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Seven Steps to Empower Diversity in Your Next RFP

  • Written by MJ Jones
  • February 26, 2024
Business Team (including Special Needs Woman) using laptop on modern office

Black History Month serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing fight for equality and representation in all facets of our lives. At Resource Innovations (RI), we apply this ethos not only during February but throughout the year, emphasizing the importance of promoting diversity in every aspect of our operations. In today's business landscape, diversity isn’t just a buzzword. It’s a fundamental necessity for fostering innovation, economic growth, and social equity. A significant avenue you can use to champion diversity is to integrate it into your Request for Proposals (RFPs) processes. RFPs play a pivotal role in awarding contracts and projects, making it essential to ensure that diverse businesses have a fair chance in the competitive bidding process.

RI has taken concrete steps to actualize this commitment, evident in our Supplier Inclusion Program's progression. Over the past few years, we have steadily increased our year-over-year diversity spend, reaching milestones beginning at 11% in 2021, to 14% in 2022, up to a noteworthy 17% in 2023. By implementing best practices that prioritize inclusivity and equity, you can leverage the RFP process as a powerful tool for advancing diversity and inclusion in business. Here are some of our key strategies:

  1. Clear and inclusive language: Craft RFPs using language that is accessible and inclusive to all potential bidders. Avoid jargon and technical terms that may pose barriers, and ensure instructions are straightforward and easy to follow for businesses of all backgrounds.
  2. Diverse vendor outreach: Actively seek out diverse vendors by advertising RFP opportunities through channels that cater to minority-owned, women-owned, LGBTQ+-owned, and other diverse businesses. Engage with minority business associations and chambers of commerce to expand outreach efforts. At RI, we don’t wait until an RFP is released to find a diverse partner. We identify potential partners and begin building relationships with them prior to the RFP as this helps to ensure that the partnership is compatible.
  3. Set diversity goals: Incorporate diversity goals and requirements into RFPs to encourage subcontracting opportunities for diverse suppliers. Consider mandating a certain percentage of the contract be allocated to diverse businesses or requiring prime contractors to demonstrate efforts towards subcontracting diversity. Including diversity requirements goes a long way to help to ensure that the communities we serve remain involved in local projects.
  4. Provide support and resources: Recognize that smaller or minority-owned businesses may require additional support to navigate the RFP process. Offer workshops, webinars, or one-on-one assistance to help these businesses understand RFP requirements, develop competitive proposals, and effectively respond to criteria. Earlier this February, I co-spoke at an AESP Conference workshop centered around actionable strategies for minority-owned businesses in the energy efficiency industry. This is your reminder to get involved in industry conferences which often host supplier inclusion events and networking opportunities. Also, connect with advocacy partners. Some of RI’s affiliations include the National Minority Supplier Development Council, Veterans Affairs, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
  5. Evaluation criteria: Develop evaluation criteria that prioritizes diversity and inclusion alongside other project requirements. Consider including factors such as supplier diversity plans, past performance with diverse businesses, and commitments to diversity and inclusion initiatives. Diversity is key to a successful organization. Ensure your evaluation includes a diversity weighting in the scoring process that reflects your organization’s goals.
  6. Transparency and accountability: Maintain transparency through the RFP process, from pre-bid conferences to bid evaluation to contract award. Share how diversity considerations factor into decisions and provide feedback to unsuccessful bidders to support continuous improvement. I highly encourage offering debrief sessions to unsuccessful bidders as it helps them explore improvements for future proposals.
  7. Continuous improvement: Keep an eye on your RFP processes, always looking for ways to make them better. Ask for feedback from both successful and unsuccessful bidders, as well as internal stakeholders. This helps fine-tune strategies and keeps us on track with our diversity goals.

By embracing these best practices, you can leverage the RFP process as a powerful tool for advancing diversity and inclusion in business relationships. Empowering diverse businesses not only fosters economic growth and innovation but also contributes to building more equitable and resilient communities.

Do you want to learn more about Resource Innovations’ Supplier Inclusion Program? Talk to us today.