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Navigating supplier diversity as a Māori business

19 October 2023

What could best-practice supplier diversity look like in Aotearoa? And how can supplier diversity benefit Māori and Pasifika suppliers and the buyers that are working with them? These were the major topics discussed at the Amotai Navigate Summit this week, with Switched On Group General Manager of Communications, Engagement and Impact, Hannah McKnight (Ngāti Porou) heading along to soak up the mātauranga and mauri of the event. Here are her key learnings from the day.

Being a whānau and 50% iwi-owned Group puts us in a unique position to generate positive impact for our people, customers, communities, and the economy in Aotearoa. All our business units are Amotai Registered Suppliers and also have some serious buying power that we can use to influence more diverse supply chains in the construction sector and beyond.

Why does this matter? Because procurement needs to go beyond the best price and look to the wider outcomes that can be achieved by supporting diverse businesses to become part of large, resilient supply chains. Supporting indigenous business creates both economic and social value and can help to address inequities faced by Māori and Pasifika people, and other economically excluded and marginalised groups. Working with diverse suppliers can generate positive internal and external impact, create stronger connection to an organisation's core purpose among kaimahi-employees, help to attract the right people and partners, and bring about innovative ways of working that benefit how organisations do future business.

Kristal Kinsela, keynote speaker at the Navigate Summit and her son.Kristal Kinsela, Navigate Summit keynote speaker and her son. Photo: Amotai.

Navigate keynote speaker and international supplier diversity expert Kristal Kinsela talked about the positive impact of the Indigenous Procurement Policy in Australia on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. She also described how globally indigenous business is proven to benefit first nations populations through enabling self-determination and removing barriers to intergenerational wealth creation.

According to research by the University of Melbourne, annually Indigenous businesses in Australia bring in a total of at least $A4.9 billion, employ seven times more workers and pay 3.2 percent more. It’s not hard to conclude that the impact of supporting indigenous business is significant, and that’s exactly what Amotai is set up to achieve in Aotearoa.

So how can we grow the ‘swelling tides’ of Māori and Pasifika-owned business? Amotai shared a first-of-its-kind tool to support Government and the business sector to assess their supplier diversity practice and move towards tai āniwhaniwha – a tidal wave of best-practice procurement that goes beyond price. Tere ki Tai is a buyer maturity matrix that guides businesses on their journey towards a more diverse supplier network and benchmarks progress.

It’s heartening to see that some buyers are already well on their way with organisations like the Ministry of Health, Link Alliance and City Rail Link sharing their challenges and successes openly and honestly with attendees. The common starting point for success: a respect, understanding and solid grounding in Te Ao Māori across major initiatives and being open to learning from one another’s worldviews in business. Supplier diversity (and supply chain resilience) is certainly not about ticking boxes; to be effective and impactful it needs to be built on whanaungatanga and kotahitanga.

Mihi whakatau for Te Kura WhakapūmauSwitched On Group kaimahi practising whanaungatanga and mihi whakatau by welcoming Te Kura Whakapūmau to Matariki celebrations in Ōtautahi.

For those just dipping their toes into the supplier diversity space, there are some clear stand-out key themes that can support the journey, which were covered by multiple speakers and attendees at Navigate:

  • Ensure leaders and decision makers have cultural competency training!
  • Know your organisation’s ‘why’ and values, and how supplier diversity is linked to these.
  • Gain leadership commitment: supporting Māori and Pasifika business needs to be driven from the top for long-term impact.
  • Look at policy and procedure statements to embed supplier diversity in your organisation’s operations.
  • Get kanohi-ki-te-kanohi with Māori and Pasifika businesses and build relationships, so you can understand the unique value offered by diverse suppliers.
  • Remove barriers for diverse businesses in your procurement processes, including showing that your process prioritises attributes beyond price.
  • Support new applicants to lift their game, including providing capability development (and being a good Treaty partner) to successful suppliers.
  • Set targets for improvement, then measure and report – and make all managers responsible for achieving these targets.

It’s a long game, so start where you are, get some ‘rungs on the board’ and keep building momentum.

If you want to learn more about what it means for Switched On Group to be Amotai Registered, and how to get on the waka as a supplier or buyer, say kia ora or check out