Post Conference Blog by Ervin Picari

Ervin PicariAs first experiences go when you start a new job it can be a pretty daunting task being part of a small team that has to deliver a huge conference that includes almost 600 delegates at different events and venues over a week.

The MSDUK 2014 conference was my first experience at what I call a herculean task in terms of logistics and delivery but I won’t go on about the enormous task of organising the events and venues instead this blog will focus on some of the highlights of the conference.

Our conference week started on Monday 13th October with the International Day. This event provided our international delegates from the US, Canada and South Africa with an overview of the UK economy and its increasing multicultural society, followed by the Global Knowledge Exchange on Supplier Diversity. I was very impressed with the quality of the presentations and the speakers and the really surprising thing was the speakers kept to their allocated time limit which was very important for me because we had our next event looming on the horizon, the ‘Policy Summit’

The Policy Summit at the House of Lords was marathon event that lasted for three hours but time goes quickly when involved in a good cause. The Policy Summit saw the launch of The Road to Inclusive Procurement report and Balfour Beatty’s ‘SME Procurement and Inclusion’ presentation. This was followed by a panel discussion on how to make public sector procurement inclusive in order to achieve socio-economic equality. On the panel we had a number of esteemed panellist’s, a Member of Parliament, a Civil Servant, the Managing Director of a successful ethnic minority business and among them a dragon, not a real one but one out of ‘Dragons’ Den’ the BBC series. The report and the panel discussion raised a number of important points:


  • Government currently does not break down it’s spend with small and medium enterprises beyond total direct and indirect spend by each department.
  • The three pieces of legislation designed to support the inclusion of SMEs, minorities and high social value enterprises in public supply chains currently work in isolation from each other.
  • Ethnic minority-owned small and medium enterprises still face numerous challenges in accessing government supply chains that support programmes are failing to solve.
  • Ethnic minority-owned SMEs represent between 6-9% of the SME marketplace and generate £25-32 billion a year in revenue.  

Panel Discussion

  • Changing the way Ethnic Minority Businesses (EMB’s) are perceived.
  • Addressing the issues with ethnic minorities businesses acquiring capital to scale up.
  • More flexible Support for SME’s, no more large government contracts.
  • Code of conduct to encourage large government contractors to work with SME’s

On Tuesday we ran a Midlands Visit for the International Delegation. I have to say was not involved in showing our international guests some of the outstanding EMB’s in the region but was involved in the most important part of the day dinner at ‘Feast India’ a local Leicester restaurant.

On Wednesday we headed back to London for our pre-conference reception and getting ready for our big day on Thursday the Conference and Awards Dinner.

Thursday started with the Business Opportunity Fair where we had over 40 exhibitors from our EMB network and an Exclusive Buyers meeting Hub. The event was very successful, we had over 300 delegates attending with the Exclusive Buyers meeting Hub being very popular judging by the length of the queue. No time to waste and off to the next event the Knowledge Forum.

The Knowledge Forum started with the CPO panel discussion composed of EMB’s and Corporate members and was facilitated by BBC’s Kamal Ahmed. There was a lively discussion on how to implement a Just Procurement Practice with panellist highlighting the following;

  • the economic benefits that come from having a diverse supply chain
  • breaking down barriers that impede small business access to supply chains, public and private by simplifying processes
  • The importance of engagement reciprocity for both supplier and corporate, a more meaningful engagement
  • Providing more opportunity for entrepreneurship and innovation

At the end the discussion was followed by the different workshops but what stood in my mind was the excitement of our delegates preparing for the Piece de resistance the MSDUK Awards Dinner presented by Colin Jackson. I could go on about the Awards Dinner but I think the event is best described by the photos, passionate speeches’ and videos of our presenters and award winners.

Award honours for black and ethnic minorities at the end of Supplier Diversity Week

Last Thursday (16 October), at the end of Supplier Diversity Week (13 – 16 October), procurement leaders from the UK and around the world gathered in London to celebrate the outstanding contribution made by black and ethnic minority owned businesses (EMBs) in the last 12 months.

Premium Lighting Solutions in Cornwall, Clin-Tec in Glasgow, Octavian in Nottingham and Micro-Fresh in Leicester were honoured for their role in driving inclusive procurement at an African themed ceremony hosted by Colin Jackson CBE, and organised by the UK’s leading membership body for fast growing black and ethnic minority owned businesses (EMBs), MSDUK.

The event followed the publication of the first piece of research dedicated to exploring the challenges and opportunities for black and ethnic minority owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in public and private sector procurement.

‘The Road to Inclusive Procurement’ launched by MSDUK (13 October), revealed that while new policies such as the SME Agenda (2011), the Equality Act 2010 and the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 were helping the UK’s small business sector, they were not working together to create a level playing field for the UKs black and ethnic minority owned businesses (EMBs).

In a keynote address to 350 guests that included members of the Billion Dollar Round Table Group (BDR), Diane Varrin Eshleman, Managing Director and Chief Procurement Officer at Barclays, highlighted the need for all small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to access to capital, decision makers and skills development in order to innovate and diversify global supply chains.

