Stephen Frost talks Supplier Diversity at the London Games

May 31st, 2012

Cities of Migration spoke to Stephen Frost, Head of Diversity for London 2012, the organizing body for the upcoming Olympic Games and keynote speaker at the recent Canadian Supplier Diversity Conference 2012 in Toronto.

Under the theme “Diversity, our Economic Strength,” Frost was joined by leading executives from the public and private sector across North America to talk about the key strategic benefits of supplier diversity and how they are addressing diversity in their procurement strategies.

Tell us about the Diversity and Inclusion Business Charter and why it is important to the City of London.

We launched the Diversity and Inclusion Business Charter in November 2009 for three reasons. The first was basically opening up the supply chains by putting our opportunities as much as possible online – to increase competition, to increase quality, lower costs and allow new entrants from small businesses. The second thing was getting the big guys to put their subcontract opportunities back into the system as well – then all the subcontracts are available to all, are transparent, and it helps increase quality levels, lower costs and get new people involved. The third reason was to improve diversity performance. Aligning businesses with an online diversity assessment – to assess whether they are really good or not so good – allows them to know where they are, so they can move forward from there and reach their goals by Games time.

So it was an attempt for us to become very commercial and to be sensible about it – to make it clear to prior business that they had nothing to fear, no costs. But also that it would add significant social value to all of us.

What is the Charter’s impact on diversity? Do you have an example of its impact on immigrant-owned businesses that you can highlight?

In terms of immigrants, we have to be careful not to overstate our case that we are affecting UK immigration; but in terms of the diversity of London, yes. There are lots of examples where diverse-owned businesses have won contacts. For example RedLine, an Asian-owned bus company based in Bedford has won a contract to supply busses for the games. Another example is Klouatic, suppliers of cleaning products which employs vision-impaired folks. So there are lots of examples of minority-owned businesses, or small businesses that have won contracts, and that’s been great. There has been a lot of outreach and work done by all of us.

What advice would you give to other cities that want to implement a charter like this?

I would say ground it in the commercial realities of your city. Don’t try to do something which is not right for your city. Try to do it in terms of what commercially works for the businesses that make up the economy of that city. And then mainstream it. Don’t have a separate Charter that is only for public sector companies – make it commercial, make it relevant to all companies that operate in that city.

Is the Diversity and Inclusion Business Charter catching on? Who is copying you?

You know, we learn from each other. It’s not just a one way street for us. But in terms of legacy – which is the real question – we’re working with partners and government, we’re working with Rio [2016 Olympics], we’re working with anyone who wants to work with us to pass on best practice.

What’s an idea from another city that you would like to bring to London?

You know, I learned a lot from Alejandra Castillo’s presentation; she’s the Deputy Director of the Minority Business Development Agency in the US. There are some really interesting ideas there that I would like to explore further and think about for the UK. They did a lot of work on this Billion Dollar Club where companies want to get involved. It’s a positive to get involved rather than stay outside – to actually be involved in putting forward real contracts open for tender to minority and small businesses.

That’s an interesting idea on a big scale. It would be interesting to look at that.

What’s your favourite city and why?

London obviously! How could I not say London? London is the most diverse city I know apart from Toronto. The thing about London is that it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times, but it’s the world in a city, right? Whatever kind of food you want to eat, whatever kind of person you want to meet, whatever kind of cultural activity you want to do – London has got it.

What’s nice is that it works. Whatever people say, whatever the cynicism about diversity and inclusion, it is kind of ironic that people say one of the best things about living in London is the diversity.

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Stephen Frost is the Head of Diversity & Inclusion at the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Ltd. He is responsible for incorporating diversity and inclusion across the workforce, volunteers and contractors as well as in procurement and all aspects of service delivery. He graduated from Oxford and Harvard and has a background in advertising and consulting. He developed the Workplace Equality Index, the UK’s first LGBT leadership programme. Prior to his current role, Stephen worked directly for the CEO of LOCOG across all aspects of delivering the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. He is a Fulbright Scholar and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

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