The Need for Supplier Diversity?

Back in 2010 we wrote  a brief history of Supplier Diversity, the highlights of which included a brief synopsis of the following Executive Orders:

  • 10925
  • 11246,
  • 11458,
  • 11625, and
  • 12432.

At the federal level these orders formed the basis for the process of identifying and vetting businesses claiming diverse status. Again, diverse is an easy way to refer to all recognized SDMWVLGBTBE (Small, Disadvantaged, Disabled, Minority, Women, Veteran, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered Business Enterprises) with a single word. Supplier Diversity is a formalized program that encourages the use of these diverse suppliers.

The federal government actively works to meet its diversity spend goals and foster inclusion and one way they do that is by getting its suppliers – be they diverse themselves or not – to assist them. It is because of this that state, county and city governments have developed their own certification and supplier diversity programs, why major corporations have supplier diversity programs, and why 3rd party certifiers have come into being over the years.

It seems almost shocking in 2016, after 50+ years of continual program crafting and enhancements, that an executive at a large regional corporation would scoff at the notion of supplier diversity, but it still happens. Whether supplier diversity is seen as no longer needed – which is not the case – or something that just needs to be paid lip service in order to show that an attempt was made (sadly something that seems be to the case at some organizations), it is clear that supplier diversity is not a fad.

It is, however, something that takes time … case in point, in 1994 the federal government set a 5% spend goal for small woman owned businesses. It took until fiscal year 2015 to meet that goal for the first time. That is 21 years.

We’re glad the federal government finally met its stated goal for women business enterprise contracting! And, even if an organization meets goals, this doesn’t mean that it should stop making improvements to supplier diversity programs.   Many organizations committed to supplier diversity actively review and tweak their diversity plans, just as they do overall business plans. Personally, we’d love to see more entities strive for loftier overall diversity spend goals, like the one set by New York’s Governor Cuomo of 30%.  We can dream big!


  1. Amy Criss on October 3, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    84 Lumber Company is proud to be a diverse business…women owned…with a supplier diversity program. As Joanne has so eloquently stated, diverse businesses need to continue to grow, regardless of size and help those small diverse businesses with a hand up. If we all work together we will help each other grow until there is no need for Supplier Diversity programs and we have reached and exceeded equality. There is a lot of work to be done but together we can succeed.

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