No matter how many social media posts an organisation makes to show solidarity with BAME communities and movements like Black Lives Matter, it's ultimately going to be businesses who put their money where their mouth is that make a different.
The UK Government has championed SME businesses in it's industrial and sector strategies and policies. And rightly so, encouraging new organisations and entrepreneurial is critical to keep our economy growing, evolving and relevant in the world. There are great examples of how major organisations can support and enhance opportunities for SMEs, such as Scape Group and HS2, both of whom have strong SME-friendly policies built into their major contracts.
But now is the time for businesses to take the next step and look to focus efforts to support BAME-owned businesses.
I picked up the call to arms linked below through CIPS's Supply Management magazine, and the proposal by MSDUK feels right. Major organisations should now commit to a percentage of their supply chain spend to ethnic-minority owned businesses. MSDUK suggest 1%, which when compared to 30%+ targets for SME organisations feels achievable, realistic and a positive first step to making a difference.
How can organisations take this first step? It could be harder than it seems as many organisations don't collect or measure spend by detailed business-ownership type, and many don't have the policies and structure in place to engage and support ethnic-minority owned businesses.
Focusing on my sector, the infrastructure, construction and property industry, my research last year showed that structures we would normally rely on to build supply chains in the construction sector, such as chambers of commerce, industry institutions and personal networks are relatively inaccessible for many ethnic-minority owned businesses. There are some emerging networks which could provide support, such as the Black People in Construction network, but these are still relatively new and connections to tier 1 contractors are still limited.
I started this article purposely being provocative, and I do believe that if you're making corporate statements of solidarity that you should put that into action in your business, but the consideration of supply chain diversity should be at the forefront for all businesses, bringing new ideas, innovation and diversity of thought into projects and contracts.
Shah said: “We are asking all FTSE100 firms and global corporations with a significant presence in the UK to make supplier diversity a core part of your strategy. We urge organisations to make a public commitment to do business with ethnic minority businesses, and to back this with measurable targets.”