Firms seeking to pick up contracts on the HS2 rail project will have to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion, the organisation’s chief executive has warned.

HS2 Simon Kirby

Speaking at the RICS Diversity & Inclusion Conference in London today, HS2 chief executive Simon Kirby (right) said that diversity and inclusion would form a key part of the procurement process on the £56bn project.

He said: “Many firms are doing great work, but many are not. You will not win work on HS2 if you don’t take diversity and inclusion seriously. We have to do something, not just talk about it.”

“We have high expectations in terms of equal opportunities throughout our supply chain. Diversity and inclusion is part of the selection process – firms have to demonstrate what they’re doing in this space.”

Kirby added that HS2 as an organisation had already taken steps to put its own house in order on diversity, including introducing ‘reverse mentoring’, whereby senior executives spend time with younger members of staff from diverse backgrounds, and blind recruitment up to the interview stage.

“I’ve been in this industry for 30 years,” Kirby said. “I don’t think we spoke about this until five or six years ago. It was an old boys club. Why didn’t we talk about this?”