Would your supplier list pass the diversity test?

Posted on May 22, 2013 by Man Bites Dog

Supplier diversity

The question of how you select preferred suppliers might seem easy to answer. It’s highly likely that price will be a primary consideration, but you may take other aspects, such as reputation, quality or the supplier’s existing client base, into account.

So far, so fair enough. But have you ever taken a long, hard look at your supplier list and considered whether it includes the full range of potential businesses that could be servicing your organisation?

How well do your suppliers reflect your own customer or client base, for example? If your buyers are SMEs, does it make sense to favour larger organisations in your procurement process? Similarly, if you are reaching out to a specific demographic group then there is a strong argument for working with suppliers who are embedded in that community.

How about women-owned businesses? Does your organisation take the time to actively encourage and support the growing number of highly successful, ambitious female entrepreneurs in this country and around the world?

These were the topics under discussion at Monday evening’s launch of the Supplier Diversity and Inclusion Code of Conduct, held in the suitably impressive surroundings of Westminster’s Portcullis House.

Developed by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), and endorsed by non-profit organisation WEConnect International, the Code is ‘a commitment by corporate firms to provide a level playing field for women-owned and other diverse or under-represented suppliers, to strengthen marketplaces, promote competitive advantage and enable business sustainability’.

Adopting the Code is a statement of intent and a commitment to act, and is the first step in a process that includes developing a clear understanding of current policies, setting realistic goals and securing internal buy-in for firm-wide change.

As an SME led by our very own founder of the female variety, this issue is close to our hearts at Man Bites Dog. It’s one of the reasons we’re proud members of WEConnect, which exists to help build sustainable communities by empowering women business owners to succeed in local and global markets.

The benefits of encouraging a more diverse and culturally rich supplier base are easy to define. A concerted effort to encourage and support entrepreneurialism among a broader spectrum of the population will allow a greater number of firms to launch, survive and thrive, feeding directly into the UK’s economic recovery.

At a more micro level, the greater the variety of businesses you work with, the more ideas and insights you will be exposed to. This, in turn, may stimulate new and profitable ways of thinking and behaving within your own organisation.

When you consider supplier diversity in that context it becomes clear that this is about far more than quotas or positive discrimination. It’s about ensuring that organisations take responsibility for supporting entrepreneurialism in every form, by actively opening doors that may otherwise have remained closed.

All credit to RBS for taking a firm stance on this issue and paving the way for other companies to follow in those footsteps.


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