Standards in Supplier Diversity Program: Reflections from a survey

Supplier diversity is starting to be a positive and major trend for many businesses. The concept in itself is very attractive for both small businesses and the larger companies who wish to partner with them. However, in every strategy, supplier diversity has to face standards, regulations and metrics to determine if it is a logical and feasible approach for both parties.

In terms of metrics and standards, it is often the larger corporate entity that assumes the responsibility of creating, implementing and assessing metrics. These companies that made their own supplier diversity programs are also responsible for the rules that will govern such programs and any consequences that may arise. The creation of the supplier diversity program in itself gives a lot of liberty in terms of rules, metrics and standards set by the private company.

A survey conducted by the Global Benchmarking Council tries to identify how companies improve their program and processes to include supplier diversity standards. The survey covers three particular areas – internal and external staffing, selection criteria and process and key tactics. Thirteen companies participated in the survey, representing different industries like power and electrical industry, banking and others. These companies are classified into two groups – the benchmarked companies and the utility companies.

Most of the companies are working with small businesses classified as Minority and Women Business Enterpise. This means that the owners of these small businesses are more likely to be female or a member of an ethnic minority.

For those who are not familiar with benchmarking, it is the process of comparing practices among companies and within the industry. There is consideration given on best practices or the most efficient way to do corporate things within the company and the industry. In this case, the benchmark is set on how a company in a particular industry (or related industries) fares in terms of supplier diversity. If the company does supplier diversity, it tries to examine how it performs compared to other companies and the whole industry practice of enforcing the program

The Need for Best Practices, Metrics and Standards

In any business endeavor, there must be rules, regulations and standards. The rules can explicitly say what an organization wants from a potential business and what role it plays in any context. Rules and requirements also allow the company to screen the candidates and see the worth of doing a partnership (such as supplier diversity) with the prospective partners.

The standards work as a base guideline on how a partnership is conducted between the two companies. Standards can apply within the company, within the industry or the whole scale of enterprise. Standards are often implemented by authorities and other governing bodies that a company associates itself with. Other times, standards are adopted by an industry for a greater good or for the interest of its members. There are also times when the company assumes unto itself a level of standards for all its practices and processes.

Most often, the words ‘best practices’ and ‘standards’ are spoken and used frequently by many people. ‘Best practices’ can be considered an evolving standard, changing as the industry grows and new approaches, techniques and ideas that come into fruition. Eventually, all these new things will be adopted by companies and later on, by the whole industry.  Best practices are also considered as a benchmark for the whole industry. It functions as a benchmark in terms of company or business-related issues, especially when it comes to manpower and various external issues.

Putting into Practice

As mentioned, a lot of companies are starting to implement supplier diversity programs in their own goals. These programs definitely help both parties in many ways. The challenge after putting up the program is to measure and create feasible metrics for the program. After all, the program will need some evaluation or assessment of success or failure.

In the survey, the findings include that companies involved have similar practices. For example, all supplier diversity tasks are done internally while the training is outsourced. Companies which are considered as ‘benchmarked’ often choose their diversity suppliers within the group of companies. The opposite applies to the utility companies – they pick their suppliers outside the group.

In both groups, the heads of the supplier diversity programs are reporting to the company’s top brass or company executives. This means that the program is designed to be closely examined in its progress and a priority to the company which set it up. However, the survey does not take into account the method of assessment or evaluation. As every company has different goals, it is reasonable that different assessments or evaluation procedures are used and implemented. Furthermore, how the real impact of supplier diversity is yet to be determined and can be considered as a case-to-case basis. The same thing can be applied on how the assessment reflects on the company’s supplier diversity program’s goals.


The survey also examines the people working for the supplier diversity programs in these companies. These workers can be classified as part-time or full time with regards to the amount of work and time allotted for supplier diversity tasks. The survey presents that in benchmarked companies, there are more than three employees working part-time in the supplier diversity program. This is in contrast to utility companies which don’t have that amount of people. Nevertheless, the highest number of part-time people they allot is 2 people.

In both benchmarked and utility companies, the percent is high (among the companies) that doesn’t have workers (even part time) for supplier diversity programs or don’t have a supplier diversity program at all.

In terms of results highlighting of workers in the supplier diversity program, it shows that companies in the survey are just starting with the program. The program might still be in its infancy and needs more workers in the future. Alternatively, the company can make the present workers be in full time capacity to the program in the future.


Supplier diversity has a long way to go. Nevertheless, it has a good start and it grows in companies and industries. The survey reflects the trend in its infancy and perhaps it could contribute to its history.

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