Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2023

How to Diversify Your Supply Chain — And Why You Should

Yet another meeting industry pandemic casualty is the loss of a quick and easy way to find diverse suppliers — at industry conventions and trade shows. Here are a few other ways to source vendors that fall under the diversity umbrella.

Before COVID pulled the plug on all-too-many trade shows and expos, the exhibition aisle was a great way to find businesses that can meet your needs while still supporting your organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goals for its supply chain — and for diverse-owned businesses to get their products and services in front of procurement and other sourcing professionals. Though in-person events are starting to come back now that Omicron is ebbing, shows are trending a bit smaller right now, and many organizations still are hesitant to send staffers to roam the aisles to find the diverse vendors they need to fill the holes in their supply chains.

Why Diversify Your Supply Chain?

Diversity can take on many nuances, but generally speaking, a diverse supplier is one that is at least 51% owned and controlled by someone who identifies as a member of a traditionally underrepresented or underserved group, such as women, minorities, veterans, people with a disability, or LGBTQ individuals. When you begin a supplier diversity program, you are encouraging everyone in the organization to use minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, LGBT-owned, historically underutilized businesses and SBA-defined small businesses.

Why should you dedicate the time and resources to diversify your suppliers? According to the Hackett Group, companies that participate in a long-term supplier diversity program generate a 133% greater ROI than those who rely on their traditional suppliers. The Hackett Group report also says supplier diversity programs add $ 3.6 million to an organization’s bottom line for every $ 1 million spent in procurement operating costs. You also will achieve lower overall operating costs and spend 20% less on your buying processes, according to the report.

In addition to helping your organization improve its bottom line ROI and achieve its DEI objectives, supplier diversity also can encourage growth of underrepresented businesses that all-too-often have difficulties accessing capital, among other barriers. And it can give a boost to these companies’ local communities as well by helping them create jobs, generate incomes and provide tax revenues.

Just one example: Southern California Edison reports that in 2020, the energy company’s investment in diverse suppliers, which comprised 37.66% of its total purchases, led to $3.5 billion in contributions to the U.S. economy and sustained 23,153 jobs. And another: CVS Health reported that its 2018 diverse spend contributed $5.5 billion to the U.S. economy and sustained 31,095 jobs.

While your meetings department likely can’t have that big an impact, every diverse supplier you hire results in a ripple effect throughout that supplier’s community — especially since many diverse businesses also are small businesses — and the economy as a whole.

Ultimately, yes, branching out to a more diverse supplier ecosystem is the right thing to do, but supplier diversity is more than a way to feel good about supporting underrepresented businesses — it’s also just good business strategy.

Think Outside the Aisle

You may be able Google your way to the right diverse vendor for your needs, but the thousands of maybe-relevant, maybe-not-relevant results could prove overwhelming. So until trade shows return to their full potential, where can you find the diverse vendors you need?

One resource to tap is ourBLOC, which not only lists diverse vendors that cater to the meetings and events world, but was founded by Lola and Richard McClaney when they were looking for Black vendors for their wedding but found themselves overwhelmed by trying to vet all the options. “We started this business in the middle of the pandemic, which has affected Black and brown businesses at a higher rate than our white counterparts. The event industry was hit hard and created even more disparity for Black and minority visibility within the event space as it relates to opportunities,” Richard McClaney told AfroTech. The platform currently showcases vendors in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Atlanta, and plans to expand into additional markets.

There also are organizations that provide third-party certifications for diverse suppliers, some of whom have directories you can tap into. Among them:

  1. National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), which offers the NMSDC eMarketplace.
  2. Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), which offers the Women Owned Business Directory
  3. National Veteran Business Development Council (NVDBC)
  4. National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA)
  5. National LBGT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)
  6. Disability:IN
  7. Pan Asian Chamber of Commerce (USPAACC)
  8. U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC)

Also, because the meetings industry is a relationships business, use those relationships to find other organizations that have an existing supplier diversity program and tap into their networks. You also can look to industry associations, LinkedIn groups — and, of course, ask around at the next meetings industry conference you attend.

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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