Establishing a supplier diversity program takes time and commitment. If you do the groundwork of
educating both management and diversity teams on the importance of such a program as well as developing strong transparency and accountability processes, you can save yourself a lot of headaches as you get your program off the ground.
Fortunately, you do not have to have access to a big budget to implement a strong program. You can choose to implement a pilot program to test your strategy’s soundness. Starting small with local minority-owned businesses is a great first step toward building relationships with diverse groups.
From there, there are several steps you can take to ensure your supplier diversity program gets off to the best start possible.
6 Key Characteristics of a Successful Supplier Diversity Program
Building a supplier diversity program takes time and effort — but it need not be complicated if you set
up a strong foundation. Consider the following elements of a successful program:
1. Take Stock of Where You Are Now
2. Establish Internal Policies and Commitments
3. Identify Resources to Contact Diverse Suppliers
5. Expand from Tier 1 to Tier 2
Take Stock of Where You Are Now
Strong programs are built on solid knowledge of your starting point. Take time to discover which
suppliers you currently partner with that are minority-owned. Look at the categories they supply and
how much you spend with each. Then, determine which categories need to be more diverse and
how much funding you will allocate to each.
Establish Internal Policies and Commitments
If you are committed to supplier diversity it should be spelled out clearly in your company’s written
policies. Every level of your organization should understand your goals and initiatives and provide
support toward the achievement of your diversity objectives. Your objectives should not only be clearly
stated — they should be prioritized and tracked as well.
Identify Resources to Contact Diverse Suppliers
Don’t leave it up to your procurement manager to source his/her/their own resources. Provide help by
collecting information through third-party databases or agencies like the Women’s Business Enterprise
National Council, the National Minority Supplier Development Council, or the National Veteran Business Development Council.
Develop Your Suppliers
Having a robust supplier development program is not just about working with minority-owned suppliers.
It is about mentoring those suppliers, providing networking opportunities, education and financial
support, and even helping them develop a supplier diversity program of their own. Once your program is
in place, look to expand your initiatives by identifying diverse suppliers that require mentorship and
Consider expanding from Tier 1 to Tier 2
By adding Tier 2 level participation to your program, you can broaden your program’s reach and assist other companies with strong leadership/mentorship abilities to develop their diverse supply chain partners.
Measure and Report
Although companies are committed to supplier diversity in theory, more action is needed. Successful diversity programs are those that are tracked and measured. Create processes that measure the number of diverse suppliers over time, how much you spend with each, and which projects have the most diverse participation. Make it a point to share periodic reports with C-Suite, management, employees, and other stakeholders as you move toward your goals. This is often the most difficult part of any supplier diversity program and the step that is skipped by many.
Historically, the only real data to measure against was your own program when trying to answer the question "is this good?". Fortunately, there are incredible resources like Supplier.io and SupplierGATEWAY that make it easy to scale your program with data, reporting, tracking & benchmarking.
Why Wait? Start Your Supplier Diversity Program Now
With all of the advantages inherent in a supplier diversity program — better resilience, cost savings, a
stronger bottom line, and a more powerful and reliable supply chain — there is no reason not to
consider starting a program of your own.