Supplier diversity in the engineering and construction industry

Arcadis recently held its first supplier diversity event. Arcadis’ Diversity and Inclusion lead Barbra Carlisle reflects on what this event means for the business and what the key takeaways were for the participants.

Supplier Diversity

No business is an island.  When it comes to inclusion, fairness and respect, in-house company strategies, policies and actions can only go so far. 

At Arcadis we recognise and value difference.  And this includes difference across our supply chain.

For us, engaging with our supply chain in a way that supports our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion goals is all part of being an inclusive ethical business that aims to improve quality of life for all.  

With significant spend allocated to the suppliers who support the delivery of our business, from waste management and catering to recruitment agents, it is crucial that they are aligned with our equality goals, as they are instrumental in supporting us to deliver them.  Similarly, when we collaborate with industry specialists on client commissions to ensure we are giving the client the best solutions, our partners also need to be able to actively contribute to our equality goals.

Additionally, more and more clients, particularly in the public sector, are, quite rightly, asking us to demonstrate how we are meeting their equality objectives.  Wherever you look in the supply chain a cascading effect is to be seen; all in support of a more inclusive society.  

However, we cannot afford to wait for the ripple effect. We need to be the ones who throw the pebble into the water now. 

Our first supplier diversity event


One way of doing this is by holding the supply chain to account.  At Arcadis we need our suppliers to be aligned and working with us, and we used our modus operandi of collaboration to kick start engagement among our supply chain. Yes, we could have focused on a tick box exercise, but we didn’t.  We held our first supplier diversity event in March 2018, providing an engaging environment where ideas were encouraged and examples of what works explored. No one was held to account, but all were encouraged to think differently.

In designing the event, where senior leaders, suppliers and clients came together, we were alert to the fact that our supply chain is incredibly diverse. We have recruitment agencies, caterers, waste management teams, travel and insurance companies, architects, design engineers, geo-technical specialists and equality training companies all in the mix. We have international suppliers, small and medium enterprises, creative and accountancy.  Like you, we have the whole mix.  

By focusing on personal stories, combined with industry insight, client perspective, supplier stories and plenty of time to share our experiences with one another in small discussion groups, every person attending had the opportunity to give and receive knowledge and inspiration.

Participant feedback


Sarah Farley, Senior Procurement Executive, Arcadis

“We need EDI. We need the input and creativity that a wide range of cultures brings. We need to fulfil our clients’ expectations. We need a workforce with positive morale. We need to be in an environment that allows us as individuals to achieve our full potential. We need EDI.”

Rajinder Pryor, Engagement Lead, Network Rail

“The event highlighted how forging new relationships, open dialogue and a more collaborative approach to diversity and inclusion is key to making progress. Suppliers bring new ideas and insights from working with other clients, which is invaluable when shared. It’s important to create that ‘ripple effect’ in disseminating information between clients and across the supply chain. Everyone who attended had the same end goal of why we are doing this. As a collective we are laying the foundations for future generations so that they can build on our endeavours for much better workplaces where every individual can thrive and achieve their potential. As a client it was great to be involved.”

Nora Taylor, Highways England Account Leader, Arcadis

“The event was really inspiring. It is so important to connect businesses and share our stories to support each other. It is the best way to continue to move the dial on EDI.”

Christian Goldsmith, Senior Programme Manager, Arcadis

“It was fantastic to see so many of our supply chain there and hear where they are in their EDI journey.  I felt this event really showed our supply chain how serious we are about EDI as part of our procurement process and supply chain engagement.  Likewise it was reassuring to hear from them how serious they were about EDI too.  It really supported the key take-away I had of the statement that “Diverse Suppliers seek to work with us”.

The story doesn’t end here.

There are so many more opportunities for us to engage with our supply chain and clients, from one-to-one sessions exploring best fit actions, sharing briefings that support the development of an inclusive industry, talking at supplier team sessions and holding more collaborative workshop events.  For us, our clients require it, we want it and our supply chain need it. Working together we can make a greater impact than working alone. 








Barbra Carlisle

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead Ask me a question