A Guide to Being a Supplier Diversity Advocate

This guide is a tool to be used by Supply Nation Member employees, and other individuals, who are interested in becoming a supplier diversity advocate within their company. The knowledge contained within this guide will assist in the understanding of what a supplier diversity advocate is and provide the guidance and tools to publicly support and champion the supplier diversity initiative. This guide will highlight:

What is a supplier diversity advocate?
The role of a supplier diversity advocate
Key steps to becoming an advocate
Getting the most out of your advocacy
How advocates can encourage colleagues to participate?
What is the responsibility of an advocate if they leave their current company?
How Supply Nation can assist you?

What is a supplier diversity advocate?

Supply Nation considers a supplier diversity advocate to be an individual from a member company who actively and publicly supports and promotes the development and embedding of the supplier diversity program within their company - often referred to as a ‘champion’.

The role of an supplier diversity advocate

As a supplier diversity advocate you will have the opportunity to create and embed a supplier diversity program within your company that will withstand the test of time. A supplier diversity advocate initiates commitment within their organisation and although they may encounter numerous obstacles, they must envision and acknowledge the impact of their hard work will have within their company as well as the Indigenous community; which will be a great legacy.

Key steps to becoming an advocate

1. Putting your hand up!
The first step is recognising the need for an advocate within your company and then putting your hand up to champion the supplier diversity cause.

2. Connecting with Supply Nation
Connecting with Supply Nation; expressing your interest as an advocate and learning how Supply Nation can assist. Supply Nation has an array of resources on supplier diversity that can guide you.

3. Getting the facts
Do your research and get the facts. As an advocate you must have a thorough understanding of your company’s environment and business case for implementing supplier diversity. This research will be critical in promoting the initiative with your senior management and to the wider staff community. Find out what motivated your CEO or senior executives to commit to supplier diversity and find out if your company has any supplier diversity initiatives already planned, or implemented?

4. Setting a goal
Setting an objective or goal about what your want to achieve through your advocacy will assist you to measure your impact, and to know whether your efforts have been successful.  You should consider whether your advocacy is focused on increasing the implementation of supplier diversity initiatives, or whether your trying to increase awareness overall. Start out small, set simple and achievable goals, such as sending a communication to all department heads or host a supplier diversity workshop. Medium term, your goal might be to increase the percentage of staff overall who have an understanding of supplier diversity or to have recruited more advocates across the departments of your company. Long term, an advocate might be seeking to have supplier diversity completely embedded within the supply chain.

5. Identify your targets
As an advocate your goal is to spread the supplier diversity message across the company. Identifying key stakeholders who can assist you as influencers or champions is a critical step. Once you know who your target audiences are, you can carefully plan your communications to suit what will be required.

6. Understand the context and potential constraints
It must be noted that each company’s different, thus a situational approach is needed. This means understanding the context in which your company operates; how does supplier diversity fit within current procurement policies and business strategies. Identify if there are potential constraints that will inhibit supplier diversity and identify ways to overcome these constraints or barriers.

7. Build partnerships/alliances
Build partnerships and alliances with other individuals interested in advocating supplier diversity within your company. Working with others is likely to achieve the best results, as it will facilitate discussions, new ideas and create resource connections. You may choose to set up a supplier diversity advocacy steering committee.

8. Prepare and plan
Put together the documentation you require, whether it is a communication plan, specific strategy or pitch. Take a project management approach to plan your activities to meet your goals.

9. ACT
Be the supplier diversity advocate you envisioned. 

10. Review and adjust
It is important that you review your progress, objectives and strategies used to achieve the goals set out (4) and amend and adjust where necessary.

Is it all up to me?

A successful supplier diversity program should be implemented from the top-down. Gaining executive support is paramount in your role as an advocate so that you can create change within the organisation. Your CEO would have signed your original membership application form and we would hope that they are engaged with the program. If however this is not the case and your executives have put you in charge of leading the program, we would envision that it is your role as the primary advocate to engage the CEO where necessary.

CEO and other executive engagement are vital for embedding your suppliers diversity program so that it is initiated, sustainable and successful should you one day choose to leave your organisation. Their engagement is also important to assist you in any road blocks you may face as well as changes in process and policies that you may wish to implement. Your account manager at Supply Nation can assist you with ideas as to how you might be able to further engage your executive team.

Getting the most out of your advocacy

If you are the advocate for your company’s supplier diversity program here are some important tips to help you along your journey:

• Be Patient 
Creating change within your company will take time and persistence. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was a successful supplier diversity program. We estimate that for this program to be truly embedded into your organisation will take up to at least one to two years.

• Be Persistent 
Don’t give up! Setting any goal takes commitment and time and we are here to assist you in overcoming any challenges that you may face.

• Be Engaged
It is vital that as an advocate you are the main source of motivation and inspiration that will spread throughout the organisation. 

How advocates can encourage colleagues to participate?

Engaging your colleagues to consider buying from Indigenous business may be challenging at first. Ways to inspire and encourage your colleagues could include:

• Identify an executive sponsor who will assist you with road blocks along the way

• Consider having a ‘launch’ for your supplier diversity program with your senior sponsor providing a commitment speech

• Communication is key, find ways to regularly communicate to your colleagues about your program e.g. articles in your EDM newsletters, flyers on walls etc.

• Request that your IT department set up a supplier diversity page on your intranet where your colleagues can click on the Supply Nation link and automatically be logged in to search for suppliers

• Host a morning tea with your team and invite some Indigenous suppliers in to network

• Encourage targeted colleagues to attend Supply Nation’s supplier diversity training called ‘The First Step’, information on it can be found on the Supply Nation website

• Arrange for your team to attend Supply Nation events where they will have the opportunity to engage with other corporate and government members as well as Indigenous businesses

• Consider offering some mentoring to a supplier to help engage staff and assist our suppliers in their growth

What is the responsibility of an advocate if they leave their current company?

If you are leaving your company you would not want all of your hard work to come undone. To ensure that this doesn’t happen try and identify your advocate replacement before you leave and introduce them to Supply Nation so that they can begin to establish a new relationship with them. You may also like to put together a supplier diversity folder as a hand over brief so that the next advocate knows exactly what you have done and achieved and how to progress from there.

How will Supply Nation assist?

Supply Nation can assist by:

• presenting to your senior management and supplier diversity support networks

• supplying best practice ideas – sharing knowledge

• providing productive feedback

• being a sound board – used to discuss any concerns or challenges that you may face

• keeping you in the loop with upcoming events and opportunities to keep you engaged with our members and suppliers and 

• encouraging and supporting your commitment