In today’s business landscape, supplier diversity has emerged as a powerful force for economic growth, social equity and business development. Diverse-owned businesses—those owned by women, racial or ethnic minorities, veterans or people with disabilities—have faced historical challenges expanding their operations. But they consistently bring a spirit of innovation that benefits the broader business community.
Despite the terminology, diverse suppliers aren’t just providing inputs for manufactured goods. They’re service providers across every imaginable industry—from consulting to staffing, education, construction, design, technology and more.
Once a business gets its diverse supplier certification, it can start to unlock an array of benefits and opportunities. These include access to new business networks, expanded relationships with corporations, access to education and development opportunities, and additional sources of capital.
The Billion Dollar Roundtable issued its first-ever Global Economic Impact Report, co-sponsored by JPMorgan Chase, in late 2022. That study revealed the dramatic and far-reaching effect of working with diverse suppliers. For every $1 the BDR’s 32 corporate members spent with diverse suppliers in 2021, about $2.10 in total economic impact was directly or indirectly generated.
The Billion Dollar Roundtable recognizes a number of certifying bodies, including:
Our how-to guide outlines the different paths to diverse supplier certification. It discusses the benefits of getting certified, which include increased access to corporate supplier diversity programs and support from the certifying organizations and their networks.
Diverse business owners who’ve been certified say the process can sometimes be cumbersome. But completing the steps offers a competitive edge that provides long-term, transformational opportunity. Only a small share of businesses that are eligible for certification have completed the process, suggesting a largely untapped opportunity.
When Miss Jessie’s Co-founder and CEO Miko Branch started making haircare products with her sister in their kitchen, they couldn’t have imagined landing distribution deals with the country’s biggest retailers.
“I thought that certification was a formality,” Branch said. “The networking that becomes available to you just by being a member of the WBENC or another certifying body, it’s just so much more than what I thought it would be. Little did we know that Target, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS would be our partners. Lo and behold, they came calling.”
Even a small company with the right market positioning can enter major partnerships.
“It’s the classic hub and spoke,” said Frederick Royall III, National Head of Diverse Businesses for JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking. “You can have so much more impact if you’ve aligned with key organizations who themselves are aligned” with companies across a variety of industries.
While diverse supplier certification won’t instantly create business relationships, it does nurture them.
“There’s a consensus among some that [getting certified as a diverse supplier] is more helpful for the customer than it is for the company. I don’t agree with that,” said Joe Blackstone, founder and president of Blackstone Consulting. “That designation has been helpful—especially in the corporate community. You have to do the work and do it well. But having that certification opens up a door to have those conversations.”
Leaders must treat diverse supplier certification as a long-term process, not an end goal.
“It’s a major first step in your journey,” said Ted Archer, Global Head of Business Partner Diversity at JPMorgan Chase. “Once you have it, however, you have to proactively develop relationships with the companies you want to do business with.”
Being officially recognized as a diverse supplier requires sharing details about your business with a certifying body, and that can make owners and executives hesitate. But the process is designed so that all that information is vetted by one party—the certifying body—rather than by each potential client, each time.
“Every time I get fatigued with the certification process, I remind myself that I want to continue doing big business with my large partners, therefore making it worth the effort,” Branch said. “So far, I’ve had no regrets with my decision to stay the course.”
Supplier diversity programs are an opportunity for large companies to lower barriers, Archer said. “Once there’s a relationship established, the work to meet minimum corporate standards is collaborative. We work closely with our suppliers to ensure that they navigate our organization and deliver their services successfully,” he said.
“We work to help our suppliers meet our standards. They not only meet them; they exceed them. Diverse businesses just need access—and the support to help them grow.”
For nearly 30 years, our Global Supplier Diversity program has worked with thousands of businesses to help them grow and position themselves as industry leaders. Contact us below to learn more.
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