Supplier Diversity


How are brands ensuring diversity among their suppliers and partners?


Supplier diversity should be simple, in that it should provide consumers with what they want and need while propelling growth and innovation for the company through a lens of inclusivity and diversity. Michael A. Byron, senior director of supplier inclusion at Walmart, summed it up succinctly, stating, "When marrying marketing and supplier diversity, the focus should be the customer and providing solutions."

True growth can't occur if brands and companies don't invest in becoming diverse internally and promoting inclusion externally, which includes who brands partner with for its supply chains. To be truly diverse means supporting diversity at its core and in all aspects of business.

Byron went on to add that inclusivity is about evolution and adapting to change: "It should be enterprise-wide and with any team that spends money. Being close to the customer is important. Eighty percent of spend comes from merchandising, so that's where it should be today. But that could change."

In an ANA report surveying 105 ANA member companies, 75 percent of respondents "indicated a supplier diversity strategy for the organization as a whole, while 40 percent of respondents have a supplier diversity strategy specifically for marketing and advertising."

Respondents stated that "alignment with corporate culture and workplace inclusiveness" and "enhancing corporate image/brand" were the top two reasons for prioritizing an inclusive approach.

Below are helpful best practices, surveys, and case studies. Don't forget to check out our resources, Diversity Inside the Organization and Diversity in Marketing.

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Best Practices 

  • Supplier Diversity: A Call to Action. ANA, January 2021.
    Simona Rabsatt Butler of Visa and Sydni Craig-Hart of the content marketing consultancy Smart Simple Marketing reviewed findings from the ANA report The Power of Supplier Diversity. Butler and Craig-Hart drilled down into the results of the report to draw attention to several specific challenges to the diversification of supply chains. In addition, they suggested ways that both sourcing professional and diverse suppliers can work to address these challenges. See also their earlier discussion on the topic in November 2020:

  • A Deep-Dive Supplier Diversity Discussion. ANA, December 2020.
    Here a panel of representatives from women- and minority-owned businesses shared an array of tips with organizations looking to diversify their suppliers. These tips included the following:
    • Create an open house for existing suppliers and use it as an opportunity to assess the diversity that already exists within the organization's supplier ecosystem.
    • Offer diverse suppliers the opportunity to learn about the organization's pain points and present their capabilities. This could be as simple as hosting a get-to-know-you conversation; it could also be as elaborate as a Shark Tank-style event with multiple diverse suppliers that would allow them to hear a challenge that the organization is facing and present their solutions.
    • Recognize that, while adding new diverse suppliers to an organization's ecosystem can help promote diversity, so too can an effort to leverage diverse suppliers already more fully in the ecosystem.
    • Uncover what divisions in the organization are not using diverse suppliers and encourage them to do so (For instance, law firms are often an overlooked opportunity to hire diversely.).
    • Look for certifications such as WBENC, e.g., on suppliers' websites.
    • Consider using companies such as ConnXus and, which can validate suppliers' claims to diversity.
    • Consider consulting the ANA's resource list of certified diverse suppliers for marketing and advertising, which catalogues diverse research firms, production companies, and advertising agencies.


  • From Authenticity to Accountability: A DE&I Media Investment Framework. ANA, April 2021.
    The events of 2020 led the world's largest companies and their media partners to accelerate the critical work of supporting diverse-owned media companies as part of their supply chain partnerships. Additionally, companies strove to deliver messaging that connected with audiences in authentic and meaningful ways. The Amplifi agency discussed how they work with clients to deliver a media investment framework rooted in DE&I, the challenges that need to be addressed, and the role of content in connecting at scale with audiences.

  • McDonald's Plans for Agency Diversity. ANA, February 2021.
    In this presentation McDonald's described its goals for diversity both within its own workforce and among its agency partners. Inspired in part by America's response to the killing of George Floyd, by marches calling for racial equality, McDonald's was moved to intensify its dedication to its longstanding value of inclusion. More specifically, it set out to pursue three related goals.
    • Accelerate cultures of inclusion and belonging, for instance, by capitalizing on McDonald's share of voice to amplify others' voices.
    • Dismantle barriers to economic opportunity, for example, by auditing, benchmarking, and setting goals for working with minority-owned media vendors, as well as conducting an annual minority-owned media summit, and auditing pay for vendors to ensure equitability.
    • Represent the diverse communities McDonald's serves, for instance, by implementing the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) to score and guide its 2021 creative plan, and ensuring marketing supplier teams are reflective of the communities they serve by implementing a three-year goal.
  • Procurement Support for D&I Initiatives at Verizon. ANA, December 2020.
    Verizon described how it strives to promote diversity in the agencies it works with. Specifically, it asks these agencies to track the diversity of their account teams (including the creative and production staff) and provide quarterly reports on these teams' makeup and leadership.

  • Building an Inclusive Organizational Culture at R/GA. ANA, May 2020.
    For many agencies and companies, having a presence at tentpole industry events focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has provided a simple, highly visible tick mark that shows others that they're allocating resources to this critical business initiative. While having a presence at these events can be useful, attendance and sponsorship don't always lead to changes that impact company practices and shift behavior. R/GA's Carl Desir shared ways the agency has been working toward creating an equitable, diversified, and inclusive environment for its employees that will have long-lasting impact.

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"Supplier Diversity." ANA, May 2021.