LGBT+ Inclusion in the University’s Supply Chain

Guest post by David Ashmore, Procurement

As many of you will be aware, the University’s procurement department‘s job is to get the right products and services at the right price at the right time. A less well publicised area of focus for us is our work to ensure that those goods and services we procure are bought in line with the University’s ethics, one aspect of which is the aim to support diversity and inclusion.

Why Should it Matter to Procurement?

As a public sector organisation, the majority of the money we spend comes from… well… the public. Hand in hand with this public funding comes the responsibility to ensure that the choices we make are supportive of the interests of those who we represent.

As a major employer and consumer in the local economy, the University is in a great position to be able to influence those around us, and by demonstrating role-model behaviour, we can help to drive change in areas which might not be within reach (or perhaps even aware) of organisations such as Stonewall.

Another reason to promote diversity and inclusion in our supply chain is to ensure that we support our students by providing an inclusive environment where they feel safe and respected. We expect our suppliers to uphold the same principles (especially important where those suppliers work on campus and have roles which bring them into contact with our students) which helps to keep the University’s campuses a place where discrimination, of any form, is unwelcome.

Asking the Right Questions

Over the last few years, in partnership with Stonewall, the University’s procurement team have been working to change our working practices, policies and procedures to promote inclusion in the supply chain and have made some great progress:

We have built up a suite of specifications and questions which we can include in our tendering documentation. Here are a couple of examples of statements and questions which give an idea of how we go about this. We often try to tailor the questions to the specific goods or services being procured.

  • Statement – The UoR expects its key suppliers to have a diversity policy equal or superior to its own. Our policies can be found at https://www.reading.ac.uk/diversity. As part of our commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility, the UoR proactively monitors the Diversity and Inclusion of its supply chain. As a more significant supplier to the UoR, we would hope that the successful bidder would be willing to take part in our monitoring programme which would include periodic questionnaires and round-table meetings with other suppliers to the UoR.
  • Question – Has your company had any employment tribunal claims brought against it in the past 3 years relating to gender, race, religion or belief, age, disability, sexual orientation or gender reassignment? [No=5 marks; Yes=0] If you answered “yes” to this question, please provide details and the action plan(s) your organisation has put in place to prevent recurrence. [recoup 5 Marks]

Monitoring Our Partners and Suppliers

It is all well and good to be asking all the right questions when it comes to tendering, but it’s no good if we don’t keep an eye on our suppliers once we are working with them, and LGBT+ considerations are no exception. Procurement meet with our key suppliers on a regular basis and one standing item on the order of business is what that supplier is doing in the area of diversity and inclusion. This is always an interesting topic, as the work our partners carry out varies from sector to sector.

Sharing Best Practice and Influencing

The University made a great leap forward this year and made it into Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers, and a portion of the scoring comes from our procurement evaluation. Last year we scored 7 out of a total of 17 marks available. The average for a Top 100 Employer is 10, but the average for the HE sector is only 4.5! So, what this tells us is that, whilst we are doing well when compared to our peers, we still have some way to go!

It is for exactly this reason that we have started work on an information sharing network. We are hoping that through this network, we will not only be able to learn from organisations who are further along than us, but also to pass on what we have learned to others who are just setting out on their own journey.

One area which we are hoping to embark on shortly is to foster links between the University’s own LGBT+ staff network with those from our suppliers. We have started to get in touch with all the suppliers who have expressed an interest in working more closely on diversity initiatives and we are looking forward to making some tentative first steps in the coming weeks!

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