Today, a company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives are increasingly connected to the success of its business. This is also true when creating and maintaining a culture of inclusion and diversity. Accenture’s core values — including Best People, Integrity and Respect for the Individual — support our diverse workplace, and we’ve found that extending our inclusion and diversity efforts to suppliers has been important and effective.
In 2006, Accenture launched the Diverse Supplier Development Program (DSDP), a formal mentoring program, which matches diverse suppliers with Accenture senior executives as one-on-one mentors to help develop and build the capacity of their businesses. The first class of 10 minority- and women-owned businesses from the United States graduated in 2008. The second class increased to 16 suppliers and included LGBT and small business enterprises. In 2012, the program welcomed the largest class to date, with 24 diverse suppliers.
This 18-month program focuses on knowledge exchange and collaboration among the suppliers so they can explore ways in which they can do business together or team on business opportunities. It also allows our company to convene high potential companies and help support and improve their sustainable business practices.
Over the course of DSDP, the owners and senior leadership of these suppliers are offered quarterly training symposia, such as business development, marketing and social media, change management and leadership development. Frank Payne, chairman & CEO of PQC International – a professional services company in Atlanta and a graduate of our third U.S. DSDP – participated in these training symposia. He found that the benefits “from the mentorship, networking, and robust training content enabled PQC International to refine existing processes and increase engagement with its associates, resulting in an increase in productivity and client acquisition.”
We’ve seen – especially with the graduation of our third class – that these diverse suppliers were able to increase the capacity of their business and enhance their client service. As DSDP has grown, so has the ability of these suppliers to develop a strategic vision and focus, better identify potential partners and improve internal processes. To date, we’ve mentored 50 diverse suppliers in the United States.
The DSDP doesn’t just help an individual business owner or a small company. It also brings insights to our company and helps us gain a more complete understanding of the market, learn how to better nurture supplier sustainability, see new perspectives and get ideas from these suppliers. In addition, we discovered how supporting diverse suppliers can lead the way to making a powerful difference in the communities in which we live and work. By breaking down barriers so diverse companies can better participate in the marketplace, we engage a multiplier effect that adds more jobs, more revenue and more vitality in communities across the country.
As a result of this program, we found innovative ways to not only help suppliers build scale, but also to promote collaboration in and between industries. The result is a creative exploration of ways to work together and grow their businesses. As we look ahead to our fourth class, we will focus on the continued evolvement of the program and the positive return on investment it brings to our business, our people and our suppliers.
Going forward, we’re exploring bringing DSDP to new geographies and markets. Canada was the first venture outside of the original U.S.-based program, and our first class of six there has graduated. Our second, which grew to 11 suppliers, is currently in session. By expanding to countries such as the United Kingdom, India and South Africa, DSDP will further pave the way for a stronger supply chain, extended market penetration and more economically independent communities.
Accenture takes a wide view of diversity, and the Diverse Supplier Development Program demonstrates that. It also demonstrates the multiplier effect of including many groups – mentee companies and their employees, Accenture and the executive mentors, as well as clients and communities – all of whom benefit from the focus on growing diverse businesses.