In our recent ‘Ask the experts’ webinar, we heard what Tier 1 contractor Kier Group is looking for when procuring suppliers. Here we share what we learned about how social and environmental businesses can work with large construction companies like Kier Group.
Understand the social procurement opportunity
The UK construction industry accounts for 6% of GDP and employs 2.7m people nationwide. Its size and diverse nature provides a wealth of opportunities for social procurement and demand is growing. For tier 1 contractors, demonstrating working with social and environmental suppliers helps them win contracts. “We are seeing an increase in the weighting score that clients put towards working with social enterprises. As a tier 1 main contractor we’re then being asked to evidence how we integrate and work with social enterprises and what value they bring to us within the communities we’re working in,” says Dewi Williams, Category Manager at Kier Group.
Do your research
Get to know the industry and work of the company you are trying to engage. It’s useful to know that construction companies prioritise safety and traceability of materials. A particular project may also be limited in what suppliers they can choose due to specifics determined by architects or the client. Geography is important too, so see where the projects are and whether you can deliver there.
You’ll need to engage people at all levels of the company, so find out who you need to engage in company-wide procurement roles and at specific sites. They can also help you with the above research.
Supply Change regularly hold ‘Ask the experts’ webinars to help social and environmental businesses understand the needs of buyers in various sectors. You can also see other useful events for impact-focused businesses here.
Get all your documentation ready
Your research should help you understand what policies, insurance and accreditation you need in place. “Make it easy for us,” says Kier Group Category Manager, Brenda Travers-Ayre. Have everything ready and available to help the buyer choose and onboard you quickly. A company like Kier wants to be able to see what insurance you have, the value of your insurance and your policies. Common policies that construction companies are interested in are related to:
Health and Safety
Equality and diversity
Buyers are also interested in accreditations and memberships. For example it can be beneficial to advertise if you have ISO accreditations, are a member of Constructionline or Social Value UK. Again, you’ll need to find out what is relevant to your services and the category they would be procured under.
Measure and communicate
“Shout about what you're doing. Report back on that wonderful social value,” says Richard Mehmed, Director of Community Wood Recycling. You will need systems in place so that you can measure and communicate the social and environmental value you create. When you do your research, find out how the buyer measures and reports on impact. They will need impact data when bidding for work so if you can show that your reporting will help them win work, that will make your business more attractive.
Make sure you have brochures and other marketing materials that clearly demonstrate the impact you create and your ability to measure it. Once you are working with a client, keep reporting on the impact they are creating and celebrate it, e.g. with certificates or awards. This builds a positive relationship with your client and helps you promote your great work to the wider world.
Share the impact you create on the Supply Change Platform. Buyers can filter suppliers by 24 different impact categories. Buyers can also search by the ethnic and social characteristics of the supplier leadership to help them achieve better supplier diversity.
Be prepared to share financial information
Buyers want to know the size of your business to understand how much work they can give you. Be prepared to share things like turnover, assets, liabilities and credit limit. Don’t be afraid that you might be “too small”. Companies like Kier are happy to work with smaller suppliers, they want to make sure that they are giving you manageable work and helping you build up to bigger contracts. They also may be able to amend their payment terms to suit smaller businesses for whom cash flow can be challenging.
Getting all the above prepared will help speed things up but you will still need to be patient. It can take weeks or months for procurement decisions and onboarding to take place. You’ll need to allow plenty of time for getting procurement-ready and onboarding processes such as pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQs), which can be admin-heavy.
Expect the buyer to want to start small and grow the work you do together. Even if you’re confident you can fulfil larger contracts, buyers are risk averse and would rather help you grow sustainably.
Become a Supply Change Trusted Supplier to access more contract opportunities, be more visible to companies like Kier Group and learn about procurement directly from buyers. Find out more here.