Buyers should follow US lead on supplier diversity

27 March 2008
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27 March 2008

Buyers in the UK need to catch up with their US counterparts in supporting minority-owned vendors, according to experts.

Speaking at a meet-the-buyer event run by Minority Supplier Development UK, Mayank Shah, director of the group, said US buyers are much more advanced in implementing supplier diversity. "Procurement teams in the UK could be doing more to support minority suppliers. It's the start of a long journey. Buyers need to be educated on what these suppliers can bring to the table," he told SM.

Harriett Michel, president of the US National Minority Supplier Development Council, who was in the UK to help suppliers win tenders for the 2012 Olympics, agreed.

"I have concerns about how the Olympics will achieve a diverse supplier base," she said. "There's the invitation for firms to apply, but I don't think there's enough support for them to win business. There needs to be an equaliser and I've not seen it in the UK."

But the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has defended its supplier diversity initiatives. A spokesperson said: "ODA procurement is open and transparent and we work hard to provide a level playing field."

Michel said UK buyers should be encouraged to do more, a sentiment shared by Shah. "US buyers have more incentive to support minority-owned businesses and the suppliers have a very strong business case as well," Shah said. "In the US 40 per cent of the population is formed of ethnic minorities, compared with just 9 per cent in the UK."

He added: "We don't want buyers to do them any favours, just consider the innovation and competitive costs they can bring to their buying strategies."


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