14 May 2021

Bringing supported business into our supply base

How we increased the social value of one key framework


Supported businesses and social enterprises in Scotland have an important role to play. They can empower communities, tackle social problems and create jobs - particularly for people who are at a disadvantage in the jobs market.

The Scottish Government encourages organisations like Scotland Excel to ’facilitate the involvement of small and medium enterprises, third sector bodies and supported businesses.’

It’s also important to our member councils that the work we do and our frameworks return social benefits. Social and community benefits are therefore a standard condition in all Scotland Excel’s tenders and this encourages suppliers to strive for more than just cost reductions when tendering for business.

In 2018, we saw an opportunity to reshape our signage materials frameworks to open up opportunities for supported business.

Through engagement with councils it became clear there was an appetite to increase the social value of the framework. So it was restructured and streamlined to focus on road signage and make it easier for smaller and third sector suppliers to tender.

Scotland’s Bravest Manufacturing Company (SBMC)

Scotland’s Bravest Manufacturing Company is a supported business based in Erskine Hospital Estate in Renfrewshire. It employs armed force veterans, many with disabilities and PTSD, giving them another life after the military and a chance to learn new skills and ultimately find long-term employment.

Because disabled veterans are twice as likely to be unemployed as their civilian counterparts, SBMC helps to move them towards independence after their return to the civilian world.

Scotland Excel’s strategic commitment

As part of our strategic commitment to championing supported businesses, we organised a supported business event in Glasgow which brought together supported businesses and key influencers in the public sector to encourage and grow relationships.

Here, we met Michelle Ferguson, Director of Scotland’s Bravest Manufacturing Company and were able to give advice that would assist SBMC to be ‘business ready’ to tender for work in the public sector. Michelle describes the event as “a major catalyst that allowed us to grow.”

Our procurement team also directed them towards other organisations, including the Supplier Development Programme, which helps smaller organisations win work and grow their business.

SBMC went on to submit a successful tender application and joined the signage framework.

Joining the framework

Speaking about joining the signage framework, Michelle said: “One of the most challenging hurdles for us was competing in such a crowded marketplace. No-one had ever heard of us – or so we thought. We started to get enquiries from councils all over Scotland and they told us that Scotland Excel had sent them details about all the suppliers on the list, making sure they were aware we are a supported business.

“That level of exposure helped to drive the business forward and allowed us to employ more veterans, many of whom felt isolated and disenfranchised from society. The skills they learn will help them transition to sustainable employment, improving their lives and those of their families.”

The outcome

SBMC now supplies signage to various councils in Scotland. From the Highlands and Islands to Dumfries and Galloway, the signage provided by this supported business can now be seen on the roadsides of towns and countryside across Scotland.

And councils still have a wide range of other suppliers to choose from on the framework as well as the option of a supported business that can deliver the same level of quality and service as larger organisations.

Approximately 93% of spend on the previous framework was with three multi-national suppliers based in England.  Based on spend figures to date, 25% of the spend on the new framework has gone to SBMC.

Speaking about the impact joining the framework has had on SBMC, Michelle Ferguson said: “It’s been a game changer for the business and for the military veterans that work here.

“The income we’ve received from the framework has allowed us to employ six new veterans and invest in new equipment. From January 2019 until April 2019 the Scotland Excel contract has generated 29% of our income. This has meant we can bid for even more business, take on more veterans, invest in more equipment, so it’s a cycle of growth and long may it continue.”

By focusing on social value Scotland Excel has opened the marketplace to allow a supported business to become a recognised and valued supplier on a national signage framework.

SBMC employee feedback

Terry, one of SBMC’s employees said: “SBMC is a fantastic organisation and more initiatives like this need to be encouraged as it gives people like myself and many others the opportunity to get experience in meaningful work and to identify future possibilities.

“The signage contract with Scotland Excel helps to keep SBMC going and working here has helped me get back on track and start to save some money.”