Social Return on Investment (SROI) Report

Social Return on Investment (SROI) Report
01 Oct 2022
Social Return on Investment of recreational physic…
01 Feb 2023


Sport NZ commissioned the Social Return on Investment (SROI) of Recreational Physical Activity in Aotearoa New Zealand study to better understand, demonstrate, and communicate the contribution of recreational physical activity to the wellbeing of people living in Aotearoa New Zealand. This includes understanding the value to Māori participating as Māori, explored within a Te Ao Māori worldview.  

This study was undertaken as part of a work programme to better: 

  • advocate for the benefits of play, active recreation and sport 
  • demonstrate the return that we get for our investment into the play, active recreation and sport system  
  • learn and inform Sport NZ and the sector’s future decisions. 

The results of this study build on progress that Sport NZ have made in understanding the sector’s contribution to wellbeing through the Sport NZ Outcomes Framework, which is a central component of Sport NZ’s 2020-2032 Strategic Direction.  

The study demonstrates that recreational physical activity generates significant value for society across multiple wellbeing domains and outcomes.  


This study uses a SROI framework to measure the social impact of recreational physical activity in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2019. It measures the value of outcomes generated through sports participation and volunteering and the net costs, or inputs, of providing opportunities for engagement. The SROI analysis expresses the monetary value of outcomes in relation to the inputs. The SROI is evaluative — this means it was conducted retrospectively and is based on participation which has already taken place. The Aotearoa New Zealand SROI model estimates the monetary value of nine outcomes across six domains of wellbeing including: two health outcomes; three outcomes related to subjective wellbeing; and one outcome each from income, consumption and wealth, work, care and volunteering, family and friends, and safety.

The study also examines the value of outcomes articulated by Māori stakeholders, without monetarising these in the SROI. Māori aspirations are derived from an accumulation of heritage including knowledge systems, values and beliefs, and their manifestations in objects, practices and concepts — all of which have an innate life force or mana. It was agreed these outcomes must therefore be treated accordingly, not measured for their contributions to economic expenditure or production. Data for the analysis was collected through a mix of methods, including a desk-based literature review, stakeholder interviews and secondary data collection. The figure below outlines the six stages of the SROI analysis in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Key Results

Recreational physical activity generates considerable value to society beyond the traditional economic measures identified in previous studies. The literature review found evidence of mixed volume and quality on the extent to which sport and recreational physical activity contributes to wellbeing outcomes in Aotearoa New Zealand. Of the papers found, the largest volume of literature was around social and community development, followed by physical health. For the other identified outcome areas of subjective wellbeing, individual development and personal development, there were smaller volumes of literature. Despite the varying volumes of existing literature, there was some compelling and useful evidence providing some examples of the links between recreational physical activity and wellbeing outcomes in each of the areas for specific sub-groups, including for Māori communities. In terms of quality of evidence available, physical health was the strongest area. Generally, across all areas the review revealed a lack of research on the monetary valuation of outcomes related to recreational physical activity in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The literature review conducted for this study provides a baseline for ongoing work in this area. Social Return on Investment Total inputs are estimated to be $7.95bn. A feature of the recreational physical activity sector is its large reliance on voluntary labour. This accounts for 38.8 percent of total investment, followed by household expenditure, which accounts for 37.2 percent. The total value of all social outcomes is estimated at $16.8bn. The largest contribution by a considerable margin comes from health benefits, even after allowing for the cost of active accident and injury claims related to sport and recreation.

The health benefits total $9.0bn, or $8.4bn net of the injury claims. This accounts for close to one-half of the net social value generated by recreational physical activity in Aotearoa New Zealand. The second largest domain is subjective wellbeing ($3.3bn, or 19.7 per cent), closely followed by work, care and volunteering ($3.09bn). In comparison, the contributions of recreational physical to the other domains are lower, although this may reflect the lack of evidence currently available for valuing these benefits. The estimated Net Present Value (that is, the difference between the value of the outcomes and inputs) is $8.86bn, which implies a Social Return on Investment of 2.12.

For every $1 invested in recreational physical activity, $2.12 worth of social impacts are generated. The findings of the monetary valuation are summarised in the infographic on the next page. The research included a sensitivity analysis of this conclusion. The research team is confident about the inputs data, and so we tested the sensitivity of the benefit assumptions in the SROI model in two ways. First, we tested the implications of alternative assumptions for four key components in the benefits, and then we combined the Low assumptions and we combined the High assumptions to present an overall picture of the range of possible values depending on different assumptions. This analysis resulted in a range of SROI values from 1.18 to 3.10.

Page last modified: 21 Mar 2024