It’s been really interesting to witness the evolution of the tendering process in our industry.

Years ago, the process was much more “Delboy Trotter” than it is today – companies won contracts on their reputation, their contacts and the price they could deliver at, with the cheapest normally being the winner.

As the tendering process moved on and became more sophisticated, other criteria also made its way onto the list. One of the most significant of these (as anyone who has written a bid will know) assesses a company’s environmental impact. Green procurement, as it’s referred to, is particularly important when tendering for public sector contracts. In 2008, the European Commission set the target that 50% of all public tendering procedures should be green in the EU by 2010. Whilst a recent study shows that this target has not yet been met, 55% of the contracts signed in the 2009-2010 period by public authorities in the EU included at least one EU core GPP criterion.

Recently, the tender process has moved on again, and has seen green procurement evolve into something else – sustainable procurement, which encompasses the social, economic and environmental aspect of sustainability. Sustainable development is a real buzzword in our industry, and increasingly customers want us to demonstrate socially responsible behaviour, as well show environmental awareness.

Some firms now incorporate the supplier’s ethical and environmental commitments in a contractual clause, also noting efforts to put in place a plan for improvements where relevant.

Wolseley UK’s Integrated Services team has begun to work more closely with some of the communities we serve and has contributed to a range of customers’ charitable projects, such as working with young offenders and donating materials and labour to various initiatives.

And do you know what? It feels good to give something back. Personally, I think the inclusion of sustainability criteria in a tender document really does benefit communities, as I’ve seen the positive impact it has. There is also evidence to show that true corporate social responsibility (CSR) can assist companies in building links with public policy makers, aid innovation, and involve, motivate and retain employees too.

So the next time you’re writing a bid, take some time to think about any projects your company has worked on recently and how they can demonstrate your commitment to sustainability. In these competitive times, making your bid stand out is more important than ever.

Grant Richardson is Trading Director Integrated Services & New Channel Development Director for Wolseley UK.