Liverpool lawyer and entrepreneur Garth Dallas urges firms to embrace the diversity agenda as he gets set to host the fourth Diversity and Inclusion Conference this month. Tony McDonough reports
When lawyer and entrepreneur Garth Dallas organised the first Diversity and Inclusion Conference at Liverpool’s International Business Festival in 2014, it was very much a fringe event.
However, in a sign that the diversity agenda is now being taken more seriously, the fourth conference, taking place this month, will be at the heart of the Festival, in the main venue at Exhibition Centre Liverpool.
“Our first conference was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, well away from the main festival venue,” said Mr Dallas, owner of Liverpool-based employment law specialist Dallas Legal.
“It is important as the festival developed that we keep diversity and inclusion awareness embedded within it.”
As well as running the law firm, Mr Dallas is recognised as a leading voice on workplace diversity and inclusion via the Diverse Magazine Group, through which the Diversity and Inclusion Conference is organised.
This year he has joined forces with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the Merseyside and Cheshire Commonwealth Association, of which Mr Dallas is General Secretary.
The full-day conference taking place on Tuesday, June 19, aims to explore global best practices in diversity and inclusion and international trading opportunities in the Commonwealth.
With Brexit looming UK firms will be looking to forge new links with countries outside the EU and our pre-existing relationship with the Commonwealth is being viewed as a golden opportunity to grow trade.
Mr Dallas says embracing diversity and inclusion agenda goes beyond just doing the right thing and brings with it a clear a measurable business rationale.
“The Business Festival has become more sophisticated and and is very focused on big business and big investment but it is important we don’t lose sight of the fact that small businesses are the engine of our economy,” he said.
“The reason the FSB and the Commonwealth Association are involved in this event is that there is a significant number of people from the Commonwealth living in the city region who want to be involved in international trade.
“What they can offer is an understanding of cultural differences in other countries and communities.”
He offered a hypothetical example of a large business that might want to trade in Nigeria. Rather than trying to get to grips with cultural differences itself that business could engage with a smaller business in its supply chain that may already have that knowledge.
One of the aims of the conference, Mr Dallas adds, is to demonstrate to companies that developing a more diverse supply chain represents both an ethical approach and one that makes sound business sense.
He added: “We want to ask larger businesses to look at their supply chains and also ask ‘how many of those firms are run by women, by black people, the disabled or elderly people?’
“They may not initially have the skills necessary but it is the responsibility of those bigger businesses to upskill them. In the long run it will benefit them – there is a measurable return on investment.”
The conference will provide an opportunity for exchange of learning from, and network with, international trade experts, international leading diversity and HR professionals.
Global heads, directors and senior human resources and diversity executives along with boards members of some of the world’s largest companies will be presenting alongside renowned authors, professors and experts.
“In order to make diversity and inclusion work in an organisation there has to be a real buy-in from the chief executive and his or her senior team. It also also about how you recruit and retain people so the involvement of HR people is very important,” said Mr Dallas.
“At this conference we don’t want to focus on one area – it is about promoting the whole concept. I want to be facilitator and provide a platform for the various players to get involved.”