Supplier Diversity: The Other Side of the Diversity and Inclusion Coin

Diversity, equity, and inclusion must go beyond the employee workplace

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America has a race problem. No matter how much it is denied the truth is that racism is a major issue in our country and until its ugliness is faced and serious solutions and policies are put into place to eradicate it, it will continue to strangle the country’s greatness and tarnish its reputation for being the land of the free and a place of opportunity for all.

One of the areas that progress is being made to right the wrongs of racism and create fairness and inclusion for the advancement of opportunity is within the workplace.

Great strides have been made and with a recent doubling of efforts by corporations under their corporate social responsibility platforms, ethnic minorities and women are slowly gaining footing to march toward equality and inclusion in becoming employed, recognized, advanced, and rewarded equally with nonminority counterparts.

However, that is just one side of the two-headed coin of racism and other obstacles that defy and deny diversity, equity, and inclusion in America.

The other side of the coin is the lack of serious and sufficient efforts to include diverse suppliers within the supply chains of the USA and around the globe.

Ethnic minorities and women-owned businesses suffer tremendously under the weight of bias (explicit and implicit), cronyism, white fright, and other unfounded barriers to gaining access to and participating in providing goods and services in the trillions of dollars generated in supplying products and services throughout the economy.

While diversity is championed and receives lots of public attention, the problem of racism and lack of opportunity because of it, will never be eradicated until supplier diversity is equally addressed.

The good news is there is a solution. Supplier diversity is part of that solution.

What is supplier diversity and why is it important

Supplier diversity is a concept that encourages a proactive policy to use minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, LGBT-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned, and historically underutilized businesses within the purchasing of supply chain products and services of the economy.

A diverse supplier consists of any business that is at least 51% owned and operated by an individual (s) or a group that is part of a governmentally recognized underrepresented or underserved group.

The concept of supplier diversity has been around for decades. It was once known as “Affirmative Action” in the early 1960s. It had its roots in Civil Rights legislation.

Its goal is to ensure inclusion and business growth opportunities.

Research shows that companies that increase their spending with diverse suppliers also increase their market share over those that don’t engage in supplier diversity.

According to a Department of Commerce study, the growing minority and underrepresented population will account for as much as 70 percent of the total increase in purchasing power from 2000 to 2045.

Any prudent company would want a share of that market.

What supplier diversity is not

Unfortunately, supplier diversity initiatives are viewed by some as a government handout to people (ethnic minorities, women) that don’t deserve it and are looking for something for nothing.

To some, it is thought to be nonessential and should not even exist. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The groups for which the concept of supplier diversity is intended to benefit aren’t looking for a handout at all.

They are simply looking for and demanding that an equal and fair share of opportunity be afforded to them as it is to those who are in the majority (white people) and who often take their privilege of dominance in the economy for granted.

As outlined above, those companies that seriously engage in supplier diversity are enjoying more profit and benefits to their bottom line. This is because those diverse suppliers are performing by providing quality goods and services at a lower price than those in the majority and helping those proactive companies be more competitive within various markets.

The bottom line, supplier diversity is profitable.

A supplier diversity checklist to make it work

Neither diversity, equity, inclusion within the workplace, nor supplier diversity within the supply chain is rocket science. It’s simple but complex to deploy.

Both require a mindset and intention by those who have the power to implement platforms to be diligent and forceful in getting it done. A checklist that could be effective is:

1. Make diversity a core value from the start

It’s no secret that corporate America has much influence when it comes to making things happen economically and politically.

Corporate America, through its policies and procedures, can, through diversity, equity, and inclusion, and supplier diversity be an effective vaccine against the pandemic of racism.

However, it requires the mindset and intent of ensuring such policies are implemented from top to bottom of management, purchasing, community relationships, and every fiber of corporate being to make it work.

Supplier diversity must become part of a corporation's DNA. Otherwise, it is just a bandage on the open sore of inequality.

2. Have the right tools and systems in place

Supplier diversity will not happen by itself. The first thing that should be done is to create a culture and environment that fosters diversity and inclusion. An environment of recognition and acceptance that differences are an advantage and not a disadvantage must be fostered, encouraged, and monitored to make it happen.

Many people, no matter what background or ethnicity they are come from, harbor prejudices that can get in the way of a diversity and inclusion plan.

Often, they don’t even recognize it. These blind spots must be exposed in a positive way and addressed within a culture and environment of empathy and flexibility with the ultimate goal and understanding that the workplace and corporate structure are like a ship.

In order for it to sail to its destiny successfully, everyone needs to recognize that they are in the same boat.

3. Make supplier diversity a part of performance and pay

Diversity and inclusion should have preset goals to meet and serious efforts made to reach them.

One of the best ways to help ensure they are met is to gauge supplier diversity by the performance of those responsible for making the purchase decisions for goods and services and tie it into their pay as well as performance.

This one method of accountability is a powerful tool and sends a message that supplier diversity is an intentional mindset. Measuring it by performance and pay will go a long way toward getting it done.


The ugliness of racism and its vile effects have a firm grip on America. The strongholds of this pandemic are within the workplaces of our country and a stranglehold on the supplier diversity supply chain. These are the two sides of the coin that must be addressed to ensure justice and fair play.

The battle for diversity and inclusion can be won with help from corporate America but it must create a culture and environment within its workplaces and supply chain that becomes like DNA and permeates every fiber of business operation.

This will result in fairness, equity, and inclusion and everyone will benefit. More importantly, our nation will begin to heal and ultimately racism and inequality will become a distant memory.

What part will you play to make it happen?



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Roy Landers

Roy Landers


Business attorney, entrepreneur, content marketer, and published author. I help you communicate your marketing message and generate sales.