Is Now the Time for a Supplier Diversity Rebirth?


A great deal has been said about the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and social justice unrest. The rate of unemployment has spiked as we fight the virus, and this exacerbates calls for changing how we understand community health and wellness from a public policy standpoint.

We’re also bombarded with information and news constantly. Just collecting my thoughts to pen this blogpost makes my head spin! But I’m determined to find my path to contribute to solving these weighty problems.

If we look at COVID, our role is usually very clear. We’re sourcing PPE, chemicals, etc. We’re expediting shipments, sourcing new suppliers…you know, business at light speed. Or, what we do!

But if we want to address the twin pandemic of social justice, that’s trickier. Except in the case of finding and working with suppliers that meet and exceed our ethical standards, we don’t have the charge of building just communities.

As Supply Chain professionals, we are connectors. Even in the most tactical and tedious exercises of our work, it is in the service of connecting companies in order to deliver value to customers. And that’s key, value to customers – customers that live and work in the communities (all communities) that want to be a contributing part of the greater society we desire for ourselves, even with our differences.

So, how can our work as Supply Chain and Strategic Sourcing professionals make a difference? Well, I’ve been in the game long enough to know there are more questions than answers. Here are some of the questions I’m asking…

  1. How are my sales and business development colleagues engaging this cultural moment? Are their stakeholders (I.e. customers) asking for information about their suppliers’ supplier diversity? How soon can I get involved in those discussions?
  2. Suppliers big and small need capital to grow and expand. Supply Chain Finance isn’t a new idea, but have we really pushed our thinking on this? If we have a low cost of capital, how can we work with financiers to extend that advantage to our suppliers, in order to serve our value chain and our customers?
  3.  Am I looking at the practice of Supplier Diversity as an important and respected professional expertise? Supplier Diversity as a discipline has been around now for decades. And while many CPO’s view this work as simply a step in effective strategic sourcing, I believe it is a mistake to ignore the work of this community of practitioners. They have a wealth of experience and are willing to teach.
  4. Finally, am I being a committed and effective advocate for Supplier Diversity? As practitioners, we know that the business case has been made over and over, for decades. But guess what? We have to keep making it. And though it can be scary, to be the advocate I aspire to be, it’s going to cost me political capital. So, I’d better buckle up!

Again, big problems call for challenging solutions and a level of personal risk. But hey, you’re going to work hard anyway. Might as well stretch beyond what’s clearly in front of you and see how you might emerge through this effort.

Take a good, long look at your Supplier Diversity initiatives and programs. As with everything we do, this work needs the priority and attention it deserves:

  • Corporate level goals and metrics
  • Dedicated professional staff
  • Enterprise wide visibility
  • Real, long term commitment

We’re conducting a Supplier Diversity Best Next Practices Research initiative so help us shape the outcome by taking this survey: Survey Link

Aren’t you excited? I know I am!


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