By: Carmen Morris
Building new partnerships and adapting to new circumstances is key to opening up avenues of opportunity for Black people. In an age where diversity and inclusion is part of the topical debates across social agendas, business, justice and politics, it is hard to name an aspect of social life, where diversity and inclusion does not feature as a requirement of the world in which we exist.
Forming partnerships with Black-owned businesses, consultants and community organizations is central to developing talent and supply chain pipelines, that are diverse and inclusive, by design. The formation of such partnership arrangements, supports leadership statements around commitment to advance racial inclusion, both internally with employees, and externally with key stakeholders.
Building Strategic Partnerships
Although research from McKinsey shows that businesses that encourage diversity and inclusion have far better results, most organizations have failed to recruit more inclusively in order to advance diversity and inclusion and secure the benefits associated with a more diverse environment, particularly at leadership levels.
Becoming more inclusive takes hard work, and it is not just about the people who work for your business. Leadership teams and procurement managers must take a more proactive stance by looking at a range of organizational systems, not just HR and recruitment, if they are to become true allies, and supporters of a more racially inclusive operational environment, which is free from systematic racism.
It has been historically disconcerting that we have also failed to build solid, strategic partnerships with Black-owned businesses, which can help to lessen the economic disparities between black and white communities. The shift towards a more inclusive tone has been noticeable, and moves to develop intelligent conversations and actions, around removing structural racism and inequality, is encouraging.
Building strategic partnerships with Black businesses helps to foster a more inclusive environment. It enables businesses to widen their external focus around their supply chain and procurement activities. Most businesses either make products or deliver services to consumers. It is within the business logistics network that diversity and inclusion is often overlooked.
Procurement and Supply Chain
No business can operate independently. All business use the products and services of others to support their work, and supply chains should be inclusive. A supply chain is an integral part of business and is often overlooked in terms of its importance in developing diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion is about people yes, but it also impacts processes.
By excluding Black businesses, consultants and other providers from the supply chain, businesses effectively feed into a systemic exclusion of marginalised groups. Look at your procurement system. Is it inclusive or do you tend to buy goods and services from the usual suspects?
There are Black businesses operating within almost every sector of business. Consider whether your procurement system needs reviewing. Consider whether it needs to be revised to make it more accessible to black businesses, so that your organisation can embed inclusion more effectively across your business your logistics and supply chain operations. Importantly, consider who is on the review panel that evaluates tenders and ensure that bias is not creeping into the decision making process.
Black business owners can often help to add perspective to your diversity and inclusion agenda. Besides the colour of their skins they may be able to offer an organization an insight into professional challenges faced that can support businesses to build increase knowledge around the issues that face consumers, and other stakeholders, within the wider community.
Developing a supplier diversity program will support your buyers to take account of diversity and inclusion, by widening its pool of potential suppliers from minority community backgrounds. By developing systems that not only attract, but also partner with, Black-owned businesses, an organisation can support an authentic diversity and inclusion agenda.
A racially inclusive agenda that accommodates an external focus, will add value by supporting businesses that have been historically marginalised within the procurement life cycle, particularly by larger, global businesses. Developing partnerships with Black-owned businesses must be managed on an equitable basis, delivering results for both parties, whilst helping to foster racial inclusion within supply chain mechanisms.
Supporting Black Businesses
There are Black and Brown people who have left the traditional world of work to set up on their own. Some due to the systemic failures that meant that they were unable to progress within the traditional workplace, others because of an innate entrepreneurial spirit. Whatever the reason, they are out their in the world, delivering excellent service and developing innovative products. These marginalised businesses are in need the support of venture capitalist and other businesses.
Business procurement activities and supply chains should measure for diversity and inclusion and report on it. It is just another way of making sure that a business is authentically considering racial equality.
Whether it is stationary, work lunches, entertainment, consulting, tech or construction, keep an eye out for Black owned businesses. Similar to the recruitment process, there should be nothing in place that causes smaller Black businesses to be excluded from the supply chain.
It is the responsibility of leadership to ensure that all aspects of business function support inclusive practice. Forming partnerships with Black businesses through inclusive procurement processes, is an often overlooked area, within the diversity and inclusion agenda.
The role of leadership is to manage businesses in a way that removes structural barriers and inequities and opens up avenues for inclusive and collaborative enterprise. By developing a formalised diversity supplier program, organizations can ensure that the impact of their overall race equality initiatives, goes beyond their employees and supports marginalised Black communities, and businesses.
Since the death of George Floyd and the global outcry against structural racism, there appears to be an increase in the rate at which firms are seeking to partner with built with Black business in the UK. Whilst it is still early days, more can be done in this area to increase racial diversity and inclusion.
As leadership ponders its next steps in supporting racial equality, it is important to consider how equitable processes can benefit Black-owned businesses by creating a more level playing field. Embedding inclusive practice within business partnerships and relationships, is an area for some material consideration.