Supplier Diversity from the Inside Out

By: Darlene Fuller
Oct 14, 2016 12:25 PM ET

Supplier Diversity from the Inside Out

Diversity helps businesses and communities thrive. It’s that simple. When there are more options, more voices and more ideas, there are more opportunities for business excellence. While many organizations focus on cultivating a diverse workforce that can offer a variety of ideas and strengths, it’s equally as important to ensure your business supply base includes diverse vendors.

Working with a wide variety of suppliers of different backgrounds and sizes can make your supply chain stronger and improves communities. For example, working with small and medium-sized businesses in addition to larger enterprises helps create jobs in different communities, as well as helps you serve your customers in different ways. While large vendors can deliver on scale, the small or local vendors can be crucial when you need a more nimble option. The same can be said for women or minority-owned businesses, which can often contribute different insights, expertise and strengths to your offerings. (And it’s worth noting that women and minority-owned businesses come in all sizes too.) Having diverse vendors to choose from increases chances for success.

The question many companies face is how to develop and cultivate a diverse group of suppliers. At Sodexo, we’ve found the answer lies within. Some of our most successful supplier diversity initiatives were created or inspired by the diversity initiatives for employees within our own company.
Our Employee Business Resource Groups support the Supplier Diversity Program. Created in 2000, the program holds a commitment not just to track our spend but to promote and grow the inclusion of diverse suppliers in our supply base. EBRG members play a part in implementing the program. For example, members of the Sodexo Organization for disAbilities Resources (SOAR) do site visits to vendors owned by people with disabilities as part of the certification process for U.S. Business Leadership Network. They can confirm the company is eligible for certification , and they can also make a connection with the entrepreneur. It’s a great way of building relationships with these suppliers by showing them the diversity of Sodexo.Sodexo North America has nine Employee Business Resource Groups (EBRGs) organized by employees who, based on shared experiences, join together to provide a positive forum for professional development, and input ideas that support the success of the company’s diversity efforts.  The focus of the EBRGs include  women, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Veterans, the LGBT community, people with disabilities and I-Gen (inter-generational). Each of these groups turned out not to just be important for supporting employees, they were some of our greatest resources for reaching out to diverse suppliers.

Since implementing these programs we’ve seen tangible success. They have shown us that one of our most valuable resources, our diverse workforce, can help us build the strength of our supply chain.

What diversity initiatives does your company have in place that could help you cultivate divers suppliers? Share your thoughts.