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Te Waka is leading an initiative aimed at establishing supplier diversity practices within Waikato organisations. Known as ‘social procurement,’ this will lead to more goods and services being bought from the region’s businesses owned by Māori and Pasifika people.
Te Waka CEO Michael Bassett-Foss says that while ‘buy local’ is top of mind for most businesses in the current economic climate, this initiative goes one step further.
“Social procurement is a priority outlined in the Waikato region’s Māori economic development action plan, Te Whare Ohaoha, intended to advance Māori business interests and entrepreneurship.”
Social procurement is the concept of building diversity and equity into an organisation’s buying habits and as this occurs, there are community benefits that go far beyond the exchange of money for goods.
Social procurement policies are not widespread in Waikato and Te Waka is aware of only five businesses benefiting from such opportunities in the region. Te Waka will work to encourage policy development and continue to partner to create access to market opportunities for Māori business.
Research has shown that companies with long-term supplier diversity programmes can generate 133% higher return on investment than those without diversified supplier networks. 
To kickstart the initiative, in partnership with He Waka Eke Noa, Te Waka will host the inaugural Waikato Social Procurement Buyers Conference on 13 August at Claudelands Event Centre in Hamilton. He Waka Eke Noa are New Zealand’s supplier diversity experts, and specialise in connecting buying organisations with diverse suppliers.
Representatives from the region’s councils, government agencies, iwi, large corporates, education institutions and philanthropic organisations have confirmed their attendance at the conference.
“From Te Waka’s inception, it’s been a priority for our team to foster the development of our region’s Māori business community and this strategy and conference is a significant step forward in breathing life into this important initiative.
“The outcome we’re aiming for is to achieve tangible benefits for local Māori businesses, the organisations purchasing goods from them and our wider regional community. As more organisations adopt social procurement as standard practice, it will be a triple win for the Waikato region,” says Bassett-Foss.
Diverse businesses can play a critical role creating community benefits. Australian research has shown that for every dollar of revenue indigenous businesses create A$4.41 of economic and social value. Economic benefits are likely to be on a similar scale in New Zealand.
“We also know that initiatives like this thrive when partnerships are made, and they are key to the delivery of jobs, prosperity and economic growth, so we look forward to working further with iwi, local authorities and organisations like He Waka Eke Noa to establish social procurement practices in the Waikato,” says Bassett-Foss.
Embedding social procurement as best practice is vitally important as according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, prior to lockdown the Māori unemployment rate was double the national average and remains unchanged.
Bassett-Foss says the proven initiative aims to level the playing field and shine a light on the potential of SMEs, particularly Māori-led enterprises, in the Waikato region.
“Supplier diversity is a strategic and intentional business process that is globally endorsed. You will find supplier diversity initiatives in the US, Canada, South Africa, China, India and Australia. We have the opportunity to educate and embed this practice in Aotearoa.
“This is not a hand-out but a hand up. The end-game is to create equitable access to market opportunities.”