By politics.co.uk staff
Large companies must embrace diversity if they are to cut costs and improve their products, according to business leaders.
The comments came at an awards ceremony for supplier diversity in which Pepsi scooped the 'corporation of the year' award, narrowly beating ExxonMobil.
"Despite significant progress over the last few years, the volume of business won by ethnic minority owned businesses in the UK remains small," said Sara Todd, chair of Minority Supplier Development UK (MSDUK) and executive director at Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD).
"In the US, companies have been far quicker to embrace supplier diversity and the resulting commercial benefits."
Ms Todd also encouraged minority-owned businesses to improve their professionalism and better understand the needs of large corporations.
Mayank Shah, Director of MSDUK, added: "Given the changing make up of the UK's population and the need to build a sustainable economic recovery, it's critical that diversity is debated at a national level.
"Discussions at the conference around the impact of the new Equality Act, the business case for diversity and processes to extend the supplier base were all keenly attended."
The Equality Act, which brought together nine separate pieces of equality legislation together, came into force last week.
Ethnic minorities were largely unaffected by the new law, which consolidated and cleared up various strands of legislation from previous decades.
Aspects relating to audits of firms in a bid to narrow the gender pay gap are still under review by the government, however, with an eye to avoiding placing any new demands on British business as the economy emerges from recession.