Rebranding Supplier Diversity

Rebranding Supplier Diversity

What business are you really in?

Flying home from the NMSDC Network Leadership Meeting, a few things stood out from three days with some of supplier diversity’s most thought-provoking leaders. We gathered to talk about advocacy training and how to navigate Capitol Hill meetings for the most impact. After conversations with affiliate presidents, board chairs, MBEIC chairs and national staff, here are my top three takeaways:

1. If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu. 
This idea, voiced most recently by Elizabeth Warren and reiterated at the training by Bill Kirk of K&L Gates, hit the nail on the head for me. We know that as business owners, council leaders and supplier diversity professionals, we can never become complacent. The minute we stand still, we are falling behind. We always have to remind ourselves that any progress gained – in the marketplace or the public sphere – is only as secure as our commitment to defending and building on it.
2. We’re in the opportunity business.
I had a number of energetic discussions with people about how we should be defining our value. Many point to the certification process or the proprietary nature of the NMSDC database. But is that really it? What might be possible if we think bigger about what a supplier diversity organization has to offer? Certainly certification and a database are critically important, but aren’t those just tools in service to a larger idea? What if we defined ourselves differently? What if we saw ourselves, fundamentally, as being in the opportunity business — finding, generating, sharing, brokering and leveraging them, all while laying the foundation for minority businesses and corporations to connect and collaborate as they transform those opportunities into reality? If we could do that, how much more mutual benefit could we generate among businesses, as well as within our communities and for the economy as a whole?
3. It may be time to rebrand “supplier diversity.” 
We know from past experience how to answer the question “Why does NMSDC and supplier diversity matter?” We know the historical context and the successful track record of minority businesses these past 45 years. But how do we answer that question so that we’re also relevant in the future? The traditional narrative of “supplier diversity” may be limiting our thinking and our ability to define and drive results that matter. We talk a lot about the innovation that minority suppliers bring to their corporate clients so that they can be more competitive in bringing products and services to market. Is it time for us to do the same for ourselves and reinvent what supplier diversity stands for and what it can be?


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About the Top 3 series:

“Top 3” is a quick roundup on our key takeaways from some of the conferences and events we attend.

Bonnie Nijst
Written by Bonnie Nijst

Bonnie Nijst has been a wire service bureau manager, and VP of sales for both a publicly traded broadcast communications company and an Internet startup. She has also served on boards for organizations focused on economic opportunity, diversity, public health and civic engagement. She is president and CEO at FIDGET. Email Bonnie directly at or call her at 323.658.8000.