Case Study - Supported businesses join together for results

Steps taken by The Scottish Government to level the playing field for social enterprises and supported businesses to secure public sector contracts have had significant positive effects on the third sector.


Procurement tools put in place at the end of 2010 have helped secure contracts for supported businesses in line with the Scottish Sustainable Procurement Action Plan, published in October 2009. The report advised Scottish public bodies that they should, where appropriate, aim to have a strategy for awarding at least one contract to a supported business or factory.

Through Public Contracts Scotland (PCS), The Scottish Government’s flagship procurement portal, buyers are able to reserve contracts to supported businesses when publishing a notice under Article 19, an element of a 2004 European Union directive. This step however does not give supported businesses an automatic right to contracts – they must provide a strong value-for-money bid to secure the business, usually in competition with other supported businesses.

In the last 12 months, largely as a result of the work of BASE - Scottish Supported Businesses, a consortium formed last year, and the Scottish Government’s Procurement Division in promoting awareness of Article 19, four new reserved contracts worth £4.87 million have been awarded to the sector.

The consortium has secured a Glasgow City Council contract for its Future Office Initiative, worth £2 million, a £700,000 contract with North Lanarkshire Council to deliver furniture for the 2011 International Children’s Games, a CCTV monitoring contract worth £450,000 with Highland Council and a contract to supply textiles to Carstairs Hospital valued at £12,000.

There are 23 supported businesses across Scotland, employing more than 700 disabled and disadvantaged people. Supported businesses produce a wide range of products and services including furniture, textiles, mobility aids, recycling, document management, laundry and storage.

Although many members of BASE are direct competitors, they now routinely work collaboratively to offer contracting authorities the most attractive bid.  This collaboration also extends to marketing and stakeholder engagement activities where each organisation invests time, money and expertise to showcase the BASE offering.

Not only has the combined efforts of supported businesses delivered new contracts, it has also seen the consortia secure a Government Opportunities (GO) Excellence in Public Procurement Awards Scotland 2011. BASE was awarded the GO Sustainability/Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative of the Year – one of the most competitive in the entire competition.

Jamie Lawson, BASE and Remploy, said: “We have worked hard to raise the profile of supported businesses, working collaboratively in order to promote the commercial and social benefits that we provide. By gaining support and commitment of Scottish Government Ministers and procurement directorate, we have been able to promote and communicate the benefits of supported businesses more widely. 

“In addition to the contracts secured this year, the consortium has been successful in winning business and places on frameworks under standard commercial tender conditions. The BASE initiative strives to deliver a sustainable and profitable future for the benefit of local and national communities in which they operate.”

Paul McNulty, deputy director of the Scottish Government’s Procurement Directorate, said: “BASE members in Scotland deliver real benefits and value to their customers and, more importantly, to their employees. Their approach in working together as a group to secure a bigger share of the public procurement market demonstrates their commitment to corporate social responsibility and to delivering better outcomes for the supported business sector as a whole.”

Photo caption: Accepting the GO Sustainability/Corporate Responsibility Initiative of the Year are, Alistair Kerr, Momentum Skills and Chair of BASE supported Businesses Scotland (second from left), Jamie Lawson, BASE and Remploy (middle) and Ewan Fisher, Haven Recycling (second from right).