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Promoting Sustainability, supporting supplier diversity: by Miana Capuano
DiversityBusiness.com Article/- As organisations are increasingly called upon to demonstrate social and economic responsibility, supplier diversity is one area that is slowly gaining momentum. The Government spends £175 billion each year on goods and services and the case for public procurement to be used to develop the economy, especially in order to encourage and facilitate business diversification and growth, is evident.

Supplier diversity is about ensuring that underrepresented organisations are offered the same opportunities to compete for the supply of goods and services as other qualified suppliers. Underrepresented organisations in most supply chains include small and local businesses, social enterprises, charities and those owned by women, ethnic minorities or disabled people. Research has shown that self-employment is a way for those who may experience discrimination in employment, such as the disabled, to gain greater control and flexibility in their lives. Therefore, ensuring that there is a ‘level playing field’ for them to access procurement opportunities is critical.

The Government has a duty to ensure that its procurement practices are fair and open to diverse suppliers, and the current Equality duties mean that it is required to build race, gender and disability equality into its procurement processes. However, is enough being done to encourage participation?

Research has shown that SMEs and minority owned businesses face a number of barriers accessing public, and for that matter, large private sector procurement opportunities. These include difficulties in obtaining information about supply opportunities, a lack of knowledge about how best to bid for contracts and the time taken to bid for, and the capacity required to deliver, large public sector contracts. However, underrepresented suppliers also need to ensure that they are being proactive when searching for procurement opportunities.

The Glover Review of small and medium sized enterprises’ (SMEs) access to public procurement opportunities sought to address these issues and made a number of recommendations to Government to try and enhance SMEs’ participation. These included the development of a single, free, easy to search online portal to search for procurement opportunities, simple tender documentation to be issued electronically, all previous relevant experience when bidding to be allowed (not just public sector experience), and for procurers to take a more flexible approach to prequalification or contract award.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of supplier diversity, especially in light of the current economic climate. A call for quotas or positive discrimination is NOT the answer. Yet, organisations should review their processes to identify if any barriers exist which may prevent such businesses from being successful. By doing so and by supporting a diverse supplier base, organisations will be able to more effectively serve their (diverse) customer needs, achieve value for money and benefit from innovation and competitive costs.

Miana Capuano Over the past three years, Miana has worked in partnership with both the private and public sector to help enable a more sustainable and ethical means of working. Miana’s skills and strengths lie in researching current sustainability issues, presenting findings in an understandable manner and investigating how these findings can be applied to policy-making and sustainable procurement functions.

A Graduate of Social Anthropology from the University of Manchester, Miana is also a qualified AA1000 Accountability practitioner. Whilst at NQC, she has worked predominantly with the public sector, helping them to assess the sustainability of their supply chains. Her public sector experience spans both central and local government, working with the Home Office as well as numerous local authorities such as Leeds City Council. She has played an integral role in the development and delivery of the CAESER toolkit and has also assisted with sustainable procurement workshops and exhibitions. She has a broad understanding of the Government’s sustainability agenda and her current area of speciality is supplier diversity and the impact that the forthcoming Equality Bill will have on public sector procurement functions.

About DiversityBusiness.com
Launched in 1999, DiversityBusiness, with over 50,000 members, is the largest organization of diversity owned businesses throughout the United States that provide goods and services to Fortune 1000 companies, government agencies, and colleges and universities. DiversityBusiness provides research and data collection services for diversity including the "Top 50 Organizations for Multicultural Business Opportunities", "Top 500 Diversity Owned Companies in America", and others. Its research has been recognized and published by Forbes Magazine, Business Week and thousands of other print and internet publications. The site has gained national recognition and has won numerous awards for its content and design. DiversityBusiness reaches more diverse suppliers and communicates more information to them on a more frequent basis then all other organizations combined. We also communicate with mainstream businesses, government agencies and educational institutions with information related to diversity. Our magazine reaches over 300,000 readers, a monthly e-newsletter that reaches 2.4 million, and website visitors of 1.2 million a month. It is a leading provider of Supplier Diversity management tools and has the most widely distributed Diversity magazine in the United States. DiversityBusiness.com is produced by Computer Consulting Associates International Inc. (CCAii.com) of Southport, CT. Founded in 1980.

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