management and Economics. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/01446193.2020.1795217.
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