How to win business

We spend around £1.1 billion a year on goods, services and works directly with our supply chain and we select suppliers using a fair and transparent competitive process.

Our business principles set out the high-level expectations of how we treat suppliers and we want to make sure that the process we take to select suppliers is understood. This page sets out the typical route we would take.

For significant purchases, we follow a number of stages:

There are many things that we look for in a supplier's proposition and each bid process is unique; typically, however we award contracts to suppliers who can demonstrate best performance against a combination of criteria including:

Technical suitability

  • Suppliers ability to provide products, services or works that meet the technical specification   
  • A proven track record and investment in Research & Development   
  • Innovation wherever practical

Financial viability

  • Will the contract to be let cause the supplier to become over reliant on our business?
  • Does the supplier have a strong financial standing and can they manage a contract of the expected value?    


  • Certifications / independent assessments   
  • Quality assurance status, documented procedures   
  • ISO accreditation   
  • Commitment to continuous improvement

Sustainability policy and record

  • Environmental factors such as pollution, fines, ISO 14001, quality of site waste management plans, recycling, carbon management and use of recycled materials  
  • Social factors such as employee and subcontractor labour standards, opportunities for smaller companies to win business, the fair treatment of suppliers    

Health & safety record (A major priority for United Utilities)

  • Dedicated senior management responsibility   
  • Regular training for employees and subcontractors   
  • Track record of managing health and safety issues

Whole life cost

A cradle to grave approach to capturing all costs associated with the contract from launch and transition, through life to eventual close down.

Evaluation criteria

All criteria are assessed objectively by a cross-functional team including experts and specialists. Throughout the process, there are checks and balances with regular meetings to ensure that the entire team is confident the assessment is a fair reflection of each bidder’s proposal.  All questions are scored according to a transparent scoring scheme and the highest scoring bidders win.

Initial market research and supplier pre-qualification

We have contracts and framework agreements for all our major areas of spend.

Contracts and framework agreements are awarded in compliance with UK national and European law including the Competition Act 1998, the Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016 and the 2011 Bribery Act. These regulations establish a set of rules that govern how certain value contracts must be advertised and awarded. More information on our procurement regulations can be found here.

We use either the Achilles vendor database (UVDB) or an OJEU Contract Notice:-

  • The most common method by which we announce a competition is the issue of a Contract Notice - which is an advertisement placed in the Official Journal of the European Union.  Suppliers can then follow a link on that notice which directs them to our self-service procurement portal.  Access to tender documentation is unrestricted and freely available.  All tender documentation is available immediately which ensures any potential supplier knows all of our requirements up front.
  • We also use the Achilles Utilities Vendor Database (UVDB) to help us to identify suppliers. It is therefore recommended that all potential suppliers ensure their UVDB information is correct and up to date. You can find out more about the services offered by Achilles

Where appropriate, applicants will be invited to complete a pre-qualification questionnaire to satisfy us that we are working with the most suitable suppliers. These questionnaires are then evaluated to establish a short list of applicants that will be invited to submit a compliant bid, probably as a response to an Invitation to Negotiate (ITN.)

We need to assure ourselves that a supplier is still capable of delivering during a crisis such as a flood, we therefore encourage our suppliers to write and test their Business Continuity (BC) plans.

If a supplier’s provision is considered critical to our operations, then their BC plan will be reviewed with us to ensure that they are compatible with our expectations.

Invite and assess bids / due diligence

Bids can be quotations, Request for Prices or responses to Invitations to Negotiate (ITN.) In all cases, we use formal assessment models to find the best solution.

Bid documents are issued to suppliers along with a full specification detailing our requirements; where necessary, we stipulate the award criteria we will be using so that suppliers can understand what is important to us.

We insist on suppliers providing a compliant bid - and in parallel, encourage them to tell us about innovation or new ways of achieving our aims.

All bids will be to our terms and conditions unless there is clear benefit to amending/deviating from our standard terms and conditions.

In most instances, we may use electronic methods to conduct the bid process e.g. online tendering and from time to time, reverse auctions.

In some cases, particularly where the supplier is new to us, we may want to visit their offices or other clients. This is not onerous and is a chance for suppliers to represent themselves and fully explain their products, services and capabilities. Occasionally, we will ask suppliers to provide client references which we may take up directly.

Contract award

Following bid assessment, the highest scoring supplier(s) are recommended to receive the award and this receives a further internal review and sign-off.

Only after this sign-off are contracts awarded and suppliers notified. For contracts above the European Community directive thresholds we will also use the required standstill period before committing to contract.

Review contract and supplier performance

Once a contract is awarded, we measure supplier and contract performance. In some cases, we have formal Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which are measured frequently and the results are shared with the supplier. This can be from formal feedback from managers and end-users of a supplier's products or service.

We believe that asking for feedback in this way helps to get a balanced view of supplier performance. We also encourage suppliers to give us feedback so that we can understand how we can help them perform better.

Over the life of the contract, we form a relationship with our key suppliers to continually improve performance and develop our working relationship, helping to deliver mutual benefits.

Opportunities outside of United Utilities

We have a small number of strategic partnerships as listed below, and this is another opportunity for suppliers to win business. We can redirect your enquiries to our partners:
o    C2V+
o    advance
o    LiMa
o    MMB
o    Amey