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Stepping Up: Why Top Companies have Supplier Diversity Programs

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

It can be difficult for multinational organizations, with supply chains stretching around the globe, to focus on supplier diversity. But according to Theresa Harrison, Director of Inclusive & Sustainable Procurement for professional services firm Ernst & Young (EY) it’s well worth the effort. “I believe what supplier diversity does is drive competition and promote innovation,” she says.

Harrison has been at the helm of EY’s Inclusive & Sustainable Procurement initiative since its inception in 2004, bringing a wealth of experience from a similar position at oil and energy firm Baker Hughes. She says that at the core of EY’s initiative is a “commitment to inspire diverse suppliers to think big and be confident in their ability to provide high-quality goods and services.” Under her leadership EY’s initiative has grown considerably, “from a domestic program now to a global program,” she says.

EY’s diverse suppliers come from many underrepresented communities including “women, minorities, LGBT, veterans” as well as disabled owners across “fifteen countries” according to Harrison. The program has certainly become well-recognized, having now won awards internationally in countries like the U.S, Canada and South Africa.

Harrison says a key part of the program’s success is the active role that EY plays in the development of the suppliers they support. “We host different programs around sales culture and agility… being the disruptor, not [the] disrupted. They’re all around how technology or the disruptive age is impacting diverse suppliers,” she says. In addition, the organization hosts pitch competitions to develop suppliers’ value statements and their elevator pitch to corporations. These competitions “have developed more confident suppliers, provided engagement with our procurement team and scholarships to Tuck Business School,” according to Harrison.

Diverse supplier development and utilization have had a big impact, according to Harrison. “Through our initiative we have created a distinctive experience for suppliers by teaming together to develop innovative solutions, strategies and accelerating possibilities as we respond with a diverse mindset to our customers, clients and communities,” she says. It’s one of the reasons Harrison asserts that having a supplier diversity initiative provides a competitive advantage to firms that invest in them.

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