Contracting Equity

Contracting equity is a critical initiative led by Governor Inslee's Subcabinet on Business Diversity. This work has resulted in policy changes for supplier diversity, sole source contracts, and direct buy. We're now working on improving equity in public spending to create more opportunities for Washington businesses.

We oversee procurement policy for goods, services, and public works on behalf of state government agencies. We are committed to removing inclusion and equity barriers in procurement practices across the state government.

In fiscal year 2020, 1.1% of our agency spending went to small and diverse businesses. In fiscal year 2021, that figure climbed to 1.9%. While that’s an increase of nearly 1% and a step in the right direction, we know we can do better.

State efforts to improve contracting equity

The Governor’s Subcabinet on Business Diversity is guiding state efforts in the Washington State Roadmap to Contracting Equity and we are working with our state partners to do even more. We are working closely with the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises (OMWBE), Office of Equity, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Transportation, and our advisory groups to transform our practices and create durable change.

Statewide work:

Our advisory groups:

Our programs that support contracting equity

2019 Washington State Disparity Study recommendations

For goods and services contracts, we have implemented all but one of the 12 recommendations (PDF 205.08KB) from the 2019 Washington State Disparity Study.

For public works contracts, we have implemented 6 of 10 applicable recommendations (PDF 205.08KB).

Our policy changes that resulted from the disparity study:

Executive Order 22-01: Equity in Public Contracting

EO 22-01 Equity in Public Contracting requires cabinet agencies to improve equity in public spending to create more opportunities for Washington businesses.

DES is responsible for four elements of this executive order:

  1. Bolster diverse businesses on statewide contracts that all agencies use
    • Our Procurement, Inclusion and Equity (PIE) program has established new procurement practices that remove barriers for small, diverse and veteran-owned firms to bid on contracts. We are building a small business mentor-protégé pilot program.
  2. Work with WSDOT to make recommendations to remove barriers including bonding and insurance requirements.
    • Our Public Works Business Diversity Program is working with WSDOT to review and make recommendations on bonding, insurance, retainage, and experience requirements.
    • DES Director Tara C. Smith has engaged with the National Association of Minority Contractors regarding our desire for connection and feedback on this issue.
  3. Risk assessment: Each agency must assign someone to oversee implementation of this executive order and prepare OMWBE inclusion plan and/or DES risk assessment.
    • DES Director Tara C. Smith leads the effort, with support from our Contracts and Procurement Division, to track progress on the executive order and our Supplier Diversity Inclusion Plan.
    • We monitor agencies’ compliance with executive orders, RCWs, and procurement policy as part of the risk assessment that determines agencies’ delegated authority to procure goods and services.
    • We created a new supplier diversity policy that takes effect on April 1, 2023 to ensure agencies’ goods and services procurement methods give small and diverse firms opportunities to get state contracts. The policy will be part of our risk assessment evaluation for agencies.
  4. In partnership with OMWBE, we train and offer support for agencies to implement Tools for Equity in Public Spending.

Related policies


The purpose of this policy is to ensure that all procurement professionals and those with acquisition responsibilities use approved, legally compliant strategies that encourage and facilitate the purchase of goods and services from small, diverse, and veteran-owned businesses to the maximum extent possible. Agencies must take action to remove barriers that prevent small, diverse, and veteran-owned businesses from receiving equitable access to state goods and services procurements.