Supplier Diversity from the Inside Out
Darlene Fuller
Darlene Fuller
Senior Director
Supplier Diversity, Sodexo

Diversity helps businesses and communities thrive. It’s that simple. When there are more options, more voices and more ideas, there are more opportunities for business excellence. While many organizations focus on cultivating a diverse workforce that can offer a variety of ideas and strengths, it’s equally as important to ensure your business supply base includes diverse vendors.

Working with a wide variety of suppliers of different backgrounds and sizes can make your supply chain stronger and improves communities. For example, working with small and medium-sized businesses in addition to larger enterprises helps create jobs in different communities, as well as helps you serve your customers in different ways. While large vendors can deliver on scale, the small or local vendors can be crucial when you need a more nimble option. The same can be said for women or minority-owned businesses, which can often contribute different insights, expertise and strengths to your offerings. (And it’s worth noting that women and minority-owned businesses come in all sizes too.) Having diverse vendors to choose from increases chances for success.

The question many companies face is how to develop and cultivate a diverse group of suppliers. At Sodexo, we’ve found the answer lies within. Some of our most successful supplier diversity initiatives were created or inspired by the diversity initiatives for employees within our own company.

Sodexo’s focus on sustainability in its supply chain.

Sodexo North America has nine Employee Business Resource Groups (EBRGs) organized by employees who, based on shared experiences, join together to provide a positive forum for professional development, and input ideas that support the success of the company’s diversity efforts.  The focus of the EBRGs include  women, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Veterans, the LGBT community, people with disabilities and I-Gen (inter-generational). Each of these groups turned out not to just be important for supporting employees, they were some of our greatest resources for reaching out to diverse suppliers.

Our Employee Business Resource Groups support the Supplier Diversity Program. Created in 2000, the program holds a commitment not just to track our spend but to promote and grow the inclusion of diverse suppliers in our supply base. EBRG members play a part in implementing the program. For example, members of the Sodexo Organization for disAbilities Resources (SOAR) do site visits to vendors owned by people with disabilities as part of the certification process for U.S. Business Leadership Network. They can confirm the company is eligible for certification , and they can also make a connection with the entrepreneur. It’s a great way of building relationships with these suppliers by showing them the diversity of Sodexo.

Since implementing these programs we’ve seen tangible success. They have shown us that one of our most valuable resources, our diverse workforce, can help us build the strength of our supply chain.

What diversity initiatives does your company have in place that could help you cultivate divers suppliers? Share your thoughts in the comments.

2 comments on “Supplier Diversity from the Inside Out

  • Avatar
    Bruce Curry says:

    Great Article-A Diverse work force helps empower economic vitality and quality of life for our customers in the World.
    Various Supplier knowledge can help master the evolving challenges of businesses. Key approaches to cultivate diverse suppliers are as follows:
    1. Create Focus group discussions annually with all employees and Employee Business Resource Groups.
    2. Set up a Diverse Supplier Summit annually to discuss opportunities in the Company for Suppliers and requirements to be a Supplier within Sodexo..
    3. Develop Networks within Community Chamber of Commerce Groups, National Minority Supplier Development Councils in North America, Global Supplier roundtable discussions annually, and Community Small business Diversity Fairs.
    4. Develop Diverse Suppliers as a business for retired employees or Develop Diverse Suppliers within the inner Cities of America to help increase employment across cites in America. Utilizing Diverse suppliers with help all Communities across the America and Worldwide.
    5. The ultimate goal for the company on the team is to be on the billion dollar round table/a target goal for spending with Diverse Suppliers and being the preferred Company for Diverse Suppliers and employees to work. This will build people and customer relationships within the Company. Continues to demonstrates actions in improving the Quality of Life.

  • Avatar


    I think Sodexo’s actions around diversity and inclusion are outstanding!
    I am involved in launching and marketing a BC Certified Aboriginal Business – an RTD beverage called Crazy Horse Energy Drink. We have recently been listed in 7-Eleven Canada, and we are seeing a lot of interest and support – domestic and international in our beverage made with traditional native ingredients. I would love the opportunity to present this to a Sodexo buyer for review. Any information regarding this is very much appreciated!


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