Social Return On Investment

Neighbourhoods Green

What is Social Return On Investment (SROI)?

One of the challenges facing social landlords seeking to invest in green space is being able to demonstrate the real value of projects. For example, it is fairly easy to see how a community growing project may help transform a piece of derelict land into a vibrant community space but less obvious are the other changes it brings about. The new horticultural skills volunteers gain and the better health participants experience may go unreported and ignored. Or consider a weekly health walk – the health benefits for participants are fairly evident but how often are the other changes, such as the organisational skills volunteers gain or the enduring friendships that are forged taken into account?

A Social Return on Investment (SROI) approach would be able to offer a way of measuring and valuing such changes. SROI is designed to help you understand, manage and communicate the social value that your work creates in a clear and consistent way with customers, beneficiaries and funders. It can help you manage risks and identify opportunities and raise finance. It will throw up potential improvements to services, information systems and the way you govern you businesses. All in order to increase the social value or impact of your work.

A range of research has been undertaken across the UK to help organisations better understand how and when to use SROI in relation to green space and which tools are the most robust.

Review Documents

Natural England: Green Infrastructure – Valuation Tools Assessment 

This report was commissioned to draw together a number of the most widely used tools and assess them against research standards for natural science and economics. The aim is to help people wanting to value green infrastructure choose the best tool for them. As well as descriptions and the assessment of the tools, links to further information and examples of the use of the tools are provided. The report also points to the key gaps in the tools available highlighting areas for further work.

Greenspace Scotland: Greenspace is Good and We've Proved it

Greenspace Scotland has enabled environmental community groups to use a Social Return on Investment (SROI) approach to measure the value of their activities. Greenspace is good – so prove it! was a two year programme supported by the Big Lottery Fund. This report provides a summary of the findings and key learning points from the programme. 

The SROI reports have identified those groups of individuals and organisations who derive multiple benefits from being able to take part in events and activities in Scotland’s greenspaces and have placed a financial value on what the experience is worth to them. This has made it possible to prove the value of the positive effects delivered by activities such as community growing, environmental volunteering, health walks, using greenspace for diversionary activities, and community engagement with parks, youth ranger schemes and cycling activities in wooded areas. 

SROI Tools

University College London: LOGIK

LOGIK has been developed by UCL as an Excel-based interface to assess the potential benefits of installing green infrastructure on social housing estates. Such benefits are categorised within the toolkit relating to climate, rainfall runoff management, social impacts and biodiversity. The scope of LOGIK has been compacted (in terms of both data requirements and the presentation of benefits) compared to alternative tools available, to be more accurate and appropriate for use on a social housing estate. It is recommended that you consult an economist regarding the tool before putting it into use.

Download the LOGIK: User Guide below.

Get the Tool: LOGIK Tool (email request to Neighbourhoods Green)

HACT - Ideas and Innovation in Social Housing: Measuring the Social Impact of Community Investment

A range of publications by HACT, the charity think tank seeking to influence and innovate in ways which help all housing providers deliver more effectively within their communities. Publications and tools to establish robust methodologies and metrics for more effectively evidencing the social impact of housing providers.

View the publications

Centre for Neighbourhood Technology (CNT): Guide to Valuing Green Infrastructure

This guide distills key considerations involved in assessing the economic merits of green infrastructure practices. It examines the steps necessary to calculate a variety of performance benefits gained by implementing green infrastructure strategies and then, where possible, demonstrates simplified illustrative examples that estimate the magnitude and value of these benefits. In clarifying how to assign value to potential green infrastructure benefits, this guide can assist decision-makers in evaluating options for water management. A more clear view of green infrastructure's values will help communities decide where, when and to what extent green infrastructure practices should become part of future planning, development and redevelopment.

Download 'The Value of Green Infrastructure: A Guide to Recognising Its Economic, Environmental and Social Benefits'.  

I-Tree Eco

i-Tree Eco is a software application designed to use field data from complete inventories or randomly located plots throughout a community along with local hourly air pollution and meteorological data to quantify urban forest structure, environmental effects, and value to communities. Baseline data can be used for making effective resource management decisions, develop policy and set priorities.

Access: i-Tree Eco

North West Green Infrastructure Partnership: The green infrastructure valuation toolkit 

The toolkit can help land managers, developers and other organisations investing in local sustainable development – whether local authorities, city regions, local enterprise partnerships, economic development agencies or community and voluntary sector organisations. It is recommended that you consult an economist regarding the tool before putting it into use.

Access: The User Guide

Access: The Toolkit

Case Study

The Value of Green Infrastructure - Green Square Group

Using the Green Infrastructure Valuation Toolkit to assess the potential economic benefits of green infrastructure investment made at the Triangle, there is a return on investment estimated at between £230,000 and £400,000 for less that two hectares of soft landscape.