Social Impact Assessment | Capturing the Social Impact of GWR


Ellie Jenkins


Great Western Railway (GWR) is one of the UK’s largest train operating companies, with the capability to have a lasting impact on the wellbeing and prosperity of many thousands of people. Akerlof was commissioned to develop GWR’s first ever social impact report, assessing and reporting their social value using the new Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) Rail Social Value Tool. This process was a first for GWR and only the second for a train operator.

What we did

Working within the constraints of a tight 3-month programme, we held an initial workshop to identify critical internal stakeholders, reviewing the RSSB framework and GWR activities to map data requirements. Workshops were then held with impact leaders in key roles across the business including, community engagement, diversity, training, HR, operations, health and safety, wellbeing and sustainability. We guided each team (30+ stakeholders) through the process to help them understand the significance of the project and social value, ensuring buy-in to identify case studies and existing data sets. We utilised RSSB’s online tool to measure the social value generated by GWR projects, day- to-day operations and investments, ensuring methodologies could be easily replicated on an annual basis. The results were consolidated within a comprehensive social impact report, including examples of best practice from across GWR and recommendations as to how to improve their data collection for future years.

The impact

  • A powerful social impact report, underpinned by robust data and supported by compelling case studies to bring the data to life
  • Holistic overview of GWR’s activities across all 12 of RSSB’s social value indicators, fully aligned with their existing commitments
  • Buy-in from all teams as to how measuring social value can impact their part of the business for the better
  • A Social Value Route Map that sets targeted strategies for improvement – in both measuring and maximising social value

Due to the success of the project, Akerlof has since been contracted for a further three years, to re-assess GWR’s social value, including forward planning, as well as develop a Social Value Route Map to set targeted strategies for improvement – in both measuring and maximising social value.

Don't just take our word for it...

Akerlof absolutely delivered. Despite the scale of the challenge, everyone I’ve spoken to in GWR freely acknowledged what a pleasure it was to work with the Akerlof team, particularly their positive attitude and flexibility to make the process work for us. Their calmness and professionalism shone through and everything was made very clear.

It made a real difference to have structured 1:1s at the front end. These sessions really helped each of our directorates understand the principles of social value. Akerlof conveyed that each team’s input was valuable, breaking things down into manageable steps so that the process wasn’t as demanding as we had initially expected.

As the first ever social impact report for GWR, the end result is above and beyond and something we could not have achieved on our own within the timeframe. Ultimately, this is what we’ve been waiting for and fulfils our ambition to demonstrate the scale of positive impact within our operations, whilst highlighting areas of focus for future data collection and reporting.

Emma Morris, Community Manager, Great Western Railway

Download the report

Jamie Hillier


With a penchant for tweed and jackets with leather arm patches, Jamie began his career as a quantity surveyor, before climbing the ladder to lead major projects for a Tier 1 contractor.

Eventually expanding his book collection beyond copies of SMM7, Jamie has interest in a broad range of subjects linked to delivering better outcomes for society and the environment.

His strategic insights on MMC and behavioural science have made their way into numerous government, industry and academic publications, including the Construction Playbook, Transforming Infrastructure Performance Roadmap to 2030, the Platform Rulebook and the RIBA DfMA Overlay.

John Handscomb


Construction is in John’s blood. Learning from his father who was a planner and project manager, John began his career by working on some iconic projects in both the public and private sector.

As a procurement expert and integrator of new ways of working, John has pioneered the integration of platform principles, DfMA processes and supply chain within over £5bn projects in the last 15 years, for some of the largest building programmes in the UK. Despite his considerable expertise, John keeps it simple, communicating complicated ideas with ease and helping to equip the industry with new knowledge and skills.

Outside of Akerlof, John enjoys his executive role with technology start-up ScanTech Digital, spending time with his family, taking trips down the football, playing a bit of golf with friends and the odd pint. 

Our name is shared with George Akerlof, a Nobel Prize-winning economist.

His seminal paper, Market for Lemons, demonstrated the devastating consequences of making decisions under the conditions of quality uncertainty and unequal information between buyers and sellers, increasing the chance of buyers ending up with a ‘lemon’.

This 50-year-old concept continues to retain parallels within the construction industry.

Through our insight and experience, we can rebalance this information asymmetry on behalf of our clients, levelling the playing field to deliver better outcomes.