Master classes give non-buyers a commercial edge

21 December 2011

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22 December 2011 | Naouel Zenaidi

The Energy Saving Trust has launched procurement master classes to improve the buying skills of non-purchasing staff and help the organisation become more commercially competitive.

The not-for-profit UK body, which gives free help and advice to act against the effects of climate change, will move to a social enterprise model once its core public funding ceases in April 2012.

Procurement manager Gary Phillips, who is alone in the purchasing department, told SM: “When it was announced we would lose our funding and become a social enterprise I saw an opportunity to turn around the organisation’s approach to purchasing and implement a significant culture change.”

Phillips designed a series of interactive workshops around issues such as deals, contracts and negotiations. “The aim was to raise awareness about what good procurement can achieve and help people realise that when they spend company money, they need to think and act like a buyer,” he said.

With the organisation’s decentralised purchasing model and about 270 employees spread across offices in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, securing top-level support was essential, and Phillips gained it through director of delivery Karen Lawrence.

The first procurement master class was held last week at the London office for employees and managers from business development, HR and transport. The session received excellent feedback and discussions around contract law highlighted the need for some formal agreements to be reviewed in favour of new contracts.

Following this session, the trust has decided to schedule additional classes at the organisation’s other offices in the new year.

The need to become more commercially aware has been driven by the changes to the funding arrangements. Organisations like the Energy Saving Trust will shortly need to bid forfinancial support from the UK government as part of the Green Deal, a coalition initiative that’s part of the 2011 Energy Act.

“In the face of the Green Deal, companies like ourselves will have to bid to get that money from government,” said Phillips.


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