It’s a term that has been gaining traction in the corporate world for several years. In practice, it’s the process of allocating a percentage of a company’s procurement budget towards diverse-owned vendors.
What’s often overlooked is the immense effect supplier diversity has in our communities, creating wealth and opportunity far beyond the vendor/client relationship. This ripple effect lifts our families, locally-owned businesses and our historically strong religious and civic organizations.
For businesses, supplier diversity is a crucial part of an effective and meaningful diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) program. At MassMutual, we are reframing supplier diversity more accurately in terms of business inclusion.
Simply put, we’re leveling up. This means building and leveling the playing field to provide opportunity for diverse businesses and underrepresented communities. It means not only holding suppliers to high standards but helping them reach and maintain those standards. It means providing products and services that enable the Black community to create and pass on wealth.
Business Inclusion Is at the Core of Our Brand
From a high-altitude perspective, business inclusion goes beyond procurement and vendor management. It includes diversifying professional services, asset management and target growth sector areas for the company.
On the ground, it includes candidate recruiting, employee training and support, systems and process implementation, vendor relationships, market segmentation and development, brand identity, physical accessibility and performance standards.
A Multi-Faceted Approach
We’ve long realized business inclusion’s value. Over the past decade, MassMutual has been on a journey to create a more equitable and inclusive organization. In the last year, we’ve doubled down on another core element in our journey, supplier diversity. We’ve launched a five-year, $150 million, company-wide commitment to support diverse businesses. The plan is built on measurable, actionable steps and extends to all areas of procurement.
As part of this overarching effort, MassMutual will develop 175 relationships with key diverse suppliers through an innovative program with Dartmouth College that identifies and nurtures future diverse business leaders and owners.
MassMutual’s efforts are deliberately designed to have a ripple effect in multiple areas. Other elements of the plan include proactive collaboration with national diverse business certification councils such as the National Minority Supplier Development Council and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. These organizations, through their certification programs, have raised the bar, creating a gold standard of achievement for diverse-owned businesses.
We’ve also increased focus on deploying relevant products and services to underserved communities and we rely on our own diverse employee business groups for networking and strategic planning. Perhaps one of our most exciting ventures is our hybrid, $50 million incubator-style Catalyst Fund, which is investing $25 million in Black-owned start-ups that are, in turn, benefitting our communities.
Reaping Rewards & Accelerating Change
Now in its second year, MassMutual’s business inclusion program is building on the foundation it laid in 2021.
The first cadre of Dartmouth and Stanford program participants graduated earlier this year. The company’s spend with underrepresented diverse suppliers increased by 18% year-over-year. And our efforts to certify Black women’s business enterprises are seeing similarly high levels of interest and participation.
Key to the success of the program has been establishing a clear line of sight to the $150 million commitment and beyond. With the support of leadership throughout the company, we’re ensuring that supplier diversity is part of every business consideration. Business inclusion creates a thousand little wins – all of which are critical to creating real change.
Though there is much left to do, we are proud of our holistic business inclusion efforts to level the playing field. When diverse communities have an equal chance to benefit from their relationship with MassMutual, we benefit as well. Together, we can expand marketplace opportunities, help close the wealth gap and spark economic recovery.