The Canadian Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement wrapped up 2021 on December 9th, hosting a final peer exchange focused on the work from their Supplier Diversity Working Group. Supplier diversity can be defined as the stratification of efforts in two key areas:
- Increasing in the diversity of the firms you do business, with a focus here on equity-seeking and equity-deserving groups.
- Working with suppliers’ whose workforce is diverse.
The working group really lived up to their name this last year, having developed some key tools for defining and operationalizing supplier diversity. Rosalie Peevers, Senior Procurement Advisor in Supplier Diversity at CBC Radio Canada, and Lisa Myres, Senior Project Manager in Procurement Services at the University of Toronto, shared their stories of how their organizations got started and are trending with increasing their supplier diversity.
Folks reading this may be first wondering what constitutes a diverse supplier? These suppliers are categorized as organizations that are at least 51% owned, managed, or controlled by persons belonging to an equity group or social purpose enterprise. Increasing your engagement with these types of suppliers may seem challenging at first glance, but with the right tools it’s achievable. The working group produced a set of tools; a supplier diversity certification council profile, and a Supplier Diversity Training Presentation slide deck, serving as deliverables for CCSP members to use freely in implementing supplier diversity at their organizations.
Sustainable procurement and supplier diversity work spans scaled spending levels, from low value p-card purchasing, to tenders and RFP’s, to large-scale capital projects. This span of spending levels creates many opportunities for improving your supplier diversity. Action items can include inviting at least a single diverse supplier to your RFP’s, focusing in on low-spend sole source as an area of interest in contracting a diverse supplier, increasing visibility to diverse suppliers, or simply better explaining corporate procurement processes and through direct engagement. Supplier diversity still a novel topic in Canada, and even the smallest strides in this area are impactful.
Supplier diversity is a business strategy, not a program. It is evolving from a social responsibility to a strategic enabler. The market is being flooded with new and innovative products from diverse suppliers, and folks working in procurement have the power to vouch for their growth and engagement with buyers. Employee satisfaction, brand value, flexibility through supply chain, fostering innovation and lower cost are all concrete benefits from strengthening your organizations’ supplier diversity. The intention behind buying also becomes clear when diverse suppliers are considered and involved, highlighting the nature of the engagement as a relationship rather than a transaction.
Rosalie and Lisa advised those in procurement to really connect with their community of diverse suppliers and take the initiative to understand the variety of options and the stages those businesses are at. They stressed the importance of documenting your efforts, synthesizing the data in a way that’s productive to your organization. The ability to quantify the percentage of diverse suppliers your organization is engaging with, or at least your status on supplier diversity, is how you can communicate to corporate leaders the importance of the cause.