Private-sector firms will increasingly have to meet strict race targets in order to win contracts from public bodies as a result of new anti-discrimination laws.
The conditions will be used by public-sector organisations to prove they are actively promoting race equality.
The new duty on public bodies is part of amendments to the Race Relations Act 1976, announced by Home Secretary Jack Straw last month.
The use of non-commercial criteria, including equality issues, in deciding how contracts are awarded was curtailed by the Conservative government in the late 1980s.
But a return to contract compliance is seen as necessary for public bodies to show they are promoting race equality in their employment practices.
"If councils do not seek to promote equality through contracts, they might be subject to action from government," said Sarah Palmer, principal information officer at the Employers Organisation for Local Government.