Interview: how our US team is pushing for enhanced diversity and inclusion

Wayne Lambert is our Director of Supplier Diversity in the US. Since joining the company in 2022, he has helped diversify our network of suppliers.

We spoke with Wayne to hear more about the great work he is doing as we push to enhance diversity and inclusion all along our supply network. 

Wayne Lambert 932 X 621

Wayne Lambert Director of Supplier Diversity

What do you do to drive diversity and inclusion at Turner & Townsend?

It is my job to ensure we are diversifying the pool of contractors that we partner with and support.

Externally, we support our clients by helping them meet their supplier diversity goals and targets with the inclusion of suppliers from various industries and backgrounds in project-related contract and capacity building opportunities.

Internally, this requires increasing awareness of supplier diversity programmes through training sessions and discussions to educate staff on the purpose of these economic development programmes, how they add value to our operations, and, ultimately, to society.

It also means extending our networking activities with diverse organisations and companies, supporting 'smaller' firms, and providing them with mentoring and other means of support to build vendor capacity and facilitate engagement that will increase our ability to partner for contract opportunities.

What does ‘supplier diversity’ mean in practice? 

Being very literal, it means creating opportunities for diverse types of business enterprises, or ‘(X)BEs', through supplier diversity programmes. (X)BE covers all the designations under the various supplier diversity programmes including, but not limited to, minority and women-owned firms that may be certified as black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, indigenous, veterans, LGBTQIA+, or locally-based firms.

How can these (X)BEs compete in today’s more volatile and competitive landscape?

COVID-19 was an unprecedented event that impacted marginalised groups and communities more than others. This impact was demonstrated in health outcomes, and from an economic and business standpoint, highlighting deeper disparities that exist for marginalised groups.

However, another outcome from the pandemic was the increased ability to work virtually. This created business opportunities for all businesses, including (X)BE firms.

The digitalisation of the working world made it possible for (X)BEs to expand their reach and created an opportunity to apply creative solutions in a flexible environment, facilitating new opportunities and projects.

We can help open new avenues for (X)BE firms by exposing them to the projects happening across our broad network, which, in turn, helps them broaden their capacity and footprint by connecting them to firms with global experience and expertise.

What can be achieved through supplier diversity programmes?

As noted, supplier diversity programmes are economic development programmes geared towards creating opportunities that impact communities, support workforce initiatives and goals, and ensure every type of firm is given an equal chance to access contract opportunities.

When diverse businesses can access projects through such programmes, they are given the opportunity to work, grow, build capacity along the way, and support the local economy.

These programmes enrich firms like Turner & Townsend as well. Project management is our bread and butter, and we work with clients that may have internal policies stipulating (X)BE goals or targets in relation to projects. We, as the client’s representative, help our clients meet (and sometimes set) their goals by identifying different types of firms to partner with and help to meet or exceed those goals.

What are some notable successes from the supplier diversity programmes that you have worked on? 

We have developed some great relationships with different organisations, such as the National Minority Supplier Development Council (also known as NMSDC) and the Woman's Business Enterprise National Committee (WBENC) in the US. 

These organisations certify and support minority and women-owned businesses, hosting events which attract national attention. Through these events, we have met many businesses who have become (potential) partners, many who we may not have had the opportunity to engage with previously.

We have also started to utilise a data tool that enables us to be more efficient in our approach to supplier diversity, giving us a better handle on performance and (X)BE utilisation, and enhancing our ability to identify firms for partnership opportunities – all of which are key components for any supplier diversity programme. 

How will we ensure that we as a company continue to identify and embrace supplier diversity?

As we work to create a robust supplier diversity programme, we want to ensure there is a capacity building component that helps our (X)BE partners grow and improve their ability to participate on and complete larger projects. This can occur in the form of mentorship, administrative support, contract flexibility, financial or other business-related support.

As a prime, or in our role as an owner representative, we also have certain levers that we can pull or leverage to pass onto (X)BE firms, helping to remove barriers to contracting opportunities.

The fact that we are willing to help build the capacity of (X)BE firms makes them stronger, expands their knowledge base and allows them to be successful in delivering services for us and our clients.

In some cases, (X)BEs are supporting our efforts as subcontractors and achieving the client’s goal by bringing great projects to life, and ensuring that we are doing it in an inclusive manner that supports local and diverse businesses, and the communities they are located in. In other instances, (X)BEs are operating as prime contractors and looking to include Turner & Townsend in contract opportunities. The relationship benefits us in multiple ways and creates more avenues of opportunity in the (X)BE network.

How can a diverse supply chain drive innovation in the infrastructure sector?

Working with different types of companies and individuals provides a range of innovative ideas, and that innovation travels on a two-way street.

With our breadth of knowledge, we have the resources to educate our partner (XBE) firms on different approaches. And on the flip side, our partner firms have creative ideas and/or are using innovative tools within their operations.

Partnering with these firms allows us to leverage that knowledge base to better support our clients and enhance our offering – something you do not benefit from when working in a silo or with a limited number of companies.

What can the wider infrastructure community do to drive supplier diversity?

I am a bit old school in this way but would say that the grassroots approach is important.

There is a workforce shortage in construction-related industries, and we need individuals with the necessary skills to effectively deliver infrastructure projects. In New York City, for example, a lot of the baby boomer generation is retiring and leaving the industry, taking their valuable knowledge with them.

There is, therefore, more we can do to get into the schools and local communities to really foster excitement about this industry from an early age, which will help to fill the talent pipeline. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) programmes are great ways of doing this, and there are other, similar initiatives that support this effort too. Our business has relationships with universities and prominent organisations to help support this effort.

What advice would you offer to anyone looking to implement a successful supplier diversity programme?

There are many challenges when implementing a supplier diversity programme, which can vary from industry to industry and company to company.

For a larger firm, it is more complicated due to the many stakeholders involved. For consistency across the company, you need buy-in from leadership, plus the right stakeholders at the table to get the programme started off in the right way. This must include key people from HR, finance, procurement, operations, and the project teams. Everyone must be on board with the mission, and the message must be clear to ensure it permeates throughout the organisation.

Compliance is another focus area. We must hold ourselves accountable as a company and aim to meet performance targets, which ties to another area of focus that was referenced earlier: data.

Understanding past performance and using that information to set realistic and impactful goals is critical for a successful supplier diversity programme. Once companies can access the data, it can be tracked, measured and used to guide more targeted efforts.

For Turner & Townsend, supplier diversity goes beyond checking a box. It is about serving the communities that we work and reside in, helping local businesses and, subsequently, the local economies grow while we bring great projects to life. It is also about partnering on a professional and personal level and building a true purpose around supplier diversity.

For further information contact:

Charlene Singh
Global Business Generation Lead, Infrastructure

t: +44 7939 981267