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. Alongside our tendering opportunities, you can also get involved with us as part of our Bid Assessment Framework (BAF) or by submitting an innovative idea.

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.

Each bid process can be unique and there are a number of things that we look for in a supplier's proposition. Typically, we award contracts to suppliers who can demonstrate best performance against a combination of criteria including:

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Technical suitability

  • Suppliers ability to provide products, services or works that meet the technical specification   
  • A proven track record and investment in research and development   
  • Innovation wherever practical
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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?   
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  • Certifications / independent assessments
  • Quality assurance status, documented procedures
  • ISO accreditation
  • Commitment to continuous improvement
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Sustainability policy & 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 and the fair treatment of suppliers
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Health & safety record

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

  • 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 (UCR2016) and the Bribery Act 2010. These regulations establish a set of rules that govern how certain value contracts must be advertised and awarded. We use either the Achilles vendor database (UVDB) or a Contract Notice to communicate our tendering opportunities. 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.

  • 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 will be to our standard terms and conditions unless there is clear benefit to amending/deviating. We use electronic methods to conduct the bid process e.g. online tendering. 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.

  • 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 UCR2016 thresholds we will also use the required standstill period before committing to contract.

  • 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. 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.

  • We have a 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:

    C2V+, Advance JV, Laing O’Rourke Construction Ltd, Mott Macdonald Bentley Ltd

  • We are looking for ideas that can help us overcome some of our biggest challenges as well as ideas which can help us achieve our in sector strategy themes. Do you have an idea or product that will help with our sector’s challenges? We want to hear your ideas and have designed a process to make it easier for you and more consistent for us. Find out more about the idea proposal process.

Find a Tender Find a Tender Service

The most common method by which we announce a competition is the issue of a Contract Notice - which is an advertisement placed on the Find a Tender Service platform. 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.


Achilles logoAchilles Utilities Vendor Database (UVDB)

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. Find out more about the services offered by Achilles