Diversity in higher education is more than just students and staff.  There is a third piece to the diversity and inclusion puzzle that is equally important for colleges and universities: supplier diversity. 

Supplier diversity is a program which encourages the use of traditionally underrepresented or underserved groups as suppliers, such as small-business enterprises (SBEs), minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs), woman-owned business enterprises (WBEs) and more, and as many universities and colleges across the US have learned, there are numerous benefits to implementing and prioritizing a supplier diversity strategy.  

However, the tricky part these days lies in prioritizing supplier diversity while still grappling with the effects of the global pandemic. For example, many higher education institutions have turned their focus to financial issues, enrollment rates, budget cuts, reopening campuses, and more. Among all of the competing priorities, how can supplier diversity program managers at colleges and universities help to keep supplier diversity initiatives top of mind for the institution and its leadership? 

We’ve compiled 4 tips that supplier diversity professionals can execute now to better support prioritizing supplier diversity in higher education:

1. Focus on the economic impact:

Colleges and universities across the US have incredible buying power and spend millions of dollars each year. By implementing a supplier diversity strategy it dramatically increases the number of potential suppliers and promotes competition, which can improve product quality and drive down costs. After all, more sourcing options equate to a more resilient and agile supply chain. Prioritizing a supplier diversity strategy supports growth and jobs, and the ripple effect of that on the local communities that universities and colleges operate in can be profound. 

 

2. Get buy-in from senior leaders:

In order for any supplier diversity program to be successful it’s not enough to have the buy-in from only a select few in the university.  It’s critical to have backing from senior leaders across the institution, such as: presidents, chancellors, and system governing boards. Oftentimes what is helpful in this approach is breaking-down the big picture and focusing on what each department or role may view as highly important, such as: emphasizing the economic benefits, impacts to the university’s bottom line, reduction in supply chain risk, supporting compliance, and improving reputation.  

 

3. Equip staff and spread the word:

Outside of your department, employees may not be up-to-speed on the university’s supplier diversity program.  Don’t be shy when it comes to sharing your goals and purpose in internal marketing programs to help spread the word – for instance communicating information about the program within your organization’s intranet, newsletter or other internal channels. Outside of your organization, participate in local supplier diversity councils, conferences, networking events and other outreach opportunities. Clearly promote opportunities on how to execute business with your college or university.  Reach out to other supplier diversity professionals to network and share insights and best practices. Celebrate your wins and promote what you are doing by applying for awards related to working with diverse suppliers, put out press releases and share your wins on social media. 

 

4. Get the right tools in place:

Without a way to effectively streamline and automate data gathering, tracking, reporting, vendor management and administrative processes, your supplier diversity program can only go so far.  If you’re ready to prioritize supplier diversity and take your program to the next level, it’s time to say goodbye to manually tracking diverse suppliers and certifications, dealing with questionable data accuracy and multi-system chaos, having limited or no visibility into multi-tier diverse spend, or working until the eleventh hour to create and submit critical reports. Higher education institutions like University of Houston, Eastern Washington University, University of Texas System, University of Chicago and hundreds of others, are turning to the powerful capabilities of supplier diversity management software, like B2Gnow, to support their diversity goals.  From diverse vendor search access to the largest certified supplier database in the world, to data enhancement tools that qualify and quantify current supplier data, to spend analysis capabilities that go deeper to understand diverse supplier data, to construction contract compliance that easily track and report supplier diversity on capital construction contracts, B2Gnow allows supplier diversity professionals to focus on meeting diversity goals, not chasing paper. Learn more about B2Gnow and request a demo

 

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