Scotland Excel – Outstanding Sustainability/Corporate Social Responsibility Case Study

Scotland ExcelThis is another in our series of reports covering some of the entries from the recent GO Excellence in Public Procurement Awards. They are chosen from the categories for which Peter Smith was a judge, so they were studied very carefully, and each one is featured based on how interesting we felt it would be for our readers, rather than on whether it won the award (which in this case it did).

This initiative is unique in that it is the first of its kind in Scotland to provide a collaborative framework to meet the multi-faceted needs of a council when sourcing and supplying domestic goods for vulnerable community groups. Sourcing furniture, furnishings, white goods and related services for temporary accommodation for the homeless, or supporting people suffering financial hardship can be a complex task for a council with supply and demand being unpredictable and turnaround times fast. The coordination of suppliers often resulted in delays, so what was needed was a one-stop shop where the council could source all supplies.

Scotland Excel, Scotland’s centre of procurement expertise for local government, provided just that. It collaborated with procurement, finance and housing staff across councils and fully engaged with COSLA (the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) to produce a framework that would suit every customer’s requirements. Extensive stakeholder engagement and collaboration across local councils was central to the framework’s success. A key sustainability initiative of the framework was to allow local councils to carry out their new obligations under the Scottish Welfare Fund, which replaced Department of Work and Pensions crisis cash payments, by enabling them to provide goods and services directly to those in crisis situations.

We asked the procurement team why they decided to enter the awards. Julie Welsh, Director at Scotland Excel told us:

As Scotland’s centre of procurement expertise for local government, we do a lot of great work with our local authority customers to help them deliver better and effective public services. We already had a strong track record of success with the Scottish GO Awards, and we felt the innovation delivered by this particular framework was so unique that it was time to showcase our work on a national stage.”

We then asked what had been the biggest challenge:

Designing national frameworks which meet the diverse needs of Scotland’s 32 local authorities is certainly a challenge, but it is one that we relish. The key to success is extensive engagement with councils, suppliers, service users and other key stakeholders. This was certainly true for the domestic furniture framework as it involved so many different stakeholder groups. ”

They issued a prior information notice to enable engagement with suppliers before developing the strategy. Embedded in the framework was the sustainability criteria which asked suppliers to provide a series of method statements in their ITTs detailing how they would innovate within their sustainability initiatives. Each initiative had to capture social and environmental requirements, including: reuse and redistribution, reducing landfill and carbon footprint, sustainable sourcing, community benefits.

Three clear challenges were identified: to ensure consistent, compliant service regardless of location; to ensure competition remains within the framework and to react to unpredictable growing demand with increasing applications under the Scottish Welfare Fund. Scotland Excel responded to these by creating a framework providing national pricing regardless of location, giving councils a choice of provider.

A major benefit of this initiative is that the increased business received through the framework is enabling suppliers to provide opportunities for local communities and SMEs in their supply chains. Framework suppliers have recruited new staff, created 96 new jobs, recruited 15 Modern Apprentices, delivered 6,352 hours of work experience and implemented training opportunities for long-term unemployed adults and vulnerable young people.

The framework has amassed indirect benefits too, as the entry explains: “One supplier received correspondence from an SME in their supply chain detailing how they had been able to employ a woodwork machinist, an upholsterer and an upholstery apprentice. The supplier wrote that they are proud to be expanding their Scottish manufacturing business in such a way as to offer training and jobs to local people, which may otherwise have been lost to the competitive overseas market.” Scotland Excel will continue to respond to councils’ changing requirements and of those who receive support through the framework. Of goods purchased through the framework, 96 percent are within the core basket, which means the right goods have been included to meet current demand.

This sustainable procurement has enabled Scotland Excel to share best practice with other organisations looking to put the principles of the Scottish Sustainable Procurement Action Plan into practice within their own organisations. We asked them what advice they would give to other procurement departments:

Don’t be afraid to innovate! When we first started looking at the domestic furniture framework, it was for use in temporary accommodation only. By thinking laterally and pushing boundaries, the framework has been able to bring much wider social, economic and environmental benefits to many more stakeholders.”

And finally, we asked what winning the award means to them:

Our staff work incredibly hard and are passionate about making a difference through procurement. This national award means a lot to them and shines a light on our ambition to be recognised widely as a leading procurement organisation.”


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