Any supplier can classify itself as diverse, claiming that at least 51 per cent of ownership is by an individual (or multiple people) of a diverse background. However, just because a business says it’s diverse doesn’t necessarily mean it is, and most companies with supplier diversity programs require certification before considering entering a contract with a diverse supplier.
Supplier diversity certification occurs through a third-party certification agency—usually, an organization that promotes the development of minority-owned and/or small businesses. The process involves documentation, screening, interviews, and possibly on-site visits to confirm that your business is indeed diverse. The application may take several weeks to be approved, but once it is, you are certified and instantly become more attractive to supplier diversity programs.
Several supplier diversity certifications are available from various agencies, including:
- National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC)
- Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
- National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)
- United State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC)
- Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce (APAAC)
- Native American Chamber of Commerce (NACC)
- Vets First Certification Program (for veteran-owned small businesses)
- U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN, for disabled-owned small businesses)
A diverse business may qualify for more than one agency, and suppliers holding more than one certification is not unusual. In fact, Supplier.io’s database includes over 2 million diverse suppliers holding more than 4 million certifications.
The Importance of Certification
As already stated, most supplier diversity programs will contract only with certified businesses, so the lack of certification could mean you are missing out on opportunities. Many government projects insist projects devote a certain spend to certified diverse suppliers—these are opportunities small businesses simply cannot afford to miss out on. Moreover, in our recent Supplier Diversity Professionals survey, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they use certification agencies to find diverse suppliers. A common theme throughout the survey was that supplier diversity programs struggled to find diverse businesses. Certification gives you the best opportunity for organizations to discover and hire your company.
The Benefits of Certification
Obviously, the visibility of certification and the ability for supplier diversity programs to find you is the top benefit of certification. However, being certified offers other benefits as well. Certification agencies do much more than prove your diversity status and provide a certificate. They’re built to help grow small and diverse businesses. Networking gets a tremendous boost through certification; other suppliers are more likely to recommend you for a product or service they don’t provide themselves. Certified diverse suppliers often have the opportunity to participate in networking, development, and educational events that other small businesses do not have access to. Also, through certification, diverse businesses can work with other diverse businesses to advocate the cause of diversity and effect change—the more businesses get certified, the greater the chance that the presence of supplier diversity programs will continue to grow, and that the programs themselves will improve. Finally, certification allows you to promote your business better (e.g., the WBENC’s “Women-Owned” logo that certified members are allowed to display). These benefits are just the icing on the cake on why supplier diversity certification is so important.