Inclusive sourcing can help businesses gain access to opportunities

Inclusive sourcing can help businesses gain access to opportunities

When access opens to a greater diversity of local small businesses, everyone gains.

Business certification, while not mandatory, can be very helpful for small and local businesses who want to be inclusive sources.

Business certification programs are typically managed by third-party entities, states and municipalities. While they require a certain degree of rigor in presenting a business plan, a separate vetting process and documentation, they can send a signal that the business has the capacity to provide desired products and services to corporations.

Certification can lead to more inclusive sourcing strategies. “Inclusive sourcing makes good business sense,” says Tiffany Lovelace, head of inclusive sourcing at Regions Bank. “It helps a variety of constituents and can infuse greater prosperity into our markets. It’s just doing what is right, and it can strengthen our local economy, which benefits us all.”

Positive economic impact spreads through the community

Like a stone creating a ripple effect on the surrounding water as it enters a pond, small business owners who prosper through inclusive sourcing opportunities may share that prosperity with fellow community members through job creation or spending money locally.

“Inclusive sourcing is a way to create shared value and to deliver positive economic impact in the communities we serve,” says Lovelace.

What is involved in inclusive sourcing?

Before describing what inclusive sourcing involves, it’s worthwhile to know what it is not. It’s not a separate or distinct program that is only for certain targeted suppliers involving special partnerships or a different lane for them to access opportunities.

“It’s a way to extend access to local small businesses that might not otherwise have the awareness or resources to apply to earn our business,” says Lovelace. “That’s the key aspect––being given an opportunity to compete with all businesses, small and local as well as larger, mainstream competitors.”

Regions holds information sessions on topics such as procurement strategies and best practices to educate local small businesses on how to do business with large corporations. Included in the mix are mentoring opportunities, workshops on how to create a strategic plan, how to align your business with the core objectives of corporations and how to identify your target audience.

“We host matchmaking events where we invite qualified, under-represented and small local businesses to meet members of our leadership team to introduce their products and services to Regions’s business units,” Lovelace says.

Finding the right certification programs

The rigorous requirements of business certification can help legitimize a small business to prospective business partners and customers.

Certification programs include:

  • Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) 8(a) Business Development program: For businesses that are majority owned by people who are socially and economically disadvantaged. Learn more here.
  • SBA’s HUBZone program: To help small businesses in urban and rural areas access federal procurement opportunities. Learn more here.
  • Women’s Business Enterprise National Council Certification: A tool for connecting female entrepreneurs with business opportunities. Learn more here.
  • National Minority Supplier Development Council’s MBE Certification: A third-party business development program that provides training and networking opportunities for minority-owned businesses. Learn more here.

Inclusivity efforts can be rewarding

Casting a wider net for procurement of goods and services is the type of action that has many potential beneficiaries.

The first and most obvious beneficiaries of inclusive sourcing, of course, are the women and minorities who own small businesses who might not otherwise have as great a degree of access to work with an organization. Beyond them are the communities served and in which many minority- and women-owned businesses operate and where the owners of these businesses live.

“When we deliver inclusive solutions for the bank and its shareholders, we and our communities benefit in several ways. We are able to contribute to economic development and, by providing opportunities for underrepresented and small business entities to earn our business, we are able to tap into a greater pool of diverse talent and encourage healthy competition among our vendors.”

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