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Case Study: Domestic furniture and furnishings: a benchmark for sustainable procurement

Scotland Excel’s framework demonstrates a 360° approach to sustainable procurement.

Domestic furniture and furnishings

In 2012, Scotland Excel started working with local authorities on the development of a framework to support furnishing requirements for temporary accommodation. Little did we know that this framework would become a benchmark for sustainable procurement – one that would win a national award for excellence this year.

During initial discussions with stakeholders, the scope of the framework was extended to help councils meet new obligations arising from the Social Welfare Fund (SWF) which was coming into effect in April 2013 to replace crisis loans and grants previously administered by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Timescales were tight, but by collaborating with local authority stakeholders across procurement, finance and housing, and engaging early with the market, a solution was developed to cover this new requirement.

The framework has helped councils respond to their new duty in a way which maximises funding, minimises their administrative costs, and provides a more convenient service to vulnerable members of their communities who require essential domestic goods. Instead of cash payments, recipients benefit from the convenience of having goods supplied, delivered and installed by one company. This eliminates the stress of co-ordinating multiple suppliers and results in a shorter timescale for furnishing their accommodation.

As well as providing an innovative way for councils to support their citizens, the framework incorporates a range of community benefits which have had a measurable impact across Scotland. Over the past two years, suppliers to the framework have worked with local councils and employment partners to create 113 jobs and apprenticeships and offer 8,860 hours of work experience for disadvantaged groups.

Suppliers have also diverted c.150 tonnes of waste from landfill through recycling initiatives with third sector partners, and have reduced their carbon footprint through improved logistics.

One of the suppliers to the framework, The Furnishing Service (TFS) is a SME with its headquarters in South Lanarkshire. Managing Director, Randle Wilson, says: “This framework is a real enabler of positive change. It has enabled my company to recruit new staff, provide extensive work experience and offer those furthest removed from the employment ladder a rung of opportunity.”

TFS recently expanded the number of carpet fitting apprentices (pictured) at its East Kilbride headquarters through the recruitment of six young people from South Lanarkshire and North Ayrshire. The company worked closely with both councils and their training partner TIGERS to target these opportunities where they were most needed for young people in their communities.

With so many positive aspects, it is no surprise that the framework was recognised as the Sustainability/Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative of the Year Award at the National Government Opportunities (GO) Public Procurement Excellence Awards held in Manchester in February. GO Awards judge, Peter Smith, said: “Not many procurement projects can claim to have positive corporate social responsibility effects in terms of everything from job creation to carbon reduction, from supporting disadvantaged people to reducing waste. This was an exemplary project from a CSR point of view, as well as providing value for money and service to the final customer.”