by April Watkins, SPHR

Vice President and Human Resources, Americas
Burger King Corporation

One of the first measures companies take when identifying efficiencies, streamlining operations and reducing costs, is to consolidate supply chain/procurement vendors. For better or for worse, this practice tends to favor large-scale suppliers who can usually offer more goods and services for less. Unfortunately, many minority businesses that often fall into the small-scale supplier category lose out.

To maintain our diverse supplier partners, Burger King Corporation regularly implements diversity strategies within our supply chain, which help support our business objectives by entrenching essential diversity practices in our day-to-day activities. Try some of these tips to help keep supplier diversity a priority in your business, in every operating environment:

Ask large-scale vendors to sub-contract work to minority businesses. If they are serious about being a partner, they should be willing to adopt strong values about supplier diversity.

Meet with small-scale suppliers. See if they can partner together or form joint ventures to offer inclusive packages/services at lower costs. focus on outreach to minority vendors. If you reach out during the idea phase, minority vendors are more likely to be able to adapt to project expansions. Ask for referrals from your minority supply base. Often times diverse suppliers are well networked with other minority businesses.

Increase engagement and activity with diversity-advocacy groups. Refresh your knowledge and ask for updates to understand how best to leverage and get ROI out of these partnerships.

Make supplier diversity routine. Stay in touch with suppliers and send updates about recertification. Also, publish procedures and checklists online and send notifications when there is new business up for bid.

Shelf fears. Bringing on small-scale suppliers for critical initiatives can be stressful. Sometimes we cast judgment; allow minority suppliers to dispel your fears and bring facts, assurances or guarantees to support their abilities.

Set goals, track your progress and publish your success. Share success stories with C-level leadership and other employees. Awareness aids in the process of embedding supplier diversity into corporate culture.

For supplier diversity efforts to flourish, we must begin to think differently. Burger King Corporation understands how a diverse supply chain enhances every aspect of the community by creating jobs, expanding consumer spending and effectively supporting our business.

Corporations should remember that a diverse supply chain is critical for long-term competitive advantage and there should always be a focus on maintaining diversity in this space, especially during challenging times. It may be the very force that helps sustain a corporation in a turbulent economy.

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April Watkins leads the human capital vision, including the direction and execution of HR practices in support of business growth and profitability, for Burger King Corporation (BKC). She is also responsible for defining and driving a diversity inclusion strategy that is integrated throughout all franchise, supplier, workforce and community channels in the Americas.