Expanding supplier diversity can be a unifying issue for 118th Congress   

The 2022 mid-term elections have concluded, resulting in a “split decision” as Republicans won a majority in the House of Representatives, and Democrats maintained control of the U.S. Senate. In the wake of the most expensive and seemingly contentious mid-term elections in American history, the question remains as to what can we expect from the upcoming 118th Congress convening in this month. Will, as some are forecasting, a divided Congress result in legislative gridlock and further political division? Are there any issues related to public policy where members of Congress can find common ground, work together, and move a bipartisan agenda forward? 

USPAACC believes that the answers to both questions are an emphatic “Yes” and “Yes” – if Congress applies its energy and expertise toward a common sense, bipartisan, national, and unifying public policy priority such as increasing supplier diversity. Increasing supplier diversity — ensuring a robust pipeline of qualified, certified, minority and diverse businesses ready, willing, and able to work with Fortune 500 corporations, federal agencies, and large-scale nonprofits – is good for our economy, good for minority and diverse businesses, good for minority communities, and good for the global supply chain. 

Supplier diversity refers to the purchase of products and services from businesses owned by traditionally excluded and underserved groups (one that is at least 51 percent owned, controlled, and operated on a day-to-day basis) to ensure their inclusion in the supply chain and procurement opportunities provided by the government, corporations, and large nonprofits. Diverse business includes those that are minority-, women-, veteran-, disabled-, and LGBTQ-owned. And minority means African, Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans. This isn’t some new concept; it has its origins in the American civil rights movement when the federal government intentionally pushed agencies to grant minority-owned businesses access to supply chain contracts. It was the right policy then, and it’s the right policy now, as President Biden’s Executive Order 13985 issued January of 2021 directed federal agencies to work toward making contracting opportunities more readily available to all eligible minority-owned firms. 

Opening the doors to opportunities for minority-businesses and minority communities promotes innovation, fosters competition, cultivates new markets, and broadens the pool of potential suppliers while bringing in new, diverse voices, perspectives, and life experiences. In terms of our global supply chain that was fractured, fragmented and, some would argue, wholly exposed during the height of the pandemic, increasing supplier diversity can ensure a continuity of diverse, qualified, certified suppliers ready to meet tomorrow’s needs today.  

This issue goes far beyond mere “virtue signaling.” With America’s growing minority population projected to represent 70 percent of the total increase in purchasing power from 2020 to 2045, embracing supplier diversity is a long-term investment that strategically positions corporations for the changing marketplace where buying decisions will be increasingly driven by minority consumers.  

Increasing supplier diversity is one of USPAACC’s top priorities for 2023, which is why we recently announced the Supplier Diversity (“SD”) Champions program that will begin accepting applications in January of 2023 – right around the time the 118th Congress will convene.  

The SD Champions program allows for applications from any U.S.-based corporation with at least 750 U.S.-based employees and represents an intentional shift away from awards based solely on a corporation’s ability to spend.  

The program moves toward a new focus encouraging transparency, innovation, inclusion, impact, and integration in supplier diversity programs. The intent is to elevate corporate social responsibility to a higher standard of diverse supplier development and demonstrable economic impact on minority and diverse communities. USPAACC is proud to work with our chamber partners – Disability:IN, NaVOBA, NVBDC, US Black Chambers, and WBENC – in advancing this important initiative and underlying goals. More details on the SD Champions are available at https://sdchampions.org/

As evidenced during the midterms, there are deep political divisions within America. The election results confirmed the nation’s wish for both political parties to work together and focus on commonsense priorities such as reducing inflation, helping American families get back to normal, and strengthening our economy. These priorities are interconnected, and the Supplier Diversity Champions program will help achieve them. 

Now, more than ever, we need a renewed sense of national unity and purpose, fueled by commonsense policies that will command strong, bipartisan support. Expanding supplier diversity meets these criteria and we hope that the incoming 118th Congress will seize the opportunity by embracing this priority. USPAACC stands ready to work with both sides of the political aisle in making this a reality.  

Susan Au Allen is National President and CEO, US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation (USPAACC).

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