Mayank Shah, CEO at MSDUK, said: “Black and ethnic minority businesses (EMBs) contribute £25-32 billion to the UK economy but are typically located in areas with higher than average unemployment, poverty and lower educational attainment, and are often the key drivers of economic growth in some of the poorest parts of Britain.

“Awards night allows us to celebrate achievements in inclusive procurement and create a platform to build on”.

Two of this year’s award winners include Entrepreneur of the Year Byron Dixon, founder of the non-toxic anti-bacterial product, Micro-Fresh, and Corporation of the Year Cummins.

Byron, who has a degree in applied chemistry and works with household names like Next, Kickers and M&S and who recently won a contract to supply over 300 laundrettes in China, said: “It is truly humbling to be recognised as MSDUK’s Entrepreneur of the Year alongside other worthy candidates.

“It makes me proud to see the belief that my clients have in our product. I am delighted to share this success with my team, my family and my friends”.

Denis Ford, Corporate Indirect Purchasing Leader at Cummins, said:”It is fantastic to win MSDUK’s Corporation of the Year award. To be considered in the same category as other leaders in supplier diversity and inclusion makes the Cummins team feel very proud of its achievements. We hope our stakeholders will see that we practice what we preach in relation to supplier diversity, when we increase our activity, contract awards and actual spend ethnic minority owned businesses.”

2014 Supply Diversity Week award winners and runners up include:

Innovation Award

Winner: Premium Lighting Solutions

Runners up: Octavian and Brands with Values


Sustainable Business Growth Award

Winner: ClinTec

Runners up: Maximus and Micro-Fresh


Responsible Business Practice Award

Winner: Octavian

Runners Up: Curious Agency


Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Winner: Micro-Fresh

Runners up: Octavian and Douglas Wemyss


Corporation of the Year Award

Winner: Cummins

Runners up: IBM and Johnson and Johnson


Supplier Diversity Advocate Award

Winners: Sue Scott-Douglas at Barclays and Benon Ngobi at Accenture

Balfour Beatty encourages UK business to publicly commit to SME spend targets

Today, at the start of Supplier Diversity Week (13-16 October), infrastructure company Balfour Beatty invites other UK companies to follow its lead and commit to ambitious spending pledges with small and medium sized businesses (SMEs).

At a launch of a new report by the UK’s leading membership organisation for fast growing black and ethnic minority SMEs, MSDUK, the company will reveal how it has managed to collect accurate data on the size and location of businesses it is spending with and how this has enabled it to commit to £1billion of UK construction spend with SMEs in 2014.

The report from MSDUK, ’The Road to Inclusive Procurement’, which is being launched at a policy summit hosted by Baroness Hayman and attended by BBC Dragons’ Den star and co-founder of Outsourcery, Piers Linney, at the House of Lords today, finds that participation rates of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in public procurement in the UK are among the worst in Europe, despite an ambitious Government target spend of 25% with SMEs by 2018

It suggests that big business, along with government, can do more to collect data on SMEs and target spend accordingly, as is done in the U.S. The report finds that while new policies such as the SME Agenda (2011), the Equality Act 2010 and the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 are helping the UK’s small business sector, they are not working together to ensure that SME participation in the economy matches other European nations.

Balfour Beatty is so far the only publicly listed company to have publicly pledged to spend with SMEs, a commitment endorsed in May by the Prime Minister, David Cameron during a visit to one of its central London construction projects.

Martin Chown, Director of Supply Chain and Procurement at Balfour Beatty, says: “Small businesses create local jobs and apprenticeships and they are the innovators, engineers and exporters of the future. We are pleased that we have been able to overcome many of the challenges of capturing data on our supply chain, and as a result have been able to target our supply chain spend with SMEs.

“I would encourage more big businesses to do as we have done, and show that they are serious about diversifying their spend to ensure we have a more resilient and sustainable economy.”

Mayank Shah, CEO at MSDUK, says: “Public procurement is worth a staggering £230bn a year to companies who supply to government departments, agencies and public bodies, but more needs to be done to create a level playing field for UK SMEs including black and ethnic minority owned SMEs, who contribute £25-32 billion to the UK economy but operate in some of the most economically deprived areas of the country.

“By pledging £1bn spend in what remains the largest commitment ever made by a UK company to small and medium sized enterprises, Balfour Beatty has already demonstrated what can be done when the public and private sector work together to achieve a common goal”.

The report launched by MSDUK today urges other UK companies to follow Balfour Beatty’s lead and help Government achieve its target spend of 25% with SMEs by:

  • Capturing data and independently auditing the type and size of current supply chain partners in order to have a baseline from which to improve and define targets
  • Simplifying processes and addressing the administrative burden that continues to overwhelm SMEs by reducing the time and cost required for procurement bids
  • Training and educating internal procurement teams on the benefits of inclusive and diverse supply chains and the processes that help to drive this

You can request a copy of our new report by emailing