We’re often told that supplier diversity is important for any business. But are you able to articulate exactly why this is?
Here’s a cheat-sheet to help you next time a business stakeholder asks why your organisation needs a supplier diversity programme.
1. Supply managers created a lack of diversity, so it’s up to us to fix it
There’s now a level of recognition that the historical underutilisation of diverse businesses is the fault of supply management professionals.
Contributing factors include a narrow focus on cost over other value, restrictive criteria for suppliers, inflexible and non-scalable policies. Underpinning these is a tendency for big business to be most comfortable working similarly sized entities.
A 2009 study from Pew Research has found that while minority-owned firms made up 41 per cent of all companies in the U.S., they only took in 10.9 per cent of overall revenue.
Here’s the good news. Procurement and supply managers are leading the charge to address the issue, with diversity spend now firmly on the agenda and rising every year.
Reversing the contributing factors above has led to a more inclusive focus on overall value (including social benefits) over cost, flexible and scalable policies and criteria for suppliers. There is also a recognition that the strongest business relationships are often made with smaller, more diverse suppliers.
There’s an impressive array of conferences and organisations dedicated to improving supplier diversity, including:
- The National Minority Supplier Development Council;
- Supply Nation;
- ISM Diversity;
- Social Traders; and
- THOMASNET Certifications.
2. Customers are increasingly expecting diversity
Simply put, your customer base is diverse, so your business needs to be diverse as well. Partnerships with diverse suppliers will give your business a competitive advantage when facing changing customer demographics.
For example, if you operate in an area with a rapidly-growing minority population, your key relationships with minority-owned suppliers will become more important than ever.
While the public relations aspect shouldn’t be the prime reason for having a supplier diversity programme, it’s still important to track, measure and report on your diverse supplier base to win recognition from your customers for the work you have done in this area.
3. Diversity drives innovation
A study by CHI Research determined that small businesses generate 13-14 times more patents per employee than large firms. Since diverse suppliers tend to be small businesses, many companies use their supplier diversity programmes to tap into new and varied creative resources and the innovation that is occurring at these firms.
The fierce competition for business amongst diverse suppliers is another driver for innovation. Essentially, diversity brings a number of different backgrounds and life experiences into your supplier mix to overcome homogenous thinking with fresh new perspectives.
4. Diverse suppliers are often more flexible
Similarly, because most diverse suppliers are small businesses, they are usually able to offer greater flexibility, better customer focus and lower cost structures than larger businesses. Smaller, diverse suppliers are less likely to be tied down by restrictive policy, red-tape or innovation-stifling bureaucracy.
5. Well-known organisations are leading the way
Finally, some of the world’s leading companies are moving ahead with impressive supplier diversity programmes. Microsoft, for example, has recently exceeded $2 billion in annual spend with M/WBE businesses.
Another technology giant, Google, launched a best-practice supplier diversity programme in 2015. It brings key partners into the Google Academy for shared learning opportunities that will drive further innovation.
AT&T celebrate their suppliers as one of their “four pillars of diversity”, the other three being the organisation’s employees, community and marketing.
If your organisation’s supplier diversity programme is still only in its infancy, it’s important to increase your focus on this area or risk being left behind.
Interested in learning more about Diversity in Procurement? Register for ISM Diversity 2017, taking place March 1-3 in Orlando, Florida.