Become a supplier

Our suppliers play a vital part in saving lives at sea by providing goods, services and works on time, every time. In fact, we couldn’t save lives without them.
Exmouth RNLI’s Shannon class lifeboat, R & J Welburn 13-03, and her launch and recovery equipment

Photo: RNLI / Nigel Millard

Exmouth RNLI’s Shannon class lifeboat, R & J Welburn 13-03

If you’d like to make a lifesaving difference and are interested in becoming an RNLI supplier, or have a question for our Procurement Team, fill in our online form and we’ll be in touch.

We look forward to working with some great new suppliers!

The cost of running the RNLI

It cost £177.3M to run our lifesaving service in 2016 and almost 28% of these running costs – £49.5M – was spent on capital items such as lifeboats and lifeboat stations.

Our spend can typically be broken down into the following areas:

  • Lifeboats, property and equipment – £76.4M (45%)

  • Lifeboat service – £33.5M (20%)

  • Legacies and donations – £28M (17%)

  • Lifeguard rescue – £18.9M (11%)

  • Safety, education and awareness – £10M (6%)

  • International – £1.3M (1%).

As a charity, we rely on the generosity of our supporters to help us meet these costs with 95% of our total income coming from legacies and donations.

It’s our duty to make the best use of these donations and obtain best value when procuring the things our organisation needs.

The cost of protecting our lifesavers and saving lives

Priceless. The safety of our lifesavers is paramount and it’s also our duty to provide them with the training, equipment and kit they need to save lives at sea and return home safely.

Our lifeboat volunteers aim to reach at least 90% of all casualties within 10 nautical miles of the coast within 30 minutes from launch, 24 hours a day and in all weathers.

In 2016, RNLI lifeboat crews launched 8,851 times, 3,241 of which were in darkness, rescuing 8,643 people and saving 431 lives.

Our lifeguards aim to reach any casualty up to 300m from shore, within the red and yellow flags on RNLI-patrolled beaches, within 3½ minutes.

In 2016, RNLI lifeguards attended 17,414 incidents, helping 20,538 people and saving 127 lives.

We can’t do it alone

We need to save more lives at sea and aim to halve coastal drowning in the UK and Ireland by 2024.

Forging strong partnerships with our suppliers and being as sustainable as possible in everything we do will play an important part in helping us to achieve this.

We constantly challenge ourselves and our supply base to make financial savings through innovation and our own Continuous Improvement framework.

We are selfless, trustworthy, dependable and courageous. Our work is founded upon, and driven by, our values and we work closely with our suppliers to ensure that they share and operate to these same values.

If you’d like to make a lifesaving difference and the opportunity of working with a globally-respected institution that upholds a best in class business approach, register your interest in supplying the RNLI today.

At the RNLI, we all contribute to saving at lives at sea, no matter what role we play. And that includes the people and organisations we work with – our suppliers.

Living the RNLI values is fundamental to achieving this. As a supplier to the RNLI, here’s how you can apply our values to your work with us.


This means a supplier:

  • Is fully prepared to go out of their way to share knowledge and expertise with others in order, ultimately, to help save lives at sea. Prepared to share intellectual property/resources to fulfil the project, and have RNLI business continuity plans in place.
  • Makes decisions collaboratively for the benefit of the project, including planning shared exit strategies, even though it may not be the best or easiest for them.


This means a supplier:

  • Respects the special responsibility they have for requesting, spending and dealing appropriately with all RNLI resources – and ensures that others do the same.
  • Is prepared to share risks and risk management.
  • Is open and honest in everything that they say and do and demonstrates open book accounting.
  • Has good judgement and can be relied upon to do the right thing. Shares governance, quality assurance and contract management responsibilities.


This means a supplier:

  • Consistently does what they say they will do or are expected to do.
  • Can be relied upon to play their part whenever it’s required.
  • Takes responsibility for developing and improving their all-round ability in, and approach to, the role they play in saving lives, whether directly or indirectly.
  • Has an appropriate quality assurance system.
  • Delivers the agreed performance improvements the RNLI is looking for from the project, whether that is reduced lead time, greater flexibility, reduced costs or alternative, better products, technical support or consultancy.


This means a supplier:

  • Expects continuous change and challenge and recognises the importance of not only adapting and responding positively to it, but driving it for the good of the RNLI.
  • Learns from experiences.
  • Is open to multi-organisation agreements.
  • Is prepared to challenge, and be challenged on, processes, norms and routines for the sake of effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Is tenacious in their search for the right results and is prepared to be creative in getting the right solutions.
  • Is focused on resolving issues for the benefit of the project.
  • Continuously looks for opportunities to do more/better and has a demonstrable continuous improvement philosophy.

What and how we buy

To help you understand the diversity of what we procure, we have compiled a list of spend areas:

RNLI procurement categories - PDF 108KB

The RNLI has adopted the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) to provide us with visibility of what we spend and to optimise and manage this spend within our organisation.

We are active members of the Charities Sector Procurement Group (CSPG), sponsored by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS).

We are also members of the British Marine Federation and International Maritime Rescue Federation and support the work that these organisations do.

At the RNLI we aim to obtain best value for money by procuring goods, services and works in an efficient and effective manner that ensures quality standards are high and business needs are met in the most sustainable and economic way.   

Our Sustainable Procurement Policy provides our people with a set of guidelines on how to obtain best value when purchasing goods and services.

The policy helps them to make objective and consistent decisions and achieve best procurement practice at the RNLI.

RNLI Sustainable Procurement Policy

All contracts and purchase orders must: 

  1. Positively enhance the RNLI’s professionalism and reputation.
  2. Provide cost-effective expenditure.
  3. Promote the efficient use of resources.
  4. Deliver the outcomes required by the RNLI.
  5. Be perceived by the public and volunteers to be an efficient and effective use of funds.
  6. Minimise waste to reduce any environmental impact.
  7. Align with the RNLI’s vision, values and broader framework of policies; for example Standing Financial Instructions.    

All purchases must not:  

  1. Compromise RNLI vision and values.
  2. Negatively affect the RNLI’s reputation.
  3. Conflict with core messages on corporate partnerships and fundraising.
  4. Incur greater costs in money, time or labour resource than is budgeted for.

The RNLI will, where appropriate, negotiate long-term partnership-style commercial contracts, combining competition and cooperation in an optimal way. 

The RNLI will evaluate risk and opportunities when placing contracts, and incentivise performance and share risk where appropriate.

The RNLI will continue to use a transparent purchasing process, which delivers competition and demonstrates a commitment to equality of treatment. 

To facilitate culture change and sustain best practice, the RNLI will encourage staff to learn from each other’s wider experience in order to promote and support the aims of this policy. 

The RNLI has always had robust processes designed to counter bribery and corruption and we take our responsibility in the eradication of modern slavery from our supply chain very seriously.

We will continue to review and update these processes in light of any new legislation.  

This policy was last updated: 6 May 2016.