Meetings Pro Tip: Build a Supply Chain With Diversity in Mind

Taking a DEI lens to your event’s vendors could help make your supply chain stronger while supporting organizational goals.

Live events are made up of many parts, and suppliers are key to making sure those events go off without a hitch.

But in an effort to make sure everything’s working in the expo hall or that the food or entertainment is properly supplied, it can be easy to overlook an element that might be important to your organization, and important in achieving broader societal goals: diversity, equity, and inclusion.

What’s the Strategy?

Simply put, work with organizations that can put you in touch with diverse suppliers.

Supplier diversity is a consideration in many fields, but events have a lot of moving parts, making the supply chain particularly complicated.

In recent years, organizations have worked to increase access to diverse vendors, with one of the most recent efforts being ourBLOC, a digital platform highlighting diverse vendors in the event space. The founders noted that while diverse suppliers can be found through other event platforms, there’s value to using one that is itself minority-operated.

“While we support any effort to promote diversity within the events industry, we did think it was important to create a platform built by minority entrepreneurs for minority entrepreneurs,” cofounder Lola McClaney told BizBash last week.

Other places to look include other associations, such as the New York chapter of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce and the National Minority Business Council, which each maintain lists of diverse vendors on their website.

Why Is It Effective?

Supplier diversity is seen as a key element of corporate maturity, according to Harvard Business Review, which noted that the movement to encourage supplier diversity dates to the civil rights movement.

In the piece, authors Alexis Bateman, Ashley Barrington, and Katie Date argue that the case for greater supplier diversity goes beyond the moral and ethical.

“An inclusive procurement strategy widens the pool of potential suppliers and promotes competition in the supply base, which can improve product quality and drive down costs,” they wrote.

And supporting vendors plays a role in boosting the economy, too. The National Minority Supplier Development Council reports that minority business enterprises were responsible for $400 billion in economic output and 2.2 million jobs.

What’s the Potential?

Edna Kane-Williams, executive vice president and chief diversity officer at AARP, said in an interview with Associations Now last year that her organization uses supplier diversity as a barometer of success, as those relationships can show the progress the organization has made on diversity issues.

“How much do you invest in diversity-owned organizations, including women, multicultural, LGBTQ? Mark where you started,” she said. “Where do you want to be in five years? What is a stretch goal? What is an attainable goal? What is the aspirational goal? And then you do check-ins to see if you reached that. If you don’t meet a goal, that’s not the end of the world. It’s important to unpack why, retool, figure out how you can do this differently, and launch the effort again.”

(mediaphotos/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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