The automotive pioneer’s fundamental principles have been: collaboration, not confrontation; teamwork, not make-work; cooperation, not competition.

Forty years ago, they launched Ford’s Minority Supplier Diversity Development Program (SDD), one of the first supplier diversity programs in the United States. Over the years, the program has become more inclusive. It’s now in line with the company’s overall diversity and inclusion efforts, focused on including those certified businesses who are owned by minorities, women, veterans and service-disabled veterans, LGBT individuals, as well as small businesses and owners with disabilities.

Ford has helped businesses grow through everything from access to training programs to introductions to stakeholders.

Angela Henderson, senior manager and head of supplier diversity development emphasizes the business imperative of having a supplier diversity initiative. “Collaborations with our supplier network, advocacy groups and internal business partners and commodity purchasing supports our objective of maintaining leadership in supply chain sustainability. Working with and developing diverse businesses allows us to have access to the most innovative and flexible solutions that will help catapult us closer to our company transition from an automobile company to a mobility company.”

Burt Jordan, vice president of global vehicle and indirect purchasing reinforces that “our values are centered around our corporate One Ford values where we rely on, respect and care for each other — that includes our supply chain.”

Opportunities for growth

The diversity program has created “opportunities for growth, enhancing organizational capabilities, and improving supplier performance,” says Christie Wong Barrett, CEO of Mac Arthur Corporation.

Ford has helped businesses grow through everything from access to training programs to introductions to stakeholders and subject matter experts within Ford, as well as thought-partnering on new business opportunities, willingness to consider a new supplier and providing encouragement.

Mac Arthur Corporation participated in Ford’s “Mentor Me” program, learning best practices from key company leaders helping them successfully launch their first product with Ford. 

“Our reputation is further enhanced by doing business with Ford,” says Wong Barrett. “Prospective customers understand the high level of performance, responsiveness and quality required to service Ford and have confidence that we will meet their capabilities.”

Mac Arthur Corporation is giving back from the experience. Having their own supplier diversity goals, Wong Barrett adds, “this creates a virtuous cycle where we are able to improve our capabilities and competitiveness and expand jobs in our community.”

The impact of diversity

Ford’s 2017 economic impact study demonstrated the company’s significant reach and impact.

“Ford and our supply chain have contributed over $16 billion to the U.S. GDP by sourcing diverse businesses” says Jordan. “Collectively we have supported over 65,000 jobs generating almost $4 billion in income throughout communities in the United States.”

Jonathan Jennings, director of global interior purchasing at Ford, says diversity helps to drive innovation. 

“The different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences that diversity brings, helps companies to look at and solve problems differently,” he says, noting Ford’s commitment to diversity is reflected in their employees, customer base and supply partners.   

“Ford understands the value of ensuring that its suppliers represent all segments of the business community and mirror those communities in which it does business.”

Overcoming complexity

Sylvester Hester, president and CEO of Global Automotive Alliance, a global provider of contract logistics, procurement, quality containment, warehousing, freight forwarding and contract assembly service, connected with Jordan after the challenging 2009 recession.

“Our discussion helped me put what we were experiencing into perspective, which resulted in creating an effective go-forward strategy,” says Hester who calls the company “extremely helpful and supportive.”

He appreciates the inviting pro-growth environment and straightforwardness while navigating complex business issues.

“Ford Supplier Diversity personnel actually listen to your challenges and concerns then help you connect to the right people inside Ford that can either assist or support and, if warranted, they even advocate on your behalf,” he says.