Supplier diversity in France : does it really mean something ?

It took me a long time to understand what my American colleagues meant by "Supplier Diversity". This idea was so far from my references, my experiences or my culture that I could hardly imagine how this could materialize. One of the reasons I was stalling was the fact that this policy was not managed by the diversity teams but by the purchasing teams, and I had a hard time understanding the demands of our customers who came from different departments but wore All the word "Diversity"


I was not the only one to lose myself, and I remember the rather dubious appeal received from an affiliate manager in Hungary. One of its biggest client was a huge global group headquartered in the United States. The buyer of this group asked the following question to our teams: "Can you tell me how many millions of dollars you buy from companies owned by African-Americans in Hungary? The local buyer himself was not sure what he was returning, but headquarters had asked him to report on the subject. And when headquarters demand, everyone runs ...

It was the perfect illustration of one of my do-it-yourself maxims: "diversity is diverse ..."

If we think that we can do the same thing in the same way everywhere in the world, we expose ourselves to big mistakes which can curl the ridicule. In the case of Hungary, I advised my interlocutor to explain to his client that the number of African-Americans in Hungary was rather low and that they should be concentrated in the offices of the Embassy of the States United….


However, simply saying "your question is stupid" would be a mistake, because if we cannot apply the American model everywhere, we can and must think about how our companies can play an active role with their suppliers. I see this as an excellent way of spreading "the good word" throughout the company, even if it is far from being won. Buyers are increasingly under pressure: prices pulled down, tight settlement conditions, shortened logistics, reinforced quality control, etc. Difficult to find a place for subjects that do not seem directly related to the business: Performance is almost always linked to financial indicators.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to start a day even if it is complicated, and even if our laws and our cultures do not take us in the same directions as our American friends.

In France, we have a legal provision similar to the "supplier diversity": the law on disability which provides for the use of the protected sector. This provision corresponds exactly to the criteria of the diversity of the suppliers: a supplier is selected on the basis of one of the criteria of diversity, in this case the handicap.



On the other hand, in France we cannot select a supplier on the basis of the origin, gender, age or sexual orientation of its leaders: this would be discrimination, and be said to be positive or Discrimination remains discrimination in the eyes of the law.

This does not mean that you cannot do anything, but you have to go through a structured approach and select priorities. Here are two examples:


• Entrepreneurship in neighborhoods: this is a real societal issue, with the unemployment rate being particularly high in neighborhoods, but the potential for business creation is real. For several years Adive ( has been working to promote the economic activity of priority neighborhoods by bringing together entrepreneurs, many of whom are "diverse" (I hate this expression, but I do not think it better to illustrate my point!) with big companies that do not naturally draw in these ponds.


• Women's Entrepreneurship: Women are a very small minority in corporate management, and there is no good reason for this. Promoting women's entrepreneurship is not only possible, it is necessary because it is no longer necessary to demonstrate that women have levels of performance equivalent to men: to deprive themselves of them in entrepreneurship is an heresy. The Women Equity charts show each year ( and the Pionnières ( are an effective accompaniment to women designers.


At the same time, we have seen social clauses in tenders, in particular in the public sector, favoring local businesses, reserving jobs for disadvantaged people and developing short circuits.


The diversity of suppliers seems to me to be a heavy trend that is slow to impose itself for lack of definition and legal framework, it will be enough that two or three large companies structure a real strategy to create a movement.