How to win business

We spend £1 billion a year on goods and services directly with our supply chain - and in turn, they have new business opportunities available.

We want to make sure that the process we take to select suppliers is understood and this page sets out the typical route we would take; occasionally there are exceptions to this process - but these are rare.

We select suppliers using a fair and transparent competitive process and our business principles sets out the high-level expectations of how we treat suppliers.

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

  • A proven track record, investment in R&D
  • Supplier ability to provide products or services that meet the technical specification
  • We are always looking for supplier innovation, where practical

Financial viability of company

  • We do not want to be financially over-exposed
  • 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
  • Find out more about our sustainable supply chain
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 combination of initial purchase price and running / disposal costs over the product life
    All these criteria are assessed objectively by a cross-functional team which includes experts and specialists. Throughout the process, there are checks and balances - and regular meetings - to ensure that the entire team is happy with the outcomes of the process and that the successful supplier is the right one.

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 EU Procurement Directives 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 can be found here.

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

  • We 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.
  • For some high value contracts, if we do not use Achilles, we issue a Contract Notice - which is an advertisement placed in the Official Journal of the European Union and suppliers will be identified from this. This is sometimes known as a "Call For Competition."

Where appropriate, applicants will be invited to complete a further 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 Tender (ITT.)

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

If we deem a supplier to be critical, then these plans will be reviewed with us to make sure 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 Tender (ITT.) In all cases, we use formal assessment models to find the best solution.

Bid documents will be issued to short-listed suppliers along with a full specification detailing our requirements; where necessary, we stipulate the award criteria we will be using so that suppliers can see 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, reverse auctions - and this will be stated to potential suppliers.

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, we recommend the best supplier 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 EC directive thresholds we will also use the required standstill period before committing to contract.

For some contracts we expect suppliers to help us communicate their offerings across the company which is mutually beneficial.

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 (KPI) 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 improve our working relationship - which helps to deliver mutual benefit.

Opportunities outside of United Utilities

We have a small number of strategic partnerships - and this is another opportunity for suppliers to win business. We can redirect your enquiries to our partners.

They are:-

  • Water and wastewater process improvements:-
    o KMI+ - North region
    o GCA - South region
    o BBUSL
    o Enterprise
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