Making a Difference: Supplier Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion


 

Recently, I read two contrasting thought processes about the efforts some organizations are making towards race equity. The spectrum of their focus prompted me to share my tips on one of those areas: Supplier Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

First, I read this great note from Delta Airline’s CEO to his colleagues and wondered how many other companies in this social climate have decided to be intentional about doing their part to actively become an anti-racist culture and take actions to achieve racial equity as opposed to just going through the motions. Kudos to Delta and other companies who are doing something similar.

Then, in contrast, while helping a friend, I saw some troubling recommendations made to an organization who wanted to be intentional about ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion when they spend their money with suppliers. My fear is that this organization will not be as successful. It was clear to me the resources who drafted these recommendations lacked specific procurement and supplier diversity experience. As a Procurement Consultant and someone who has experience in establishing and growing Supplier Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs, I decided to post a few tips. Some of these tips are directly opposite to some of those troubling recommendations I reviewed as mentioned earlier.

So, if you are grappling with how to start or improve DEI in your supplier base, keep reading… as it is time to step up!

 

Tips for the early stages of your supplier inclusion program:

  • Know your suppliers! It is good business practice to have some information about those you choose as your external resources (e.g. are they certified as diverse, are they good corporate citizens, etc..)

  • Support your suppliers that need help getting certified.

  • Why re-invent the wheel? There are great supplier diversity frameworks readily available for use as a base, but you can certainly improve upon them.

  • Analyze and understand your existing spend and supplier data to understand your baseline before setting goals.

  • Don’t make assumptions about the capabilities of diverse suppliers – no need to create roadblocks or incentives unnecessarily

  • Consider what can be done in the short term and long term.

  • Ensure your change management plan includes your suppliers and employees.

  • Match your program with your other areas of DEI.

  • If you don’t currently have a procurement process, choose a consultant with experience in procurement and supplier inclusion., and build your program within your procurement process.

 

When you are further along in your program:

  • Think about ways you can grow the spend of your existing base of diverse suppliers.

  • Extend your supplier inclusion program to include your strategic spend.

  • Include programs that can provide supplier development where warranted.

  • Hold all your preferred and strategic suppliers accountable to establish and grow their own supplier inclusion program. Ensure your suppliers provide a diverse team to work on your engagements.

  • Use metrics to gauge your progress.

  • Ensure the metrics you use clearly show which diverse categories are benefiting from the program and be very intentional about increasing spend where needed.

  • Don’t rest on your laurels. Keep pushing because there is so much work to do.

Supplier Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion helps to build a better organization in the same way it does with your internal talent, and it helps to build a stronger community in which we live and work.

Want more ideas and information – check out this Harvard Business Review article https://hbr.org/2020/08/why-you-need-a-supplier-diversity-program

Cassandra Solomon

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