engage magazine issue 005 \\\'07 - Page 17

OPINION 17 Supplier Diversity Black History Month allows us to reflect on the role and achievement of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and businesses in the UK and, in one respect, it also offers the opportunity to think about supplier diversity (SD) and engage in a ‘retrospect and prospect’ exercise; that is, what have we achieved and where are we going? Dr Kemal Ahson Retrospect and Prospect I n terms of retrospect, perhaps a starting point is the recognition that Supplier Diversity became a public policy concern. Consequently, a number of public-funded business support initiatives that sought to encourage SD emerged. The argument was simple: BAME and women-owned small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) increasingly had the skills and experience to provide goods and services to large purchasing organisations. The public intervention varied from focusing on communities of interest - Fit to Supply (Small Business Service’s Phoenix Development Fund) and the Procurement Development Programme (London Development Agency), for instance - and/or geographies, such as Trade Local (European Regional Development Fund) and the West Midlands Procurement Portal (HM Treasury). All sought to provide the necessary skills and expertise to SMEs to understand and bid for contracts, and in parallel, some projects recognised the need to work with the demandside; that is, provided training and support to procurement officers. Then there is legislation. In the public sector, positive discrimination - in its crudest form - is seen to play a role in promoting the race equality agenda and has been identified as an area for government to promote. contravenes EU Procurement Directives, but there are legislative dimensions that can help facilitate the promotion of a diverse business base. Equality legislation that the public sector needs to comply with is not neatly contained in one act, but there are statutory duties to promote race equality, disability equality, and gender equality. For example, the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 (RRA) requires public authorities to produce a Race Equality Scheme (RES) that sets out how they intend to meet the general duty to tackle racial discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and good race relations. Here procurement Dr Kemal Ahson And then there has been the growing interest from the private sector with numerous initiatives – Business in the Community, European Supplier Diversity Programme and UKNMSDC, for instance – all seeking to encourage SD. In fact, many large and multinational companies (Accenture, BT, HBOS, McDonalds, Merrill Lynch, PepsiCo, and Xerox, to name a few) now have a supplier diversity policy. ISSUE FIVE 2007 engage | uk