Business management

Family Business Week: the family values behind Portakabin’s success

Portakabin was founded in 1961 by Donald Shepherd and remains in the family’s ownership. Learn how its responsible business strategy drives growth.

Portakabin is a pioneering fifth-generation UK family business that provides buildings for hire and sale, as well as supplying refurbished buildings and construction site accommodation. It delivers building solutions for organisations of any size, in sectors ranging from manufacturing, education and health to transport, utilities and construction.

The family business ethos is to make a positive difference to people’s lives. Ever since its launch, Portakabin has been supporting communities around its Yorkshire headquarters, in operations across the UK, and on its sites across mainland Europe.

The family constitution continues to guide the business and shape Portakabin’s leadership decisions. It is through this constitution that the Shepherd family maintains a strong connection – for themselves and their values – with the family business.

The mission, vision and values that continue to influence Portakabin fall into three main areas:

  • delivering an excellent customer experience
  • having a positive impact on people and communities
  • protecting the planet


When it comes to supporting communities, Portakabin has a clear plan to deliver positive social value through:

  • employing locally and working with local supply chains on projects
  • engaging and inspiring young people
  • donating time through an employee-supported volunteering programme
  • supporting charities and acting considerately in its communities

Mentoring for students

Portakabin has partnered with York High School to provide mentorship to 20 students in year 10 each year. Over an 18-month period, 20 members of staff from across the Portakabin business serve as mentors to the students helping to raise their aspirations, develop their communications skills, recognise their abilities, and provide them with direction and focus.

Opportunities are also provided to the students to gain work experience, develop their CV, and attend interview workshops and careers events.

Matching employee charitable donations

Employees involved in charity events such as running a marathon can apply for donations of up to £150 for the charity. Larger donations of up to £2,500 are available every six months for sponsorships of sports and activity clubs.

Volunteering days

Portakabin employees have at least one day a year to dedicate to volunteering for a charity or organisation of their choice. The activities they undertake could be, for example, running an activity at a care home, clearing a school garden or painting a youth club building. This enables employees to use their skills to support local charities in meaningful ways.


As part of its commitment to protecting the planet, Portakabin aims to become net zero in scope 1 and 2 emissions (those produced directly by company sources or from the electricity it consumes) by 2030 and fully net zero (also in terms of scope 3 emissions – those produced as a consequence of company activities) by 2040 with no reliance on carbon offsetting. Additionally, Portakabin has embraced the circular economy and for some time has been a zero-landfill manufacturer.

Portakabin has served the industry and its local communities for over 60 years and under the continued guidance of the Shepherd family will continue to make a positive impact in its sector and wider society.

Family Business Week (21 – 25 November) is a celebration of family businesses as a force for good. Whether you’re a family business owner, employee or adviser, or a policymaker, there are plenty of ways to get involved and show your support for Family Business Week.

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