Supplier diversity program best practices

Author: Eyal Bar, Head of accessibility, Allyable.

In the U.S., all federal contractors must adhere to established federal regulations or small business subcontracting rules, while state and local government contractors are also required to comply with specific, pre-defined supplier diversity requirements. Meanwhile, private sector-facing enterprises have more latitude in defining their own criteria, which can vary from one company to the next. There are many factors to consider when establishing or expanding a procurement diversity program. Here are some suggested best practices that will lead to a successful outcome:


  1. Start with your culture and core values. Racial injustice? Disability rights? Gender identification? Community engagement? The ideals your company stands for should serve as a foundation for your supplier diversity program.
  2. Develop a strong business strategy and plan. Tie your strategy into overall company objectives and map out tactics to ensure buy-in and backing from C-level leadership, so you can create policies that will promote results.
  3. Establish clear KPIs, goals, and benchmarks. How do you want to measure success in a way that is meaningful for your organization? Define and collect high-quality data to analyze outcomes, assess program ROI, and evaluate progress—review on a regular basis and adapt as strategies and goals evolve. Jaggaer, a leading enterprise commerce procurement solution provider, suggests starting out with such KPIs as:
    • Number of new diverse suppliers onboarded
    • Number of diverse suppliers invited to an RFP
    • Percentage increase of diverse spend
    • Savings from your supplier diversity program
    • Increase in internal customer satisfaction
    • Economic impact (e.g., jobs created)
    • Impact in your local communities
    • Brand enhancement metrics
  4. Align diversification efforts in other business areas. A diverse supplier program shouldn’t exist in a vacuum—be sure to integrate your efforts with inclusivity initiatives in other areas of the company (hiring principles, board composition, etc.).
  5. Invest financial and human resources in supplier diversity. Establish a dedicated team and manager with adequate budget allocations to create and maintain an effective program, including administration, communications, and technological support.
  6. Attend supplier diversity events and join advocacy groups. Targeted networking often leads to valuable connections. Also consider the benefits of supporting the development of diverse suppliers to meet your needs.

How to locate diverse suppliers

Finding the right diverse suppliers to meet our company’s specific requirements can be challenging. Fortunately, there are a range of organizations in the U.S. that serve as both a supplier diversity certification resource and a directory for corporations to search for diverse vendors in every underrepresented category. Most of these organizations provide live and virtual events that serve as opportunities to meet, connect, and network with diverse suppliers, which makes them a valuable resource.

Nonprofit Diverse Supplier Advocacy Associations

  • National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC)
  • Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
  • U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce (USPAACC)
  • U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC)
  • National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)
  • National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA)
  • National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC)
  • Disability:IN (DOBE®)
  • Allyable is proud to be a Disability Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE). To explore how we can become your diverse digital accessibility supplier, contact us [with link to contact us page]


What is supplier diversity?

Supplier diversity is an equitable business practice that is being increasingly adopted by organizational procurement programs, to source supplies and services from traditionA11y underrepresented vendors, such as minority-owned enterprises (MBEs), woman-owned enterprises (WBEs), LGBT-owned business enterprises (LGBTBE®s), disability-owned business enterprises (DOBE®s), veteran-owned businesses (VOSBs/SDVOSBs), and SBA-defined small businesses.

Who is a diverse supplier?

A diverse supplier is a business that has been certified by a reliable third-party agency to have at least 51% ownership by one or more individuals who belong to a traditionA11y underrepresented community (minority, woman, LGBTQI+A, disabled, veteran, SBA small business).

Does supplier diversity benefit businesses?

Absolutely! An inclusive procurement strategy involves bringing new, diversity-owned suppliers into the supply chain. Widening the potential vendor pool promotes competition, which drives up quality, drives down costs, stimulates innovation, strengthens resiliency, and enhances agility. This in turn supports companies to meet and exceed their diversity and ESG goals while making a positive social and economic impact and burnishing their brand image. Supplier diversity can also provide a significant boost to a corporation’s bottom line through revenue growth and higher returns on investment (ROI) for sociA11y responsible investors.

How to develop a supplier diversity program?

A supplier diversity program requires that an enterprise re-evaluate its current vendor roster and prioritize seeking out and contracting with new suppliers that represent traditionA11y underutilized communities. It’s important to start with your company’s culture and core values, then create an actionable strategic plan, define goals, establish clear KPIs, determine measurements, and regularly evaluate progress, adjusting as necessary. There are a wide range of diversity advocacy organizations that provide resources to search, connect, and match with qualified diverse suppliers in every industry and any aspect of business.

Find out how a diverse supplier network can impact your bottom line—read “Improve Your Business with Supplier Diversity.