Why supplier diversity increases inclusion and innovation

“When you live outside the box, you think outside the box.”
Deidre Guy
President, IWSCC

This bold comment from Deidre Guy, President and Co-Founder of Inclusive Workplace and Supply Council of Canada, during our supplier diversity panel foreshadows the value that diverse suppliers can offer.

Diverse suppliers, those business that are 51% owned and operating by marginalized or underrepresented groups, have lived involuntarily outside the procurement norms for far too long. Because of this barrier, they have been pressured to be more creative with their talents, more resourceful with their skills, and more innovative with their business models.

The movement towards supplier diversity in the procurement industry is now becoming more popular in Canada. It is helping organizations to realize the value that underrepresented suppliers have to offer while creating new opportunities for both buyers and suppliers.

In our panel discussion, we connected with certifying bodies across Canada that represent diverse suppliers in the procurement industry. With their knowledge of diverse suppliers, we uncover what it means for organizations to take a more accessible approach to their procurement processes, to create more procurement opportunities with intention, and to effectively integrate a supplier diversity program that offers equality for all.

What is supplier diversity? 

You may have heard the term supplier diversity in a variety of forms, from economic inclusion and social procurement to inclusive procurement and social enterprises and so on. They all strive for the same thing – to level the playing field for suppliers. By creating more opportunities in procurement for diverse suppliers, organizations can help increase their supplier diversity.

Why is supplier diversity important for buyers?

When you first hear supplier diversity, you may be thinking “Oh, this is just affecting the supplier side, this has nothing to do with the buyers – except more time and energy spent for us to change our processes…” However, when you investigate how supplier diversity is integrated into your process, you will learn that buyers experience just as many benefits as the suppliers.

Significant benefits buyers will receive when adopting a supplier diversity process include:

    • Lower supply chain risk
    • Increased innovation and talent
    • Lower costs and more leverage gained in spend
    • Stronger position to compete in international markets
    • Public accountability to sustain an equitable approach
    • Create intentional economic growth for communities

When suppliers are treated more equally, you can create a more diverse pool of suppliers that will ultimately strengthen your supply chain and procurement processes. 

Want to achieve these benefits in your organization? Check out our panel discussion, "Inclusion and innovation: Why you need a Supplier Diversity program," now available on demand.

What is a supplier diversity program?

A supplier diversity program is the key for organizations looking to achieve supplier diversity. Although the approach to creating a supplier diversity program may be unique to each buyer and their community, the main framework remains true – it’s about creating a procurement process that “encourages underrepresented suppliers in the company’s supply chain” (Supplier Diversity Canada).

Supplier diversity programs are becoming increasingly sought after by larger organizations to satisfy the demands of the suppliers and public, but smaller organizations can achieve these programs in their process too.

Steps to create a supplier diversity program

Whether you’re a large city or rural town, you can follow these steps to create an effective supplier diversity program for your procurement department:

  1. Receive leadership buy-in
  2. Create a policy statement
  3. Identify your existing diverse suppliers
  4. Connect with certifying bodies
  5. Mark the gaps and opportunities
  6. Institutionalize your program

As you work through each hurdle and step of the process, make sure your organization tracks the progress. Only then will you be able to see if your efforts are paying off, and if you are truly an organization that is achieving supplier diversity.

“You cannot improve what you cannot measure”.
Silvia Pencak
President, WBE Canada

How to be fair and successful

Some organizations may make a few tweaks in their process and call that supplier diversity. It’s a completely different approach to tackle supplier diversity at its core – the people that make the process.

A common theme in supplier diversity conversations is that the key to success lies in the amount of intentional understanding that buyers have about supplier diversity. If leadership and staff are all on the same page, then every aspect of their procurement process (both internal and external) will become inclusive and accessible.

When it’s only in the procurement process, it’s based on money-driven goals, whereas when it’s applied across the organization, that’s where you see the supplier diversity program succeed.
Cassandra Dorrington
President & CEO, CAMSC

Above all else, be intentional

As your organization works to integrate supplier diversity into your procurement, ensure that every action is intentional. If you notice flaws in your system, don’t put a band-aid on and come back to treating it later. Challenge your team to dive into the problem, address the issue, and work toward a solution that aligns with your supplier diversity goals.

By challenging your team to question your flaws and strive to align with your supplier diversity goals, you will start to see rewarding results.


Along with having organizational buy-in, a concrete plan and an intentional approach, creating an inclusive and innovative supplier diversity program takes authenticity. Be transparent with your processes, listen to your underrepresented community members and be open to hearing their feedback and ideas. Most importantly, have the courage to make these drastic changes in your procurement processes because this is how we will see our industry transform - from achieving success in our procurement industry to achieving success across our communities and beyond.

Watch the full presentation!

If your organization is striving for supplier diversity, register now to receive a copy of the on-demand discussion “Inclusion and innovation: Why you need a Supplier Diversity program.”