engage magazine issue 005 \\\'07 - Page 18

18 OPINION Supplier Diversity Seemingly, much has been achieved, but behind all of this, key questions remain unanswered. What is the most appropriate model for public sector intervention in SD and how can a return on public sector investment be identified and measured? What is the link between public and private sector procurement and how do we open up supply-chains? Is there a significant BAME busines s base to meet all the requirements of large corporate concerns? What aspects of the mainstream business support offer can meet the need to improve procurement and tendering knowledge? Dr Kemal Ahson is the Managing Consultant of Lifeworld Ltd. For further information about economic development, supplier diversity and procurement he can be contacted on 020 7937 0919 or kemal@lifeworld.info How can the private sector be encouraged to become more involved in economic renewal? And is SD a driver for economic competitiveness or social inclusion? Illustrative of this cross-road for SD is the fact that many of the public funded SD business support programmes appear to have ended (a cursory glance at their websites shows they are no longer live or outdated). And despite these various programmes and initiatives, the return on public sector investment is still unclear - the national review of SD, carried out by NERA on behalf of the DTI/Small Business Service, concluded that there remained only anecdotal and qualitative evidence to support the case for public sector investment in promoting SD. Similarly, on the legislative front, recent press coverage from the Commission for Race Equality (CRE) has highlighted that ‘racism still exists’ and – by extension – procurement activity remains discriminatory especially in regeneration. Then we have the numerous privatesector SD initiatives which still appear to be part of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda rather than an actual attempt to promote economic competitiveness. Nonetheless, there remains room for optimism; in fact, there are encouraging signs which point to how SD may be promoted in the future. Despite the waning government interest in SD, the growing awareness on sustainability and the environment allows SD to be pursued through other means. Sustainable development, defined as ‘development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’, is now a major political agenda item and the UK Government Sustainable Development Strategy has committed the public sector to lead by example in delivering this objective; in fact, a Sustainable Procurement Task Force (SPTF) has been established to bring about a step-change in public sector procurement practice such that, by 2009, the UK is recognised as being amongst the leaders in sustainable procurement across EU member states. Crucially, for the discussion here, SD and procurement is seen as a means of stimulating sustainable local economies. To end (perhaps on a contradictory note) it is work going back to ‘history’. The German philosopher Friedrich Hegel once noted that ‘the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history’. Mindful of this, the prospects for SD, perhaps, will be influenced by what lessons there are to learn from previous policy and practice and how this can be aligned with trends on equality, sustainability and justice in the broader socio-economy. engage | uk ISSUE FIVE 2007